Well, Mike & Harriet Schofield, our first pilgrims (and wwoofers) have been hard at work creating Hugel beds, a system of plant beds created by Sepp Holzer. Not in the traditional style of high embankments, but converting our existing raised beds.
The system works by creating a well-drained bed that will at the same time supply years of nutrients to the plant roots above through slow decomposition. Drainage is a critical issue for us with shallow soils on heavy clay and a very wet Solway climate. The addition of manure is to aid nitrogen enrichment in the initial stages when the faster-rotting brash might place a higher nitrogen demand on the soil above.
The first stage is to scrape off the existing soil that has spent the winter under black plastic mulch.
Not far below the top 4-6 inches of soil was the heavy clay subsoil. Good for potters, not good for growers.
Next stage is to start laying the thick woody branches.
This was originally going to be firewood, but at least it will last longer as a nutrient source. Then comes the lighter brash.
Next comes the hay we found left here when we arrived, and which the animals found rather unappetising as it was so old.
After trampling the hay onto the brash, a barrow-load of well-rotted manure was spread over the hay.
Next, the soil is layered back on.
Finally a barrow load of compost is raked onto the bed.
Et voila, as the English say. One finished Hugel bed. Took Mike about 2.5 hours. With help, of course, from his beautiful wife, Harriet.
Actually, Mike needed a break as well. This was his sixth bed. Huge(l) thanks to them both.