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.’”
Nest We Grow - College of Environmental Design UC Berkeley / Kengo Kuma & Associates
Built in Hokkaido, Japan, as part of an international design competition in 2014 (the 4th annual LIXIL design-build competition), Nest We Grow was conceived with a shared vision of bringing the Californian style of growing to new Japan. With a focus on renewable materials, the design is the first public-access space built for the competition; designed to allow people to grow, store, prepare and share local foods.
The heavy timber frame was also inspired by more western building approaches, with a plastic corrugated sheets allowing natural light to flood in, whilst also protecting crops from the winds during colder months. Sliding panels can also be opened during warmer months to better ventilate the interior space. Snow and rainwater are also harvested; reused in the production of food within.
The whole space functions in a constant cycle. Food is grown, harvested, prepared, cooked, and finally composted; restarting the process anew. In this sense, the nest is intended to function the whole year round.