Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a bit of a reputation for rain. Truth is, we’ve had fairly severe droughts the last few summers. Not California severe, but bad enough. For me to dive into traditional modern agriculture would be irresponsible, water wise. But I still want to grow lots of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. What’s a McFarmFace to do?
Why, hugelkultur and rain barrels, of course! Rain barrels are fairly self explanatory, and I’ll obviously do a post when I get that set up, but for now let’s talk about hugels.
Hugelkultur is a German word and I won’t go into too much detail right now as the almighty Google can tell you far more than I can. But remember that post about using what you’ve got? Well, I’ve got poor topsoil (unless I want to dig up the wetlands, which I don’t) and a lot of wood debris from clearing trees. Since hugelmounds are essentially buried wood that creates higher quality soil as it breaks down, I figure I’m all set. It’s been estimated that after a couple of years of decomposition, no supplemental irrigation is needed to grow trees and perennials on a hugel.
At this point, it’s really a question of where to put them and what to plant on them. I will also be using a technique called Swales and berms on the slopes part of my back yard. Basically it involves digging a perfectly level ditch on a slope (it will curve to follow the contour of the land) and piling the excavated soil on the downhill side to facilitate water retention and create a good place for growing trees without needing to water much.
Down below that, across the driveway, is a big open space with blackberries, elderberries, foxglove, and tansy ragwort. But it’s relatively flat and would be a good place for hugels and veggies. Obviously I need to clear it out first. Blackberries aren’t a problem since I am getting goats next year (hopefully!) but the ragwort and foxglove are poisonous so they’ll need to be removed by hand and burned. I sense a weekend project with a nephew for manual labor…