Newly installed hugelkultur beds
So the last time, we left our new hugelkultur beds, was on the last day of July. They've been planted out and chugging along nicely for roughly, two and a half months now.
We did receive quite a bit of unseasonal, spring rains, so I cannot say for certain how these beds perform in our usual climate - but I can say, they've kept and maintained the rainfall, for far longer than our ground level garden beds did. I have only started to water them recently.
Last growing season, I was running a can of water (each) to 4 separate beds, and that was about the same time of year. It was every day, for as long as we were without rainfall. Which says a lot about the lack of rain, then, but these new beds (when they do receive the rainfall) hold onto it like a sponge. I didn't get that kind of absorbency with the old beds. They needed to be watered every day, like clockwork.
So here we are, in the hugelkultur production beds, more recently. While the beds themselves are brimming with vegetables, notice the area around the avocado tree too. I've never had nasturtiums grow like weeds here before. I will share my thoughts on why that area is so productive. There are points to note, about what the hugelkultur beds are doing for those plants growing on the edges of them both. But I'll save that for another post.
In the meantime, let's take a look at what's growing in the beds...
We'll start with bed two, which was the last to be planted out. It actually suffered the most damage from brush turkeys, so we changed the large wire mesh we had over the top (for protection) to casurina leafs and branches. When layered well on the bed, it's hard for turkeys to scratch up.
I have kale, beetroot and spaghetti squash (my favourite) in this bed, along with some perennial herbs.
Squash fruit, forming
This second bed, is doing okay for suffering several turkey invasions, but it's also facing west. Therefore, cops the last of the heat of the day. I suspect it's the extra heat exposure, making this bed a little drier than the other.
Plants like the squash and kale, have large tap roots however, so don't seem phased. Compared to last year's crop of spaghetti squash, this new crop is doing so much better.
The first bed we made however, is the most productive. Because it's been in the longest. Plus I didn't have to replace plants or soil, from turkey scratching. Remember that we've had more spring rain than usual, which is why it's looking so lush. But the absorbent nature of the hugelkultur bed means, I haven't had to run water to it, until recently.
So that's two and a half months, since I've had to start watering. This is after watering the materials in the original set-up. I don't think I mentioned that, when describing how we put it together. I watered with every new layer I placed in the bed. But all that water, and the rainfall, went a very long way.
I've not experienced anything like it before - to have a bed which retains moisture, longer than a week without rain or artificial watering.
My beets are almost ready to harvest. I grew some last year in the old beds, but most of them didn't make it. The few which did, were very pint sized. Still delicious, but I think the ones this year, are going to be better.
I love to make beetroot smoothies and beetroot cake. They're both very delicious, and even my vegetable fearing daughter will eat them, when prepared this way. So beets are definitely in our top veggies to grow.
Lots of greens
Still in the same bed, I have more kale, parsley, dill and a lone sunflower. The herbs get used regularly. The dill is especially delicious in creamy salad dressing, which get lavished on potato or egg salad. The green kale gets eaten as green smoothies, and kale chips. More food we love to eat.
It's been very nice to have a reliable supply of food we can bring into the kitchen. While we're still buying a lot of fruit and veg, it's also nice to see our home grown produce increasing, and the quality improving. I think it's fair to say, the new hugelkultur beds have something to do with that difference.
Still in the same bed, I have my beloved choko vine, which I have dearly missed for several seasons. It should absolutely love this hugelkultur bed, because it's such a survivor with a deep, fleshy tap root. I'm really hoping to grow my own chokos this year, as I love to make my annual supply of choko chutney.
It's a shame to have to buy them, when they're usually so easy to grow.
My calendula (pot marigold) is flowering nicely, along with some arrowroot. I like to mix things up with different levels, so different micro-climates can exist in the same bed. The tall arrowroot, with its fleshy rhizomes, can weather the heat better than the calendula, and help to shade the soil.
You can also see a bean, which has found it's way up the choko trellis...
I tried to grow the purple king bean (far left) over the edge of the bed. In the hopes it would help to shade the retaining wall. But all the plants just entwine together, in an attempt to get higher. I have to keep reminding them to stop climbing the other plants in the bed. But only the ones, they threaten to suffocate.
I actually prefer having beans, sprawl where they want to, as opposed to straight up a trellis. This also helps to create micro-climate between the soil level and the plants. So I'm not completely opposed to it's wandering tendrils.
You can also see in the same picture above, some sweet potato leafs (the lowest hanging vine. And some nasturtiums, which are not planted in this bed, but creeping over from the avocado tree. I also have some yacon growing in this bed, which I hope will actually produce something edible this year. So there's quite a lot of production from one 1.8m x 1m bed.
Bean tendrils, entwining, to get higher
I think it's the height (roughly 60cms) filled with slowly decaying material, that helps increase the production levels. I concede the extra moisture has helped them along, but the fact this bed holds onto moisture and provides a regular source of feed for plants, is what I have been missing from my normal ground beds. Not to mention, I don't have to deal with the clay in our soils.
These raised hugelkultur beds, have actually done better than my wicking boxes. I suspect the fact they're black tubs, against a brick retaining wall has helped to cook their roots however. So I need to work on my placement of the wicking boxes, better. Once we actually get that overhead trellis up, to cast shade, the boxes will probably fair a lot better.
But October and November is all about installing rainwater tanks, so that trellis will just have to wait. The next post I hope to write, will be about the avocado tree between the beds.