Burying a Bunch of Rotten Wood


A trench filled with partially rotten wood.

I spent almost all of yesterday digging a long trench through the middle of my garden, filling it with rotten wood, and then covering it up.  I am hoping that this will help with reducing the amount of water required to irrigate the garden this and coming years.

I heard about this idea from Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast under the name Hugelculture or Woody Bed.  It is a class of land improvements that buries wood under soil to promote the growth of fungus and bacteria that holds water and moves nutrients around.  I’ve heard these woody beds several times on the show, and since I had a bunch of rotting wood on the edge of my property, I decided to give it a try. The only real trouble I had was that after about four inches down, I hit Oklahoma Red Clay Soil, which is very difficult to dig through. I basically had to scrap layers of the clay off and use the shovel handle as a lever.  I ended up breaking off the handle of my garden hoe trying to loosen it up so I could remove the clay from the trench.

A swale-like structure over the woody bed.

A swale-like structure over the woody bed.

The other thing burying this wood allowed me to do is to build a swale-like structure over the bed.  A swale is a mound next to a trench along the land’s contour.  The idea here is to slow water flowing across the land and give it more time to absorb into the soil.  I didn’t survey out the contour of the land, instead just guessing roughly where level would be and slightly curving the ends uphill.  I intend to adjust the structure in the future as I find where water is flowing too quickly and pulling soil away.  About the only remaining garden bed preparation I am planning on doing before spring planting is spreading a layer of compost out and working it into the top inch or so of soil.  Before I do that though, I need to fix the garden hoe.

The Start of Spring Cleanup

Today was warmer than it has been in the past few weeks and I was able to take advantage of that so start my spring garden cleanup.  I still have some grass invading my garden plot that is going to take a large amount of work to get out.  I managed to get a bit out today, but I really need to get ahold of a good garden rake to separate the plant matter from the dirt.  Otherwise, as soon as it gets warm again, the grass will come out of dormancy and just pick up invading my garden, which I don’t want.

Nice, rich compost.

Nice, rich compost.

I also have started turning over the large compost pile I started on my property last year just after I moved in.  I started at the back of the pile so that I can start putting the leaves on my property in that place to start the next year’s compost and have this years available in a month or two.  With the exception of the top weeds and some pockets of leaves, the compost was like a dark, rich soil.  I still have a bit of learning to do to get the small clumps of leaves decomposed with the rest, but I can’t complain.  Overall, it turned out much better than I was expecting.

The forecast for tomorrow is looking a bit warmer than it was today and as it is a weekend, it will be available for me to do work outside.  Also, David, my brother-in-law is planning on coming down to help out with things, but most likely to take a peek at the hives.

This is also the time of year to start looking at seed catalogs in preparation for the next planting.  I’ve had my nose in online catalogs for a couple of weeks now trying to figure out what I want to try growing this year.  I am planning on trying to grow some variety of corn this year and I have my eye on either the Painted Mountain or the Bloody Bucher variety of corn.  Both are different shades of red and look to be good for making corn flour in addition to being eye-catching.  I’m planning on planting buckwheat for as a nectar source, as a grain source and to evaluate it as a smother crop for killing more parts of my lawn to turn into garden.