Using sticks and leaves at bottom of 15 inch raised beds

catsgurleygirlApril 19, 2014

Quick question, been trying to think about what my beds with. I was wondering about using some 2 to 3 inch diameter smaller sticks (from woods behind our house) at the bottom and layering with semi chopped dead leaves, then on top of that adding dirt some of some sort- be it bought by the yard from a nursery or whatever I can get my hands on. Then adding the good stuff like leaf mold and rotted cow manure and such. And then finally mulching it with hay. I'm know on some level that as wood breaks down in the soil and that it can use up nitrogen. I don't know if that would be a issue with it being at the very bottom of 15 inch raised beds. In that same vein, if I mulched on top with soil conditioner (the soil conditioner I'm thinking of is sold in big bags and looks like really small pieces of chopped up wood) instead of hay, might I run into the problem of it taking up nitrogen closer to the plants? Okay, so it wasn't a quick question but I appreciate any help. Thanks.

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bluegoat_gw(Zone 3b)

No, don't do that. It's better to just use the same soil as in the rest of the bed. Plant root will grow better in soil that in sticks.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 3:22PM
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Okay, I guess I had in the back of my mind the Hugelkulutre method. I think they put logs and sticks and dirt in the bottom of their holes and then pile it up on top with dirt and such, so that's where I was going with that. Thank you for your input.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 3:33PM
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I'm thinking along the same line as you catsgirl. In theory, Hugelkulter does fly in the face of what we are told about N being tied up by decaying matter. In my first attempt last year in what you are talking about,tomatoes,squash and beans were healthy in a 5'x5'x42"deep container. I added 4" of topsoil and planted tomatoes again this year. I am building a large pile of limbs on the ground in preperation for a larger planting area in 2015. I believe the reasons why N isn't depleted are; A. The total exposed surface area is much less than if wood chips or sawdust is used. B. Rather than mixed throughout,the wood is concentrated at the bottom and plants have N available in soil at the top. When fertilize is applyed to the ground surface plants respond. That would seem to indicate roots near the surface are supplying N to the plant, not those 12" deep.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 2:05AM
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Hugelkulture works because of the large mass of relatively large pieces of wood that holds water and slowly decays.

A layer of small twigs and branches will not do the same thing for you.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 10:06AM
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my raised bed in process

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 6:40PM
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other side view

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 6:42PM
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