Strawberry-flavored Hugelkultur, Please

A few months ago my daughter and I thinned out the raised strawberry bed.

Way too many plants.

Way too many plants.

I planted the extra strawberries under the passionvine arch,

Under the passionvine trellis.

Under the passionvine trellis.

using well pooed and pecked and rained-upon straw from the Fowl Fortress as mulch.

Good yucky straw.

Good yucky straw.

However the soil level in the raised bed has become lower, and the Bermuda grass has grown higher.  Time for a re-do.

When I’d originally planted the bed a few years ago, I’d heard about burying wood to hold moisture and improve the soil. Some little thing we call… hugelkultur.  I laid old lime tree logs along one side.  They began to break down and some really cool mushrooms came up.

Cool mushrooms.

Cool mushrooms.

Strawberries sent runners out and they rooted right in the wood.  A great success.

Strawberries rooted right in the wood!

Strawberries rooted right in the wood!

Since I don’t have ready compost to fill such a large bed right now, I decided to do the hugel-thing in the entire bed.  I spent several hours digging out the strawberries and the Bermuda grass.

Making the bed: everyone out!

Making the bed: everyone out!

Then I pulled the soil back and was simply amazed.

Beautiful soil

Beautiful soil

It was crumbly like prime worm castings.  I lined the bottom of the raised bed with the logs on top of the wire I’d laid across the bottom to deter gophers and mice.

Old lime logs.

Old lime logs.

Then I shoveled heavy clay out of the new bog area and threw that in and around the logs; the wood would decompose and turn the clay to great soil, and the clay already had a lot of interesting microscopic creatures in it from being at the edge of the pond.

Heavy clay.  And I do mean heavy.

Heavy clay. And I do mean heavy.

On top of that I sprinkled some pigeon guano I recently received from some wonderful new friends who rescue pigeons.  (They are wonderful even if they hadn’t given me the guano.  I have many friends who, in fact, are guano-less.  Just to clarify.)  There were a lot of pigeon peas in the guano, but if they sprout its all good because they are nitrogen fixers and will only help things along.  Some sugar was added to help stir up the bacteria in the clay.All along I watered everything in, including hosing down Lark the fat, barren Barred Rock hen who just wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept jumping into the bed to steal the worms!

Get away from my worms, Lark!

Get away from my worms, hens!

My hens are such prima-donnas that they refuse to eat sowbugs and just go for worms.  Geez!  Lark got back at me later by making me come after her when it was time to shut them in for the night.

The last layer on the bed (and I don’t mean a chicken) was the good soil into which I replanted the strawberries.  I did this process in thirds and ended up with a lot of extra strawberries.

A third section done.

A third section done.

As it was nearing sunset and I was becoming chilly in my shorts and sleeveless shirt, I hurriedly planted the extras up under the passionfruit trellis, in with the others from the previous planting. Most of them had happily survived.

Finished!

Finished!

The leftover soil I sprinkled on top, laid the soaker hose back on top, and voila!  A somewhat shocked but hopefully soon-to-be-happier strawberry bed.

There are a couple of wild mallards that come to the pond and have grown trusting of me up to a point.  I throw game bird food by the pond for them.  I don’t want to tame them, but I like it that they don’t fly off in a fright every time I come near.  Its better for their health not to be so stressed.  Makes me feel good, too.

Hen line-up.   But what is in the coop behind them?

Hen line-up. But what is in the coop behind them?

While I was digging I looked up to find my hens all in a row watching me, and beyond them inside the Fowl Fortress (the door of which I’d propped open) were the two mallards!  They were perfectly content to be eating what the hens hadn’t eaten, and were even sitting in there enjoying… I don’t know… forbidden territory?

Just make yourself at home!

Just make yourself at home!

The alluring and romantic smell of chicken poop?  After awhile Miss Amelia wandered in there and the mallards wandered out.  They’re welcome in there, but if they want me to build them a castle of their own, forget it.  They already have the floating duck house, after all!

 

2 thoughts on “Strawberry-flavored Hugelkultur, Please

  1. Amanda, they grew beautifully. Deep roots went right into the old rotted wood. Mounding soil over old logs and planting the berries on the top help keep the fruit off the ground, too. The wood held moisture so the berries could obtain moisture as they needed it. Very tasty berries, too. They just need partial shade if you live in a very hot, sunny area. Thanks for reading! Diane

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