Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Continuing to raise the allotment with trench Hugelkultur (2)

Before continuing with the trench Hugelkultur, the apple sions that have been taken from neighbouring allotments had to be stored away.  These were wrapped in polythene bags and buried in a cool part of the allotment.  A cane with a label on indicated where the sions were buried.
The sions were 'James Grieve'; 'Saturn'; 'Greensleves'; 'Egremont Russet'; and 'Braeburn'.  Not necessarily the ones that I would have chosen but beggars can't be choosers.  These will be used to graft onto the M9 and M26 rootstock.

After this, the new currant bushes were healed in.   Blackcurrant 'Ebony' and 'Ben Connan'; redcurrant 'Rovada' and white currant 'Blanka'.  These will be moved to their permanent positions when the ground has been dug over.

I took about one square metre; one spit deep of subsoil out of the bottom of the trench and used it to make more pathway by the shed.  Carting waterlogged clay subsoil is not my idea of a pleasant activity but it had to be done.
Due to the wet weather, the water table has
risen and water is collecting in the trench.
The subsoil has not been taken out of the trench in the photograph. The cardboard that was taken out with the subsoil was returned to the bottom of the trench. Cardboard does not last very long on the allotment before it decomposes.  I add it to the trenches whenever I have some handy.

As the bottom of the trench was so waterlogged, it was not forked over very well.  I was relying on breaking up the bottom of the trench with the spade when subsoil was being taken out.    I did not stand in the trench as I usually do because I would have sunk in the water clay mix at the bottom.  There were many rhizomes of mare's tail in the subsoil and these were removed as much as possible.

Decaying processed wooden planks were
put at the bottom of the trench. 
The decaying wooden planks were put at the bottom of the trench.  I used planks like this last year when trenching the other part of the allotment and there was no problem with nitrogen depletion. The ends of the planks were very fibrous and broke apart in my hands.  This spongy material will absorb water and release it when the soil is dry.

Covering the planks was a layer of hawthorn and ivy.

Hawthorn and ivy brushwood.
I cut this brushwood from the hedge at the bottom of the allotment using the loppers.  However, there is not much left for the next trench so I will have to search around for more elsewhere on the allotment site.  I threw in some more processed wood too.  There is a plastic catch on the wood at the top of the pile.  I took this off and put it in the rubbish tub to be buried at the back of the shed.  I don't really want any plastic in the growing area trenches and actively remove any that I find.

The brushwood was covered with a six inch layer of woody ash tree shreddings.

Ash tree shreddings
These shreddings were watered with concentrated comfrey liquid before being covered with topsoil sieved from the paths by the shed mixed with a little chicken manure.
Path topsoil added to trench.
The path topsoil was very friable and had a lot of decayed wood shreddings in it.  It should be quite fertile because nothing but mare's tail and bindweed has been growing in it for many years.

Over the topsoil I put a layer of farmyard manure and then covered it with the sieved topsoil from the trench.  This has given me about 18-24 inches of good top soil over the trench Hugelkultur, which will produce some good vegetables.  I am planning to plant ridged cucumbers here next year.

The little greenhouse is slowly sinking into the ground because of the trenching I have done around it.  The glass will have to be taken out and the greenhouse frame raised level again.  However, I will not do this until the topsoil has settled.

It does not seem that I have done much today but I had to cut the hedge back to provide some brushwood; dig out and sieve the path topsoil;  dig out the subsoil and put it into the hole I made in the path and level everything with the rake.

And I want to do this over the whole allotment?  Well I did for the other part of the allotment.

This is where the new currant plants are going to to be planted as a hedge to divide the curbit bed from the brassica bed.  Currants appreciate a deep root run so they will do well in trenched topsoil.


  1. I too have been playing with Hugel kultur Anthony but building up rather than burying. I am pushing the boundaries by covering my heaps of logs and prunings quite thinly with soil, decaying grass and rotting hedge trimmings. I hope in another year I will have established quite a few 'select' ground hugging ornamentals!

  2. Hi Roger, with your experience you should have no difficulty in producing some choice ornamentals. I am still experimenting with Hugelkultur, but I am constantly surprised that nitrogen depletion does not seem to occur to the degree I was expecting or what I had read in horticultural books. This is something that pundits on Gardener's Question Time continually site for not putting woody material on compost heaps.