Hugelkultur is an old German concept/word meaning “hill-culture”. Wood is buried under topsoil (either in a hole or right on the ground) and as it breaks down, it holds lots of moisture and provides sustained nutrients for plant growth. Some more awesome benefits of Hugelkultur is that it greatly increases the available organic matter in the soil over time and for those of us with alkaline soils, which are mainly found in the more arid areas (which coincidentally is where water retention is greatly needed) the hugelkultur bed will release negative ions as it decomposes which will increase soil acidity.

Many people are using these beds for vegetables, but they are great for Fruit trees and windbreaks since the decomposition leans towards the fungal side and not as much the bacterial side as in compost.  This is more natural for trees and bushes, whereas compost is more natural for grains, grasses and vegetables.

The basic concept involves digging a trench and putting logs covered with branches and then covering that with smaller stuff such as straw, weeds, compost etc. that will provide an initial nitrogen source. The mound is covered with the soil that you dug out.  You can dig a pit, trench or just start at ground level with your mound. This is a great way to turn an old stump into a benefit.  Water will be retained by the wood acting as a sponge for roots to tap into while also releasing nitrogen and other nutrients to feed the trees. The soil is loose because of voids left by the decaying wood and gives great aeration for your newly planted trees and bushes. Because of this your trees and bushes will send down deeper roots, quicker and be much less susceptible to drought. Once established the amount of irrigation water required is substantially less than normal.  Combining this method with swales to capture our scare rainwater and snowfall and you have a win-win for your trees.

There are lots of good resources on the internet and several great videos to show and explain better the concepts and actual application.  Below I have listed a few:

Here is a Youtube that is a good and simple introduction   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbFGK_kFt00&feature=youtu.be

This one explains more how it saves water  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mibKS_Bdolg

This page is tremendous!  It show tons of good photos and different methods in action and also tells best and worst types of wood to use.  http://www.inspirationgreen.com/hugelkultur.html

For a while now we have wanted a more defined entryway to the nursery and orchard.  We have watched the lay of the land and the usage patterns to determine the best location.  We all agreed that we wanted something in a southwest style but not too formal.  Because the age old building style of a ramada is eco-friendly and uses sustainable resources this was our choice. The fact that since it is native wood and you require no carpentry skills to look good, never entered into our minds. It’s crookedness is what gives it the rustic charm!  Shade is always at a premium so with this covered entryway we can grow vines over it to give us some much needed respite in this type of weather.  The pergola or “ramada” is approximately 10 foot wide by 20 foot long and 9 feet high. When needed it is still big enough to get a pickup through. Hope to get it finished Saturday and post some more pictures

Russell measured and dug holes, checking the hypotenuse to be sure we were straight

Russell measured and dug holes, checking the hypotenuse to be sure we were straight

The same was done on the left side

The same was done on the left side

 

Tying posts together with support poles

Tying posts together with support poles

Support posts in place enough to hold things together. We will go add a few across the center portion

Support posts in place enough to hold things together. We will go add a few across the center portion

Added a few latillas to check spacing.  We think every 6 inches looks about right

Added a few latillas to check spacing. We think every 6 inches looks about right

With our last post we showed some older pictures from planting pecan seed in April. Now that we  are  almost in July, they are starting to emerge.   I think its a good idea to become familiar with how a pecan seed germinates and grows in its natural environment. At left is a photo of a germinated pecan. To germinate, the seed must first imbibe enough water to swell the kernel and crack open the shell.  As the seed starts to grow, a vigorous tap root is the first structure formed. Shortly thereafter, a smaller, wiry shoot develops and grows upwards, poking through the soil surface. In nature, a new pecan seedling will invest most of it energy in growing a massive, deep tap root. Above ground, first-year pecan trees rarely grow more than  8-12 inches in height and produce only a hand full of  leaves. This growth pattern is the tree’s way of ensuring seedling survival. Between fires, floods, grazing animals and brush hogging, seedling pecan trees often lose above ground parts. By storing a massive amount of plant energy in the tap root, a pecan tree can easily replace a lost top with a new sprout.

Caution and Constant are the words when weeding young pecan trees

Caution and Constant are the words when weeding young pecan trees

Pecan

Several types of trees are planted or started from seed.  They may go on to be rootstock for other, better quality varieties or they may be grown for their own merits.  This is a process planned well in advance.  In early we fall we received our pecan seed.  It was sourced from the northernmost range of the cold hardy pecan in Iowa.  We then needed to cold stratify the seed.  Seed Stratification is explained by the following:

– A type of imposed dormancy found in seeds is internal dormancy regulated by the inner seed tissues. This dormancy prevents seed of many species from germinating when environmental conditions are not favorable for survival of the seedlings. There are several different degrees or types of internal dormancy. One type of internal dormancy is “shallow” and simply disappears with dry storage. Many vegetable seeds display this type of dormancy. No special treatments are necessary to overcome this kind of dormancy.

However, another type of internal dormancy requires special treatments to overcome. Seeds having this type of dormancy will not germinate until subjected to a particular duration of moist-prechilling and/or moist-warm periods.

Cold stratification (moist-prechilling) involves mixing seeds with an equal volume of a moist medium (sand or peat, for example) in a closed container and storing them in a refrigerator (approximately 40oF). Periodically, check to see that the medium is moist but not wet. The length of time it takes to break dormancy varies with particular species; check reference books to determine the recommended amount of time. This type of dormancy may be satisfied naturally if seeds are sown outdoors in the fall.

The problem with planting in the fall is they easily become food for squirrels and gophers!  We soaked the seed 24 hours in warm water to start the breakdown of the shell and then kept in the fridge at about 34 degrees in damp peat moss.  In early April we planted our pecan seed.

Planting is rather straightforward.  We pulled existing weeds and rototilled the 50 foot row.  After that we added about 2” of compost and rototilled again.  A rake gave us a nice smooth seed bed to plant in.  These were placed horizontally at 6” spacing.  Placing vertically on Pecan, Hickory and Walnut gives a poor germination rate.

After planting we replaced the drip tape and mulched with straw about 3-4” deep.  Pecans and many nuts will germinate and grow roots for a few months before actually starting any upward growth.  Almost 2 months exactly and we are seeing the first tree break ground!  We will field grow these for this year and containerize in the dormant season for sale or to use as understock for grafting.

 

After rototilling 3" of compost is added

After rototilling 3″ of compost is added

 

Seedbed is raked and ready to plant

Seedbed is raked and ready to plant

You are never to young to plant a tree

You are never to young to plant a tree

Time to put that knowledge to work!

Time to put that knowledge to work!

Summer Grafting Get-Together

When: July 12th
Time: 9:00am to 11:00 am approx.
Where: At Road’s End Farm
What: An informal class on using T-Budding and Chip Budding techniques for warm weather grafting of fruit trees.
This is an informal, outdoors, hands on group setting to learn how to use these styles of grafting to propagate fruit trees.
Why: To save grandma’s heirloom peach tree, to get an exact replica of that “perfect plum” you don’t know the name of, to make a “fruit cocktail tree” with multiple types of fruit on one tree. Or just for fun!

Bud GraftWe will be focusing on Pear, Peach, Plum and Apricot and we expect to have another event in late August on Apples. RSVP is a must and seating is very limited for this one. Send an email to reserve your spot to NMFruitGrowers@aol.com and you will be selected in the order received. Again this is not a demonstration, it is a hands on, get dirty, you will graft some trees, event!
There is no tuition cost on this class to the selected participants. We ask you bring your own very sharp pocket knife or a box cutter type knife, water, hat etc. Dress for the weather. We will supply all other items. You can collect budwood from our orchard or bring your own. We will ask for how many rootstock you will need and these we will charge $4.00 each (our cost) as a potted plant. We will send instructions on collecting and saving your own budwood.

We have raised and sold Goji plants ( Crimson Star cv) for many years now.  The benefits of this China native are many healthwise and they are considered one of the superfruits. Culturally we find them easy to grow and one of the few berries or plants that do fine in a high (8+)  ph. Fresh or dried these plants have a lot to offer and should definitely be part of a permaculture plan.  In our research we have found very little information on how care for and grow for best production.  The normal method is to stake the plant with a 5-6′ pole, training it upward and then cascading down.  Similar to many weeping trees. This appears to be done mainly for harvesting convenience, since most of the berries will be chest high.

As I was reading an article on cordon training currants and gooseberry for higher production, it came to me that goji would lend itself to this just like grapes, kiwis and blackberry.  So off to another project!  We had an empty 25′ row in an old bramble berry section and I added 6 new plants, 5 foot apart.  As with many of my projects, things came up and no trellis was added last year, so I made a commitment to get it done this spring.  The plants had made decent growth last year but were really taking off now and starting to get weedy with many new stems or trunks coming from the ground and several suckers.

I decided to set my first wire at 16″ off the ground and add additional wires at every 12″, so we have off ground 16″, 28″, 40″, 52″ with room to add one more at 64″ as growth dictates.  This will allow main branches to go left and right about 30″ with a central trunk or leader.  Similar to a 4 arm kniffin system in grapes except with 8 arms.

4 more plants to tie and train and then we will watch the progress over this summer and next. I am hopeful that by pruning for production like grapes and hardy kiwi that not only will we get a larger crop, but also a neater and easier to pick one!

The 2014 Spring Catalog has been emailed out! If you did not get a copy we may have an old email address for you or a typo. S2014 Catalog-Springend us an email to NMFruitGrowers@aol.com and we will send it right away.

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