14 July, 2015

Notes on Mounds

As I mentioned I'm garden  intense at the moment and since my bush turkey fiend seems now to be boycotting the beds she roamed and brutalized so often, I thought I'd risk a plant out. I wanted to plant out some seed spuds -- Nicola -- so I built a series of mounds as is my experimental habit.
But it is nagging me that you can do more with 'a' mound than grow potatoes....so I'm seizing any and every opportunity to mound up.

I planted three mounds with spuds and a fourth with Zuchini. In each I stuck a couple of Roma Italian Pole Beans . Dotted the bottom of each mound with Dog Bane and Pigface cuttings. Threw on a coating of grass clippings as mulch ....inserted my pots....


And as a further decoration -- I dotted my DIY hill with bamboo skewers in case the bush Turkey comes back.

I had built a bed only a short time ago -- like a camel's back with two humps -- two mounds -- and it is doing a extraordinarily well with its cargo of potatoes, pole beans, coriander and tomatoes.
So I'm telling myself, 'This works! By gingoes mounds are go!'

But I immediately felt anxious because this isn't garden lore. Ridges or raised garden beds may be  horticulturally approved, but mounds don't get much gardening press. I do have ridges running hither and yon but give me a good round mound any day.

Conical shaped. Knoll like...dotted about the landscape.
In geography, knoll is another term for hillock, a small, low, round natural hill or mound.
With mounds you have all around to play with. Research in New Zealand suggests that , at least there, productivity varies between the northern and southern faces of traditional Maori kumera mounds. My experience, using much smaller mounds, doesn't replicate that conclusion. Indeed, my mounds seem to share whatever fertility and moisture is in the mound by facilitating plant access. In a sense they are an oblique version of a vertical garden. Although I  have a shadier southern side too.
Do I get erosion? With a Bush Turkey mining away I get plenty. But with the roots and tubers infesting the hillock, and a coating of mulch , these smallish mounds hold their ground. Even with subsidence, all you have to do is mound up anyway.

Mounds give you more surface area to grow plants.
 It's simple:
^ has  a larger surface area than -
So hypothetically you should be able to grow more per square metre.

Mounds offer at least 2 microclimates: One in the valley (between the mounds or at their base)and one on the hillock. I'm thinking that you plant accordingly. While I water the mound -- embedding its core with a terracotta pot -- the valley acts like a swale and collects precipitation and run off. Indeed, it seems to me that mounds embedded with terracotta pots -- are extremely irrigation efficient. I've found that when I convert a flat garden bed to a succession of mounds I need fewer terracotta pot watering stations., and it's easier to monitor the hydration of all the plants.

Traditionally, mound gardening in Melanesia generates a sort of compost heap effect. I'm sure I could engineer that too if I stuff manures into the core of each of my mounds. But for now, my mounds make sense because I have a small tank of water embedded inside them.  On my sandy soil that's  a big advantage.

You plant differently for mounds. Since you are planting on a slope you don't have  the concept of rows to rely on. 'Spacing' doesn't mean the same thing. I'm still experimenting but obviously a root vegetable like a carrot may not suit mound gardening if it was planted on an incline. Indeed, what's the preferred angle for a mound that enables you to plant the largest array of different vegetables?
  • Read further extended discussion on this topic: HERE