Hügelkultur, meaning “hill culture” in German, is a method of raised bed gardening that uses decaying wood as a basis for building up a berm. Berms are useful in directing the flow of water, and protecting more delicate plants from prevailing wind damage.
For this simple hugelkultur garden, Ihave piled sticks and wood, covered them in compost, planted my shrubs, and mulched the resulting berm first with a layer of newspapers, and second with a layer of wood chips.
As the wood breaks down, it will create a rich soil with plenty of air pockets, allowing for excellent drainage and root penetration for the plants planted in the mound.
My yard has poor drainage, so building up the soil is the only sustainable way to utilise the space without creating a pond. Hugelkultur beds provide exceptional drainage for plants that don’t like “wet feet” (ie. waterlogged root systems).
Coffee lovers may have noticed a new offering in their local cafés. Cascara is a tea-like drink with a fine, fruity flavor and plenty of caffeine, and it’s popping up everywhere. For this new addition to chalkboards nationwide, credit Aida Batlle.
Batlle is a fifth-generation coffee grower in El Salvador, whose coffees have won international awards. One day a decade ago, she arrived at a coffee cupping —where coffees are sampled for flavor — and detected a pleasant, hibiscus-like scent in the room. When she asked the other coffee tasters about it, they pointed to the husks from recently milled coffee.
“So immediately I got curious with it,” says Batlle. “And I just picked through it, cleaned it, and then put it in hot water, to see what it was like. Then I called my customers at the time, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, you have to try this. I’m going to send you a sample.’”
Keyhole Gardening: a Drought-Tolerant, Compost-Style, Sustainable Concept
The key hole garden concept is quite simple. A circular planting bed (with a “keyhole” to allow access to the center) is constructed with bricks, stone, gabion-style walls, or even aluminum siding. In the center of the keyhole is a circular compost bin in which kitchen scraps and household “gray water” are poured.
Layers of soil inside the circular walls slope slightly outward to encourage positive drainage away from the central compost bin. As kitchen and garden waste breaks down and gray water is added, a natural “compost tea” soaks into the surrounding soil providing nutrients to plants growing within the circular wall. More information and instructions at the link.
Seattle is the first city in the nation to fine people for not properly sorting their garbage. The law took effect on Jan. 1 as a bid to keep food out of landfills and encourage composting instead.
Seattle Public Utilities estimates that every family in the city throws away some 400 pounds of food each year. And so the new law aims to incentivize recycling and composting. For now households that throw away food are warned with a bright red tag on their garbage bin – but fines will be imposed come Jul. 1.
One Innovation By Design entrant is Hello Compost, a proposed program in which low-income families will be able exchange compost for produce credits.
“We need to re-imagine the role of food waste from being a smelly, unattractive side effect of eating to an attractive resource for residents to positively impact their community and to help put fresh food on the table,” says cofounder Aly Blenkin.
Japanese students at Waseda University have designed and built an innovative straw house that produces its own heat through agricultural fermentation. During the cold months, dried straw is composted in acrylic cases within the house using the low-odor Japanese “bokashi” method. The fermentation naturally heats up the house by generating 30° celsius heat for up to four weeks.
The project, called “A Recipe To Live,” stands in the coastal town of Taiki-cho in Hokkaido. It was designed by students Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada and Erika Mikami to follow the natural cycles of the dairy farm town, which features many straw pastures.
During the hot summer months, the natural shelter dries straw inside transparent window shelves. These shelves serve as “heat shield panels,” and they release cool moisture as the straw dries. In the winter months, the straw is composted indoors to produce a source of heat through microbial fermentation. The house’s grass walls need to be changed a few times throughout the year, but they provide a natural system of heating and cooling that requires zero energy.