hugelkultur

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Hügelkultur

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.

Hugelkultur raised beds are a form of “no-dig” garden (like the straw bale gardens) making them a good choice for those with impaired mobility or strength. They also sequester carbon, and provide a handy use for all of the trimmings from pruning and hedge maintenance.

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).

Diagram: Permaculture UK - The Many Benefits of Hugelkultur

#hügelkultur #garden hacks #DIY #permaculture #hugelkultur #compost #mulch

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Hügelkultur (German, meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture”) is the garden concept of building raised beds over decaying wood piles. Decayed timbers become porous and retain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil that, in turn, promote root growth in plant materials. As the logs decay, they expand and contract, creating air pockets that assist in aerating the soil, allowing roots to easily penetrate the soil. This decaying environment creates a beneficial home to earthworms. As the worms burrow into the soil, they loosen the soil and deposit nutrient-rich worm castings, beneficial to plants. An earthworm can produce its weight in castings on a daily basis.  

The best decayed wood for a Hügelkultur, according to A Growing Culture, comes from alders, applewood, cottonwood, poplar, maple and birch. Use wood products that have been in the process of decay for about a year (using green, or fresh, wood products will rob the soil of necessary nitrogen). Some wood products, like cedar and black walnut, should be avoided because they produce organisms that negatively effect plant growth.   

Read more at A Growing Culture

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So my boyfriend just bought a house and it came with this dinky little glasshouse.Over the past couple of days I have been scavenging all the organic matter I could from around the property to make some nice hugelkultur-themed raised beds that will hopefully be functional and productive.

1. Harvested old bricks to build the walls.

2. Raided the kindling box for pinecones and small sticks.

3. Layered all the cardboard we had in the house for unpacking.

4. More kindling.

5. Added compost from the pile that was in varying stages of decomposition. Did a bit of weeding and chucked those in.

6. Began dismantling an ugly old camellia that was blocking the drive and added those bits plus some soil I stole from an outside bed.

7. Pruned a kowhai (native leguminous tree) and piled on the trimmings. Added another layer of bricks with gaps.

8. Discovered a bin full of two years’ worth of fallen leaves. On they went. Planted strawberries in the gaps in the walls.

9. Found a deep litter of needles under the one massive pine tree. Covered this with a generous sprinkling of lime to balance the p.H. and add calcium.

10. Finished it off with a thick layer of more soil borrowed from the tired old outdoors raised beds. Planted it with a first crop of salad greens and broad beans to help improve and stabilise the soil in preparation for summer when I will be planting tomatoes, basil, capsicums, chillis and aubergines.
Dobby the kitten approves.

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The Hügelkultur Meadow

A few weeks ago, this long crescent shaped hill garden was all poppies: now, however, in the peak of summer warmth, it’s exploded with colour.

The real stand-outs are the cornflowers, which apparently come in purple, pink, and white as well.

I think making my own seed mix and doing both of the finished hügelkultur beds as ‘meadows’ was the best new addition to the garden this year. They turned out far better than I expected, and have become homes to ground-dwelling bees on the inside, and nourishment for them on the outside.

I’m letting the grass grow wild, and seeding native species for next year (like salsify, clover, and thistles) as I come across their seeds now. There are flowering and fruiting shrubs on the hügel (like butterfly bush, hardy hibiscus, roses, and various small berries), but they will take a few years to become established, so the flowers and grasses take up the space in the meantime.

hugelkultur!!

this year on our farm we used a technique new to us called hugelkultur.  it has become one of my favorite of the permaculture practices that we’ve integrated.  the term is german for “mound culture."  basically we made mounds of brush (mostly dead sunflower stalks, tree branches left from pruning, and woody materials too thick for the compost pile), then added some green material, then straw, then a layer of compost, then a layer of topsoil.  let it sit for a few weeks then planted in it.  the results have been amazing!  everything that grew in the hugelkulturs this year were our most successful plants, and produced leaps and bounds over the others that we planted in the ground, and even in the raised beds.  the theory is that because the hugelkultur piles are continuing to breakdown as the plants are growing, it holds more moisture, heat, and nutrients, and then provides more to the plants ongoing, and with a lot less work i might add.  it’s been a great solution to our continual issue of working very compacted clay soil.  rather than forcing the soil to change rapidly, we’re building the soil from the top, therefore less tilling, digging, and amending. 

check it out…

created this mound in late jan./early feb…

same mound in late april from opposite side…

this is around june

august in full glory (from original view)…

august in full glory (opposite view)…

and this is our three sisters mound (corn, beans, squash)…

march

early june

late june

mid-august in full glory

The method of raised beds we are doing is called “Hugelkultur”. This excerpt from theprairiehomestead.com explains what’s it’s all about:

“Hugelkultur basically means “hill culture” in German. I’m sure there is a proper way to say it, but I butcher it with my American accent and just say “hoogle culture.” Hugelkultur has been practiced in Europe for a long time and it is considered to be a very sustainable method of gardening. In layman’s terms? A hugelkultur bed is just a big pile of rotting wood and manure. And then you plant stuff on top.
It’s a permanent bed and gets better with age. Over time, the wood decomposes and creates a sponge-like bed underneath. This holds in moisture and produces lots of nutrients.”

It is a very fitting method for us to try since we have an abundance of rotting logs all over the forest floor. We piled in our logs first then covered them with a layer of partially decomposed leaves from last Fall. Then we added our compost/soil. We tidied up and filled our raised bed at the same time! Pretty cool.

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What a difference a month makes…

Square keyhole hugelmounds built with woodchips and soil over my sheetmulched front lawn. Planted with lettuce, celery, dill, broad, dwarf and climbing beans, rainbow chard, nasturtiums, garlic chives and miscellaneous brassicas. The sticks are to keep my kittens from scratching it all up and doing their business, and my ground cover of chamomile, creeping thyme, corsican mint and white clover has been planted in the pathways.

Urban Farm Hack: Strawberry Snail Garden

Get a more constant strawberry harvest and prevent rotting fruit with the spiraled garden bed design.

This past spring, I found myself in possession a salvaged piece of concrete sewer piping and an abundance of rotting wood.

The wheels in my head were turning. I knew from building an herb spiral that the concrete piping had a high ambient heat capacity, which can be used to create a warm microclimate for plants. I also knew from using hügelkultur in the garden that rotting wood is an excellent, nutritious, moisture-retentive substrate, and the fungal mycelium that colonizes decaying wood also benefits bees

Read more on Urban Farm


My newest Urban Farm article is up! This week, it’s about my strawberry snail garden.

You can see my previous articles here.

gelkultur is a German term that roughly translates to “mound culture”. The hugelkultur gardening method has been used in Eastern Europe for centuries and is essentially a sheet-composting method that involves burying woody debris (logs, branches, sticks) and other organic matter under a mound of earth.

This is a great way to grow food in your garden while recycling all at the same time, you could even have more sq footage than regular raised beds. The soil would be nutrient rich because of the wood rotting inside, I would almost want to put food scraps and egg shells etc in the soil while building this. All in all I think I will be trying this.

Photo Credit: arcadia-farms.net

Forget Raised Beds, Try Hugelkultur

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26.6.2015 Stadin Puutarhuri, Helsinki

Demonstrating some regenerative ag techniques at the farm.

1) Berkeley method composting is a process by which thermophilic organisms are encouraged through balancing carbon and nitrogen inputs. They are then subsequently tightly managed to maintain high temperatures through rebuilding the pile in a way that keeps the center from overheating and the outer edges from stagnating in relation to the hot center. This pile has recently been combined with another pile of old kale stalks and excess seed potatoes for a giant, longer term process.

2) Hugelkultur with mainly forest strawberries. Everything else is a volunteer from last year’s compost. “Excess” dead branches and left over asparagus stalks were used as the woody material. The crescent shape effectively creates numerous microclimates and serves as a scaled down teaching aid for a variety of other techniques such as contour cropping, terracing, and deliberate microclimate enhancement and utilization.

3) Mulching parsnips with a variety of material, such as grass/clover clippings from around some fruit trees, nettles, and fireweed. The soil here is exceptionally sandy and since this photograph was taken, everyone else has finally begun to see the benefits of mulch. So much so that we took another row (to the right) and began to mulch that too. 

Of course, all of these techniques done in isolation within a system not designed to put them and others to full advantage, can not compare with a well designed agroecosystem such as permaculture design can offer. Still, they are small and slow solutions to perceived problems that hopefully will inspire further change. 

Seeing is believing.

youtube

Last week at the garden we made a raised bed “Hugelkultur” type. The trick is to burry wood inside the bed so as to form a small hill. Bigger trunks go at the bottom, smaller sticks and leaves on top. With the years passing, the wood decomposes and becomes compost. In this way you don’t have to take much care to fertilize your bed every year.See Vero explaining it more at the video!

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Today I created a new garden bed with some friends. I used a permaculture technique called hügelkultur. The premise is digging a hole, throwing down some wood pieces, and then replacing the subsoil on top.

Finally, I’ll add some organic matter and compost as the top layer. I will use bigger logs to hold the mound in place, and lessen the naturally spreading of the mound.

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The Terraced Strawberry Garden

I have strawberries planted in every nook and cranny of the forest garden, but predictably, the first strawberry blossom of the year has emerged on the warm terraced strawberry garden.

This somewhat-vertical garden is built around an old piece of concrete drain piping, and terraced with pear wood: both of which ambiently radiate heat, creating a warmer microclimate.

The wood also feeds fungi, decomposes into soil nutrition, and stores water. The strawberries have some fibrous roots that have begun to directly penetrate the bark.

The strawberry fruits will droop off of the structure, preventing too much soil contact; they are actually called strawberries because traditionally, they were grown on straw to prevent the fruit from rotting on the soil. Growing vertically increases the physical surface area for crops, so building in a terraced form also allows more plants to be grown in a smaller square-metreage.

In addition to providing a home for fruit and fungi, this is also an insect habitat. I drilled a number of holes in the logs to provide homes for wood-dwelling bees, and soil-dwelling bees can nest undisturbed in the till-free areas between the terraces.

Since bees sip from mushroom mycelium to up-regulate their immune systems, I have no doubt they will find this fungi-ridden structure to be a suitable home!

This little garden ticks all of my permacultural boxes:

  • it’s built from free, local, and salvaged materials
  • it’s built to maximise yields
  • it’s low-maintenance and perennial
  • it’s biodiverse: hosting a fruiting crop, fungi, a rich soil life web, and beneficial insects

Far from being a “type” of garden, it’s more like a “formation” that derives inspiration from raised beds, vertical gardening, hügelkultur, and the herb spiral.  

If I had built it with fresher wood, I could have also innoculated the logs with wood-dwelling edible mushroom plugs: like shiitakes. This would further maximise the efficiency of the space by cropping an edible mushroom in between the berries. Maybe next time!