Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Making soil, learning from the forest.

Inspiration: Hugelkultur, my household natural waste products / tree pruning, videos like this one, forest biodiversity

Concept: Our laurel tree in the front of our house got a massive trim this year. It's branches and brush have been sitting around. We could have put it slowly bit by bit into our curb side yard waste pickup, but I've got quite a few hesitations of that system so prefer to use the waste on-site. Also there's a wasted site near the sheet mulch project from last year, so it's perfect for me to start a hugelkultur project.
I will pile the woody debris down, and then layer soil on top. This will become a new garden site for me. Mainly perennials, some native plants, and then we'll see what annuals to fill the space. It's a north facing spot, so I'm gearing this plot towards shade-tolerant plants.

What I know:

  • Forests have metres thick of a humic layer because decomposition happens in situ, and due to the high carbon:nitrogen ratio of most of the material, decomposition happens slowly. In this process, much of the carbon is sequestered into the soil.
  • Forest floors are sponge-like, full of soil organism diversity, and are fundamental to the health of the plants growing there. 
  • Dead wood supports much life. Look at a nurse log. 
  • Diversity is maintained, health and resilience is strengthened, water is retained.
  • Without large quantities of organic matter in our soil, water simply drains down due to gravity as cohesion and adhesion weaken.
Project:
  1. Shovelled soil away from the site. Mainly just waste sod and other soil sources over time. 
    Beside the fence here is the future hugelkultur site.

  2. Ripped up all the branches so that they would pack together tighter. 
  3. Piled all the branches and woody pieces, and leaves together in a large pile.
    I jumped on it to pack it down. And then jumped on it again days later. 

     
  4. Shovelled soil from that same site on top of the woody debris. 
    Since this picture, I've added some more soil and levelled it off, but you get the idea. Now I just wait.
  5. Let sit for the watery season (winter). 

Future:

  1. Plant seeds and transplant plants in the spring.
  2. Link this site with the Sheet mulch garden, by an inoculated wood chipped border (coming this spring). 
  3. Monitor and adjust plants over time.