How much food could you grow in your own yard? We're about to find out...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Raised Beds, Hugelkultur style, part 2

Well, after trying to source out wood on craigslist it became abundantly clear that the only wood available was in very large pieces that I would need to cut up and transport.  This presented a serious time commitment that I simply was unwilling to undertake with such a short amount of time before the ground freezes and work in the garden must cease.

So, I started racking my brain and realized that there might be another source of the rich organic material that would feed the underground bacterioculture and fungal systems that make veggies happy.  I had considered collecting neighbors bagged leaves, but I found another source that may be far more appealing... chipped up tree limbs from area tree trimming companies.

<--- Apparently, you can buy the fungal mycorrhizae to inocculate your soil, but why bother when you just need to encourage your soil to self-innoculate.  Mycorrhizae is in your soil already.  Depending on soil conditions, it may be inhibited or encouraged.  The goal is to give fungus so much food that great big chains of fungus penetrate every inch of your garden beds.  In doing this you can make sure that plant-ready nutrients are available to your veggies all the time.  If your soil conditions are right, your veggies can concentrate on growing the leaves and fruits and seeds that you eat instead of the veggie plants having to spend valuable resources growing roots to find the nutrients they need.

Note: Go ahead!!! Follow the link!!!  The product description at least provides a great explanation of the role of mycorrhizae in the growth of your garden.  Plus, it helps fund my little experiment in sustainable food production.

So, going back to craigslist, I found a tree trimming company that would rather deliver wood chips to my house than to a much farther location for disposal.  It saved him time and money because I would shovel the wood chips out of the truck after a long work day and it saved him drive time to the disposal site that was quite a distance away.  So, win-win.

The wood chips are smaller than the wood chip mulch that folks buy from garden centers and big box stores, so I think they'll decompose faster (decomposition rates of most organic material have to do with the availability of nitrogen, soil chemistry, and the surface area of the decomposing object).  I think I'm going to have to adjust for the more rapid decomposition rate of the smaller chips by adding some nitrogen from my compost pile and from the chicken shit that is ready and waiting.  See, circle of life!

Four hugelkultur-ish raised beds are dug out and ready for wood chips and back-filled soil.  I'm really interested in seeing whether or not snow collects on top of the raised beds this winter with the hot composition going on just a few inches below the surface.

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