I am writing this on June 27, 2016. As a point of reference, here is a photo of our first hugelkultur mound at about this time last year (actually about the first week of July). (Sorry if it is disorienting for anybody that I put the captions up above the photos, instead of the usual below. It just seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I wonder.)
Wetland Hugelkultur Mounds: a new experiment
Another thing that we began last Winter was building two new hugelkultur mounds in a shallow ditch-fed wetland area in the field to the east of our main crop growing area. I have not seen or heard of anyone doing hugelkultur in wetlands before, but I think it should work great. We’ll see. We have a connected network of ditches and little trenches and small ponds connected to our irrigation water source, the J Canal (administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs). These photos were taken back in December, 2015 and February 2016. (Sticking with the captions above the photos format, for now.)
Here are a couple of photos of the birch and cottonwood that we used, which we found by a river. We did not cut down any trees, just selectively gathered some of the old, fallen wood from the ground, here and there, leaving some for the other species and for the land itself. As you can see, older wood that is already starting to decompose works best. As I mentioned last year, trees that grow by waterways which have soft wood that decomposes quickly after it is cut make the best wood for hugelkultur beds. Such trees include the cottonwoods, poplars, willows, quaking aspen and birches.
Here is a video that I made on the day that I took these photos in December, 2015, which I had forgotten about until a couple of days ago (August of 2017). It will add some additional information that is not in these photo captions, plus a rare moment of me in front of the camera, with Barb’s help.
The next three photos show one of the sources of dirt for the hugelkultur mounds, which is an overflow ditch from the spot where our irrigation pump picks up water from the canal. Besides the dirt, I also gather a spongy type of moss that looks like tangled tree roots. Not knowing its proper name, I call it “root moss.” I have to chop and dig through the root moss to get to the dirt, so it occurred to me very naturally to use the moss in the mounds as an additional means of holding moisture.
Due to the re-freezing of the ground and then having an extremely busy Spring semester, I was not able to work again on the wetland mounds until early June. It was at that time that I was able to dig some shallow little trenches to pull water from the wetland area over to and around the mounds. The mountains in the background hold the water supply for the whole Summer and early Fall.
The water trenches, right after completion.
From the other direction, facing west.
Close up, showing the spongy “root moss.”
One more angle, from the north.
These two hugelkultur beds will be built up much higher throughout the Summer, in the two-tier style of the two beds shown earlier. I will update this again at the end of the Summer. I welcome any questions or discussion.
Here is a video that I made on the same day that I took the photos above, in June, 2016. Sometimes it gets very windy in western Montana. If the sound of strong wind on microphones outdoors is painful or very disturbing to you, please do not watch this video. I do not want to cause anybody any pain or make anybody more disturbed than they already are. But, if you are interested enough in hugelkultur that you think that you might be able to move past the wind noise and find something useful here, then go ahead and give it a try.