"Are you looking for firewood? Y'know that stuff won't burn right, it's all soggy and rotted!"
"That's okay, I'm deliberately collecting rotten stuff."
- The generalized form of a conversation I hold every time folks find me loading their waterlogged curbside junkwood, sacks of yard waste, and so forth into my vehicle.
As a result of permaculture training this past summer, the concept of hugelkultur firmly lodged itself in my gardening outlook as a beautiful blend of most everything I like in terraforming - low impact, high yield, zero cost, immediately practical, and conducive to long-term positive change. Although the link I embedded gives a long and excellent overview of the topic, the shorter version is this: lay down a bunch of rotting wood, dump soil on top, plant things. The rotting wood, once "charged" with water, provides a slow and constant source of water, minerals, fungi, bacteria, microorganisms, soil insects, and so forth to the soil and roots around it, acting as a giant goody-sink that plants can draw on for years as it slowly decays. It also helps to effectively sequester the carbon bound up in the wood, as much of it gets turned into soilborne organisms and soil, rather than reverting to atmospheric carbon dioxide, its much quicker fate if it just breaks down on the surface, or gets burned.
By some calculations, the amount of carbon sequestered in soils worldwide, as abiotic carbon, soil organisms, slow-rotting material, etc - weighs in at 2.7 trillion tons, whereas all of the living matter on Earth makes up only 575 billion tons, most of it locked up in trees. As it turns out, deforestation ends up being a greater problem due to soil erosion, and its consequential loss of soil-bound carbon, than due to direct loss of the trees. This makes hugelkultur completely awesome both to jumpstart rapid nutrient-fortifying, carbon-banking, sassypants-delicious soil farming, and also because the mounding system hugelkultur lends itself to allows for easy earthworks, as you can lay the mounds down in lines to divert, capture, and better utilize water flow in an area. This ties back into the manifold benefits of large-scale carbon banking in the soil, a major one of which is increased soil capacity for water storage (just think of how moist, alive with life, and earth-smelling a handful of rich black loam is when you scoop it off the floor of an old forest, and compare that picture with a handful of beach sand - the major difference comes down to total carbon present.)
However, talk is cheap. So on to implementation!
|Dead dead dead dirt.|
- Build soil
- Catch & utilize runoff
- Minimal financial investment
- Don't abuse landlord's amazing willingness to let me dig up the yard