Monthly Archives: September 2018

To hugelkulture or not to hugelkulture? Mulch is the question @ Rahma

Rahma Forest Garden is likely one of the most carbon rich soil sites in the city of Syracuse. Trees and perennial plants have been established there for over 5 years, and many truck loads of mulch have been spread on the site with Syracuse Grows’ annual garden Resource Drive. We chop and drop some plants like black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and comfrey (Symphytum) to help build soil Carbon & Nitrogen. In addition to chop & dropping some plants, we accumulate a lot of plant matter from weeding, thinning, and pruning on site, which gets piled up in a low pallet fence roughly separating woody debris from green materials.

This piled up plant debris is useful in theory. In reality, the piles are too loosely stacked to effectively break down, they are unwieldy to move or turn over, and they ultimately end up an eye sore (or once upon a time, a nest for abandoned kittens!), needing to be brought to the curb for city pickup.

Mulch from Syracuse Grows waiting to be spread with pitch forks & shovels, buckets & wheelbarrows at Rahma Forest Garden September 22, 2018

City pickup is a nice option as the city has substantial mulching infrastructure & logistics, and the mulch made from city yard waste like that at Rahma Forest Garden is available for pickup at various locations for free. We end up cycling nutrients from Rahma Forest Garden, to the city composting facilities, then back to Rahma Forest Garden in some cases (or in some ‘Carbons’)! Taking a closer look at this nutrient cycle, city pickup means the use of fossil fuels (trucks, heavy machinery) and the removal of nutrients from on the garden. That yard waste grew from sun, water and soil. If the goal is to build soil with a low-footprint as part of the regenerative garden, isn’t there a more regenerative solution? Some options being considered are listed below. The question at hand is: what’s the best way(s) to handle plant waste from the forest garden, maintaining healthy nutrient cycles for the site and beyond?

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