The Great Hugel-berm!

Berm1
The first 75 feet or so of “berm” ready to be covered with wood chips and soil… Small creatures have moved into it here and there.

Dealing with tree Debris…

One day a couple years ago my son and I wandered our land, as we do now and then – brainstorming ways to work with it in the best way possible; exploring methods for moving tree debris, and ideas for channeling rain water, places to build different structures that may be needed in the future, etc.

Mostly we were working on a way to get our little pickup truck to a part of the land that had a number of downed trees and debris left from the logging done here before we bought the place 8 years ago. The first three years we slowly burned our way through the mountains of debris left from the thinning that was done, but then decided there had to be a better solution. One day – perhaps because we had begun building hugelkultur mounds in the garden and orchard, and because we have a pretty section we call the Pine Flats that is too visible from the road and needed some screening – we put the two ideas together in our own creative way.

We decided to build a huge long “berm” along that section of property border – about 200 ft long or more. This berm was first composed of rotting logs and branches piled neatly 5 or 6′ high and 10 or 12′ wide, and when it has rotted down a bit more, we will cover it with a foot or two of wood chips and then a layer of top soil, and plant native shrubs and trees on it to increase the screening effect. Each year a mass of pine needles from the trees surrounding it – cover it – adding their goodness to the overall mass. Small creatures live in it now. It has grown to about 100′ long at this point and this year might be the year we cover at least some of it with wood chips and soil and plant it.

Berm2
You can see the road in the distance just above the top of the “berm”…

Another benefit has been having a really wonderful place I can drag or wheelbarrow rotted oak branches that fall on the garden from the surrounding trees, and shrub prunings too big for my compost piles! It is truly one of the better ideas we have come up with here, because it accomplishes so many good things – it is such a win-win situation. When you have trees on your property you invariably end up with a fairly large amount of debris in the way of broken or dead branches or even whole dead trees that fall over. A few are nice to leave where they fall – or use for borders on garden beds, but some are just an obstruction and having something this “useful” to do with them is really wonderful! The usual method for dealing with this debris is to make piles and burn them, but the more we experience the smoke from neighbors burning this sort of debris as well as leaves each year, the more we wish that everyone would find different ways to use this material.

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7 comments

  1. Brilliant solution to use your wood in this way. Since discovering hugelkultur, I’ve been doing something similar, though in a much smaller scale and mostly with wood from my neighbours’ trees 🙂

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    • I’m convinced at this point that tucking branches and bits of logs IN the ground and even on top here and there, is good for our soil and plants. Nature does it all the time! Every place I have tried it – it seemed to be a benefit over NOT having it. Tucking a log in beds has helped with my mole problem too!

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