It's been a while since I last blogged, and in that time, I have had potatoes and peas to harvest. These were the last of the pre-hugelkultur crops I put in, and they had a hard time of it. A cold March meant that I waited until the end of May to harvest, unlike last year when the unseasonable warm winter had crops ready to harvest at the end of April. I really didn't put much effort into the potatoes and peas this year; most of my time was spent planning and preparing hugelbeets for the summer crops.
Variability of precipitation has been a readily apparent facet of our new climate. We had 2-1/4 inches of rain for the entire month of May, and in the first 10 days of June so far, we have had 6-1/4. One good thing about all the rain this last week: I scored big on a mushroom hunt today. I've come to the conclusion that the best place to hunt mushrooms, other than old growth forest, is at shopping malls. The reason is that they overmulch and overwater the trees in their parking lots, creating perfect conditions for fungal cultures. Today I was able to collect 4 different types of bolete, some non-descript Laccaria type, and some marble sized puffballs. I also came across a near picture perfect specimen of Amanita muscaria, save for the fact that the cap was a shade of yellow rather than red. Perhaps it was due to age and the color had not developed yet, as there were several in the area and most were still in their button stage.
I brought home a good haul from this mycological cornucopia, and I'm going to use them to fix the front yard. I planted some semi-dwarf apple, plum, and pear trees in the front yard in 2010 and so far they have been disappointing -- failing to set fruit and just surviving, certainly not thriving. I have gotten a good stand of crimson clover to grow in this area, so I'm puzzled as to why the trees are lagging. What I am going to try is a mixture of retro-hugelkultur and heavy mulching with a fungal drench.
"Retro-hugelkultur" is a technique I developed that uses a garden hose and decaying branches about an inch in diameter. First you go around the area with the hose and use the water pressure to drill holes into the ground. Depending on what you run into, the hole can be 8" to 2' deep. Then you shove the decaying branch into the hole, maybe giving it a good tap with a sledge hammer. Not exactly the way to go about doing real hugelkultur, but it's faster with less soil disturbance.
I've already put 4 to 6 of these 'hugelsticks' around my fruit trees, and today I finished mulching them with a 50:50 mix of wood chips and aged horse manure. To top it off, I put my mushroom haul through the blender, added it to some aerated compost tea to which I had previously added some blended biochar, and drenched the mulch with this inoculant. Now to wait and see what the results are.