The concept of Hugelkultur (Hugel Mound Growing) can basically be described as a self-composting bed or planting area (in the case of this article, in large pots). The gardener digs a shallow trench or pit and places logs, branches, sticks, twigs, brown leaves, nitrogen rich greens and or fresh manure, then tops these materials with the dug out earth and finally a decent layer of compost.

A good Hugel with large thick logs can be self-composting for anything up to 10 years. Read previous articles on traditional Hugels here Article 1 and Article 2.

Just the other day I realised that I can re-create the Hugel system but in large plastic planter pots, this will give you the benefit of Hugelkulturs without having to strain your back doing loads of digging!

Anyone taking on an uncultivated or fallow piece of land such as a disused Allotment Plot can always Sheet / Lasagna mulch a section, cover the result with thick impermeable black plastic sheet to kill off the perennial weeds and simply place Hugel Pots on top to ensure the land is still productive. Once you need to remove the sheet after a year and start using the ground space for planting, you can simply knock over the pots and empty the goodness to build up the humus / top layer!

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Hugelkultur Mound in Planter Pots

The general rule in terms of what can be grown on the Hugel Mound in year 1, are shallow rooted crops / plants such as various lettuces. Thereafter you can grow plants that require more nutrients and moisture and then finally on year 3  you can pretty much grow anything from Tomatoes to Pumpkins.

In the terms of the Hugel in a large pot, you can start the bottom layer either with composted or semi-composted wood chips (skip them and use soil if you have Slug / Snail problems), place a decent layer of soil (especially soil you wish to amend) on top of the latter with the Branch, Sticks, Twigs and cardboard / leaves as the carbon layer.

Follow on top with vegetables, fruit scraps, cut grass or fresh manure and then go on to adding the thick layer of soil / compost for growing in

(refer to image for general idea on layers, there are no specific rules but rather guidelines to follow) such as:

  1. Wood and wood chip need Nitrogen to break down, the plants you intend to grow need nitrogen too, the wood will suck this out of the soil and this is why we add manure or nitrogen rich fresh greens like veggie scraps and grass clippings / garden prunings, therefore, try to add as much green / manure / nitrogen rich material the more wood you have – greens decompose much quicker so stuff a lot in there.
  2. Compose the larger wood at the bottom and build up with smaller pieces until you reach brown leaves and cardboard this should ensure nice air spaces between are protected from being filled in by settling materials, these air spaces are important to ensure that the process does not become anaerobic – you could even start the logs on top of a 3-5cm thick layer of fresh grass clippings although this is not imperative.
  3. Intending on using this pot every year for the same purpose and do not intend on emptying it for a few years? then this is the time that you can use much thicker logs and branches in the bottom, if you want to empty the contents regularly (every 1 – 2 seasons) then it would be more beneficial to use thinner branches and sticks instead.
  4. Shallow rooted crops are mostly recommended in the first year however, you could easily use root crops such as carrots and parsnips provided you have a deeper layer of top soil / compost, remember that carrots and parsnips need nicely sieved compost / soil to prevent roots from ”forking”
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I have written some previous posts about growing Shiitake mushrooms on logs and this year I am making it a personal goal / mission to get more than one species of mushroom as well as more than one type of wood species. I realised that the best approach is to have a few options and different wood types so that you get fruit harvest in different stages as well as the possibility of quicker colonisation.

Below is a wood type to mushroom species reference chart so you can decide what to grow depending on available wood type.

Wood Mushrrom Chart.png

As you can see, Oak is the preferred log due to the amount of species that it can be inoculated with however, here in the UK Oak are a preferred species and are often protected with TPO’s (Tree Protection Orders) mainly due to their benefit to wildlife and as habitat. Another consideration is also what ‘Plug Spawn’ you can get your hands on, it’s all nice to see what can be grown using the above chart but you may not be able to locate a seller who has all of these varieties and you may even have to purchase from a number of different suppliers.

 

Growing Mushrooms on Logs – In A Nutshell

As short as possible, you get hold of recently cut / felled logs (tree surgeons are the obvious choice to contact as they are happy to get rid of logs for free – they usually have to pay to dump woodchip). Try find out how long it has been since the logs were felled, try to have your spawn arrive or be available for use no longer than 5-6 seeks after they were cut. (Mushroom Dowels or Spores can be stored in the fridge for a period of time depending on your appliance temperatures etc, generally most suppliers recommend no more than 2 weeks)

You drill holes in a diamond formation around your logs and hammer in pre-inoculated sterilised wooden dowels into these holes and seal with how wax (there are special waxes for this). The best method for keeping logs moist came to me from one of Sepp Holzers’ books (either ‘Holzer’s Permaculture’ or ‘Desert or Paradise’) – you merely pay attention to where the top of the wood is and what was / is the bottom, so before chopping make markings pointing up representing the top. You will plant the inoculated logs into the soil (up end up) to a certain depth and the log itself should naturally draw up moisture from the soil, otherwise if you forget for a short time to moisten the logs, you could kill the mycelium inside the log and everything would be a waste of time and effort.

More detailed information on the process will always be provided by the Dowel / Spore supplier, all you will need is a drill, hammer, place to wash the logs, place to do the drilling / innoculation and something to melt wax in and a brush, (some paintbrush bristles are actually made from plastic and will likely melt in the hot wax, get real horse hair brushes).

Within 1 year to 18 months, you should have full colonisation and the starting of regular fruiting, depending on log size, you could get fruit from each log for up to 8 or so years!!

The time to cut logs is before Spring so right now would not be the best time but if the logs are already cut (by a tree surgeon for instance) then you may as well use them (it’s best to avoid cutting trees in Spring due to the rising sap which causes excessive bleeding on Trees and Shrubs).

 

In a quest to try find out what happened to my childhood and to see if there are any alternatives for the future Generations, I stumbled upon something which I suspected existed but was not entirely sure how or what it would have even been labeled, let alone whether it would be clear from all too common government bureaucracy !

Well it does exist, mostly in Scandinavian countries but also across europe including Germany, Austria and is now being spread across the globe from Australia to the continental North America – even England is finally catching on (Although upon searching, there are quite a few listed individuals online but the ones anywhere remotely near my residence are only offering days-out sessions, it is not an actual school type Monday to Friday setting).

The Forest kindergarten is quite a popular theme and is growing in demand – 10% of all kindergartens in Denmark are Forest kindergartens, in this >12 minute quick documentary ”Kids Gone Wild” from an Australian media group (SBS Dateline), they visit a kindergarten in Denmark and get the chance to interview parents, the Pedagogue (teacher) as well as a teacher from a general primary school where kids from both normal kindergardens and forest kindergardens will converge to continue with their education.

Pedagogue: Only once I had to drive a boy to the Hospital with a big injury in 17 years, so I’m not worried,
Interviewer: And what was the injury?
Pedagogue: It was a parent who drove over the foot of a kid

Below some kids are having great fun building sculptures in the snow whilst being educated about famous Art:

 

Testimonials I have seen from people online discussing the difference between their own kid’s and friends or other family who went to forest schools / kindergartens is quite intriguing, the forest educated kids always want to be outside no matter the weather whilst the ‘normal’ kids seem to be more concerned with Television or other indoor technology such as tablets, smartphones or TV / Computer games which they spend countless hours on.

As a child who grew up in the eighties, I was there when the first TV gaming systems came out and subsequently get every console that came after due to a sibling being completely obsessed, however, we at least only spent a couple of hours at a time playing, we would then on our own accord, go outside to play. These days kids can spend up to 16 hours playing only stopping to rush to the toilet or boil a kettle to make unhealthy pot noodle soups!

For any of my UK followers or viewers who may want to see if there are any nearby, visit the Forest Kindergardten Association’s site.

As promised before and a common theme on my blog, (posting short interesting videos and tours of Permaculture Sites and Projects globally) I have found this Short Video of a really cool Permaculture project in San Marcos Sierras, Argentina, the Audio is both in English and Argentinian Spanish with a decent description from the interviewees of what the focus and aims of the community have.

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Shamballa Permaculture Project Argentina

The whole video is less than 7 minutes long and features Horses, beautiful gardens and a very beautiful house / dwelling.

Enjoy!

Nuff Said:

nature kwote

I came across a few warnings on social media a good few years ago about ‘Smart’ meters, these were mainly from people in the North Americas and sometimes from others just reposting from others. I didn’t think much of it except that I would not be allowing one ever installed at / in my dwelling – I’m in the UK and it is not as common here …

With the recent serious push in the mainstream media as well as on social media to have these ”excellent free ‘Smart’ meters” installed so that ”you can save money” – it is literally on bus stops, youtube adverts (over and over even sometimes on the same video), in newspaper adverts and finally, the twinkle toothed salesman knocking on my door desperate for his comission cheque… that was the last straw!

I did a little bit of snooping around and found a pretty compelling documentary (which I had watched in full a few years ago) that outlines the main health concerns regarding these meters, the main part which shocked me was the Blood testing of three subjects, each exposed to a ‘Smart’ meter from the distance of 1 foot for a controlled time of 2 minutes. Luckily, I have found a excerpt of the documentary which is less than 3 minutes long and is of the said blood test (Below), for those of you who are interested in their health, I highly recommend you watch it then make a little bit of effort to dig around some more to get more information. Before you do, remember One thing, the person / persons and corporation/s involved will always have someone or a group of well paid people with PHd’s behind their names spewing rubbish on any claims made by actual individuals whom have been experiencing problems with this ‘Smart’ technology as well as any Independent Researchers and Scientists who are merely doing their common man / woman a favour by checking whether these things should ever have been allowed in the first place…

In another part of the documentary, a young / middle aged man was at home when a utilities company employee actually kicked his basement door in, just to install the meter without consent (Why didn’t they just knock / wait until he opened? because once installed … very hard to get them to remove it!), he got the scene on video:

The Full Documentary is called Take Back Your Power and you can view it Here.

Do what is right for you, your family and neighbours, spread this to everyone!

This is kind of my own invention (The Design), I got the idea from the mirror strings you can buy from some garden centers which sell them as pigeon deterrents. The issue with the latter is that they are cheaply made (small mirrors glued to fishing line – that’s it!) and they don’t last many heavy wind sessions before you see them broken all over the ground (I have seen this happen probably around 20 times in the last 4 years).

So I decided to design my own – with the emphasis on lasting, and not really as a pest deterrent but more as a Garden Ornament. I also took some inspiration from a Permaculture book I read which had a reflection chart (depicting the reflection values of various objects from Aluminium foil to wood, rocks etc.).

Tools:

  • Timber Saw
  • Wood Glue (PVA) or Silicone Glue if preferred
  • Drill and Screws
  • 4x wood screw type vine eyes (screws with a closed loop on top)
  • Strong Fishing Line or Thin Cable / Wire
  • Wire Cutters and Pliers

Optional:

  • Some Colourful Outdoor Paint / or just wood varnish
  • brush / es
  • Sealant spray paint (if you use indoor paint instead of outdoor)

Materials:

  • Long-ish piece of Timber (square profile – about 4cm x 4cm x any length you like), you may need to use the same piece to cut the supports to hold the Charm
  • Small Mirrors, get mixed shapes if you like (known as Mosaic or Tile Mirrors)
  • Sea Shells (optional)
  • Glass Gems (also known as flat marbles) – (optional)
  • Pool Tiles (optional)

In the following diagram, you merely cut out a couple of wedges from two of the sides of the timber, these you will stick to the other two sides to create angled surfaces to place more mirrors ( we want many mirrors reflecting in various directions and angles, so please don’t be regimentalised when you are cutting – let go of the OCD for this project ! )

Jeff's Garden Solar Charm 1

Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 1

Now go ahead and glue your various mirrors onto the angled surfaces as well as on the flat areas, you can decorate the rest of the free space with Glass Gems, maybe a few flat sided crystals, sea shells and pool tiles (create patterns, you can get very small mini pool tiles which are about 1/4th the size of the standard small pool tile).

gard solar 2

Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 2

Once all is dry and happy, you can paint around the decorations and mirrors or varnish (I prefer to paint / varnish later, I didn’t want the mirrors etc. to be glued onto paint – this was a personal preferance) then go on to taping the mirrors with edging tape or electrical tape so you can spray it a few times with sealant spray – this helps to protect against environmental wear as well as an extra barrier to hold the objects on and reinforce them a bit more.

Now screw in one vine eye on each end (top and bottom) to attach your swivels to and then the wire / fishing line or cables. It is now up to you to decide where and how you will hang your new ornament in your garden, I attached it to a fence pole by cutting two timber pieces (+- 35cm long each with a 45 degree cut on one end), attached these to the pole and then screwed one vine eye subsequently on the end of each of these supports. The charm was first tied onto the top support with about 10cm of fishing gut between the vine eye and the swivel, the next was tied whilst the charm was hanging, this gave me a chance to decide on how taught I want it tied, I went for only slightly with a bit of give.

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Garden Solar Charm – Diagram 3

An that’s it! You can be as creative or simple as you like, you could even cut the timber into more than one section with an assortment of swivels so that each can rotate in different angles, at different speeds etc, the options are pretty much endless …

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