Adventures in Hugelkultur in Australia
A while back, the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia presented an article on hugelkultur raised beds (see also here and here). I found the idea of planting out raised beds made of tree saplings covered in a bit of soil and woody mulch to be intriguing.
I’d never heard of hugelkultur before, but living surrounded by eucalyptus forest started me thinking about the possibilities. I’m not sure that hugelkultur techniques are practiced in Australia and perhaps the reason for this is that eucalyptus trees can take many decades to break down into soil. This is probably a bit slow compared to the tree species used in hugelkultur beds in Europe.
A possible reason that the trees take so long to break down into soil is because of the frequent and intense bush fires which char the trees and leaves a coating of carbon on them which makes them difficult to breakdown and impervious to water. In addition the bush fires interrupt the life in the soil by burning the soil. There could be other possibilities as well. If you have any ideas, let me know.
Then, in a surprising discovery a few weeks back, possibility turned into opportunity…. When I was moving cut and seasoned firewood logs from a stacked pile to burn for heating fuel, I discovered a fungus which had taken hold on the firewood logs and was converting them into soil within years (as distinct from decades). It was a eureka moment!
So, I decided at that moment to establish two experimental Hugelkultur raised beds and to inoculate the beds with my newly discovered fungus. To further pretend to be a scientist, one of the beds has larger diameter saplings, whilst the other has several smaller diameter saplings and I’m going to see which proves to be the most fertile.
Into these two hugelkultur beds I’ve planted all of my raspberry and blackberry canes.
I have high hopes for this experiment and as the experiment continues and evolves, I’ll keep readers posted.
If anyone else is experimenting or practicing with hugelkultur, I’d love to see you sharing your experiences via comments below, or, better yet, via your own posting on this site.