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Since we completed the hugel beds and swales back in June, there hasn’t been much for us to do with the earthworks.

Shortly after we completed the project I seeded the beds completely with iron clay peas. The earthworks consist almost completely of subsoil due to my inability to separate out the topsoil during the excavation work. As a result, we’ve got a lot of work to do to build the soil into something that is productive. Iron clay peas were my choice for several reasons. I needed a crop that would create biomass for the soil while adding nitrogen and protecting the soil from drying out in the summer’s harsh sun. As with all of my other planting, the seeds were simply broadcast onto the swales and hugel beds a day or so before a light rain.

Iron Clay Peas growing on Hugelkulture moundThe iron clay peas did awesome for such a short season. The crop is a perfect fit for our climate, and we gave them LOTS of clay to enjoy! They’re currently in the flowering process, and we’ll probably see a pea harvest before the frost comes, even though that wasn’t part of our plan.

In a few months we’ll begin planting the trees for our future food forest, but for now we’re focusing on building the soil and getting some type of ground cover on all of the interswale areas. We’ve still got a lot of compacted, bare soil exposed in between the beds, and reconciling that is a top priority before winter sets in.

Exposed soil in inter-swale area.As we were planning the winter ground cover, somehow we decided to jump the gun a little and play with some actual winter crops. However, knowing that the odds are pretty good that the crop is going to fail, I really didn’t want to put too much time, energy or money into the experiment. As a result, we’ve decided to take a play out of Masanobu Fukuoka‘s book, and utterly neglect the winter crops. At least we’ll know exactly what we can grow in the native soil. Continue Reading…

Gulf Rye GrassWe’ve been so excited to see progress on the property that it never occurred to me that erosion might be a problem. As we sat in the motor home watching the rain on our first overnight excursion at the property, it hit me that we were going to have a BIG erosion problem on our hands if we didn’t do something fast. I’ve read dozens of permaculture books by this point, so you would think I’d know exactly what to do. As it turns out, all of the books talk about ground cover as a green manure crop, to stop erosion and build soil, but none of them really cover the process of how to plant ground cover in detail.

So we’ve got this two-acre patch of exposed dirt… Now what? Continue Reading…