Creating a hugul trench for Jerusalem artichokes

If you keep up with the latest musings on the permies forum you will definitely see Jerusalem artichokes brought up in various discussions. These amazing little tubers provide a tasty root vegetable as well as gorgeous flowers that resemble sunflowers. They are also supposed to be super easy to grow! After perusing my garden area I decided to prep the area directly behind my fence for a spring planting.

To retain water and add fertility I decided to create a hugul trench to support my tubers. After a day of digging I had a couple of nice looking 2′ – 3′ deep trenches ready to be hugul’ed:

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I filled both trenches with a variety of wood types and topped it off with manure, leaves and grass clippings. My Jerusalem artichokes will go in after the last frost date hits and I’m looking forward to adding another perennial edible crop to our property. Yumbo!

Converting raised beds to hugul beds

My initial experience with hugulkulture beds has been amazing. I’m now on my third year and am starting to see some AMAZING vegetable production. The first raised beds I put in were 18″ tall and sat on top of clay soil. When our HOT summers hit I noticed that the beds were drying out and I had to water more than usual. So this fall I set out on a mission to hugul these beds. My goals for this were simple:

1. Dig down 2′ below grade so I would have 42″ of of soil to work with

2. Reduce watering needs by creating an insulated cavity for the wood

3. Mix in a boat load of grass clippings and leaves

4. Create trenches on the edges of each bed so water could funnel down to the wood when it rains

So with these goals in mind I started digging out my old beds. Removing the top 18″ of dirt was super easy. But when I hit clay my excitement went out the window. Our red clay was hard and compacted which made digging a pain. Drenching the clay with water made digging a bit easier but the excavation process took much longer than anticipated. Here is a picture of one of my beds half way through the “big dig”:

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To minimize work I filled half of the bed with wood and organic material and used the clay (mixed 50/50 w/ the original soil) from the other side to back fill the hugul’ed side. This saved a good amount of time. Once the beds were refilled I added a liberal amount of John & Bob’s fertilizer as well as some endo and exto mycorrhizae. I’m planning to grow perennials (leeks, green onions, etc.) in one bed and the other will be used for seasonal vegetables. Now to enjoy the fruits of my labor!

An update on my hugul pot experiment

I previously discussed my hugul pot experiment. Well it’s been a few months since my seeds went in and I’m finally starting to see some results. We’ve been picking approximately one squash a week from each hugul pot, though we have been getting roughly the same production from the non-hugul pot as well. Here is one of the yellow squash pots:

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I have definitely noticed that the hugul pots have more yellow leaves than the pot that contains just planting mix. This is most likely caused by the wood taking up the available nitrogen as it decays, and supplementing this with fertilizer hasn’t really made a difference. I’m starting to think that hugul pots may take some time to get established, so I’m not fretting things quite yet. It’s great to be able to pick squash, and hopefully we will see our production pick up in the years to come!

Lessons learned growing sweet corn

Like most people, I love the taste of fresh sweet corn. My parents used to get fresh batches of Peaches & Cream each summer, and there was nothing better than having some steak and biting into a freshly picked ear of corn! Hoping that I could re-produce that experience at home, I decided to dedicate part of my 8′ x 8′ raised bed to sweet corn. While some of the corn is coming up and producing ears:

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I didn’t get nearly the production I would have liked. 🙁 There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. I didn’t plant the corn kernels deep enough so their support structure wasn’t able to develop. The first big storm made me aware of this requirement.

2. The squirrels have been climbing the remaining ears and feasting on my treats.

While I haven’t seen the production I would have liked, there are a few positives. The sweet corn fertilizer I side dressed my plants with seems to be working well. My stalks are strong (just not rooted deeply) and the ears are developing nicely. I also haven’t had to water the bed since it’s got a wood core full of rotting wood.

Next year I plan to push my kernels down a good inch or two into the soil to allow the roots and support infrastructure to take hold. I will also make sure to keep applying cayenne pepper, coffee grounds and blood meal around the base of my plants after each rain to keep the squirrels away. I’m also hoping to experiment with shake away fox urine over the next few weeks. If it works, then I’ll make sure to add this to the list of non-lethal squirrel deterrents I put out after each rain. Hope I actually get to enjoy some corn this year!

Growing vegetables in hugul bins (hugulkulture-derived container gardening)

After my first foray into hugul pots, I got the itch to build a few more. I did’t want to pay $8 for more 5-gallon plastic pots, and I was hoping to build something that would hold more soil. When I was looking through our shed I noticed three old plastic bins that I converted into self-watering containers last summer. These bins were just taking up space so I figured they would be perfect candidates for hugul bins!

Before I began working on the bins I started to wonder if pre-soaking the wood would make a difference. My thought was that the wood would be able to absorb water and allow the fungal life to get a head start on life. Gardening requires a lot of experimentation, so I decided to try it out. I put wood into each bin, filled the bottom 2″ with water and left them for a week:

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I periodically rotated the wood, though I don’t think this will make a difference. To get the bins ready for planting I added drainage holes to the bottom, applied a layer of compost to the bottom, added wood, filled the bin with potting mix, added organic fertilizer, azomite and worm castings and then topped the bin with a thick layer of mulch:

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I planted spaghetti squash in both bins and am happy to see them starting to grow. I have an area on my property that is perfect for vining vegetables, so that is why I chose these specific varieties. Curious to see how this experiment goes!