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We were adding up our garden and realized that we got a lot of

squash and zucchini production from one area. We harvested 80 pounds winter squash ("sweet potato" and "table queen" varieties of acorn squash), and 35 pounds of zucchini from one very small 16 square feet (planted, they took over a total area 10X that size). Granted it was the sunniest area, planted, and came up first, (another 30 SF planted to squash and melons produced biomass but near nothing to eat) but it had another interesting advantage which I am not sure how much credit to give it. We ran out of time to do it elsewhere.

 

In making this raised bed, we peeled back the top soil and sod, then laid in a thin, open layer of interlaced woody stems on top of a scattering of chunky charcoal soaked with some fertilizer. The idea was to give AM fungi a level to romp along, and put it deep enough in the raised bed that it would remain intact for several years. I didn't inoculate the seeds and I really didn't expect any impact until next year, but now I really wonder. Also ran out of time to do same with other bed areas. Certainly encouraged to repeat!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Phillip, what you are doing is called hugelkultur and is a common german practice. A lot of Permaculture advocates have glommed on to it as a way of dealing with poor soils.

 

The following is taken from The Avant Gardener monthly newsletter:

"A hole 6 inches (15 cm) deep and 5 to 6 feet (1.7 m) wide is dug of any desired length and running north-south. In the bottom, twigs, branches and rotting logs are laid [i would put things like broccoli stems here too]. Then the sod removed when making the hole is laid face down on the wood layer. On top of this goes a deep layer of rotting leaves ...and green wastes.... Next comes a layer of fresh, nearly finished compost. Finally all this is topped with soil mixed with rich, mature compost. The completed mound can be as high as 30 inches (76 cm). Hugelkultur experts advise planting leaf and head vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage and cauliflower, plus tomatoes and cucumbers, the first year when there is considerable heating from the composting. The next year ... root crops can be added. The mound will last 7 years, its height gradually lessening and in the final year a perennial such as asparagus is planted."

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  • 2 months later...
Phillip, what you are doing is called hugelkultur and is a common german practice. A lot of Permaculture advocates have glommed on to it as a way of dealing with poor soils.

 

My adaptation was a pretty skinny adaptation of hugelkultur, but I certainly see your point. Thank you for pointing it out.

 

A terra preta inspired adaptation of hugelkultur would be to use a 50:50 debris:charcoal mix. I look forward to the day when I have enough charcoal to try it.

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Mycorrhizal fungi

Do they make difference to your garden.

 

Depends on the plant. Over 90% of the world's plant species have co-evolved with complementary mycorrhizal fungi and, absent fertilizing well in excess of uptake, require them for maximum productivity.

 

Adding mycorrhyzal fungi inoculum is not needed if you are already sustaining a healthy population. The effects of adding mycorrhyzal fungi can range from dramatic, when you correctly match the fungi to the plant, to no effect if soil P levels are high, or if you recently tilled in a biofungicidal cover crop like mustard.

 

Besides higher yields and healthier plants, irrigation requirements can go down and drought effects lessen as the mycorrhyzal network taps water from beyond the plant rhizosphere.

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