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


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.
The Benefits of Hugelkultur
Hugelkultur is a type of raised bed that does a fantastic job at holding moisture, allowing fertility, maximizing space and... well, I guess the list goes on and on! With this post, learn more about the practice of hugelkultur gardening and the many benefits that come with it...

This practice makes use of dead branches, leaves and grass clippings by recycling them. To build a hugel bed, you must mound the yard waste, along with any compose, manure or other biomass you’ve got. Then, top the compound with soil and plant your vegetables in it.

One advantage that comes with this method is through the use of wood in the mound. The gradual decay of this wood provides long-term nutrients for plants. By using hardwood, a single mound can supply plants nutrients for over 20 years. The wood also generates heat, which allows for a longer, productive growing season.

As longs and branches break down, soil aeration increases, which means that the bed will be no till.

The logs also act as sponges, storing rainwater and releasing them during dry times. It’s quite common to never need to water your hugel bed after the first year, unless you live in an especially dry area. Otherwise, regular seasonal rain will provide more than enough water.


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


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)…


early june

late june

mid-august in full glory

The method of raised beds we are doing is called “Hugelkultur”. This excerpt from 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.


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!

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:

Forget Raised Beds, Try Hugelkultur


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.


“Hugelkultur Hoop Houses, Hugelbeds and Fukuoka Style Hugelkulturs Retain and Release Water and Nutrients for Plants. How to make them.”

When we’re setting heat records by the year, using less water smartly becomes priority. 


Started work on a plot I’m going to take at the Sebastopol Laguna park community garden.

I did not know what I was getting into when I decided to claim the sunny bed near the water and compost piles. I thought there would be some effort to remove (and pot up) the oak trees. I was mistaken to think that this was the crux of preparing bed 7.

The previous gardener left me many buried treasures including several clay tiles, terra cotta pots, stumps and a manhole cover. I get that they were making a hugel bed and used the buried pots to assist with watering, but did they really need to chain the logs to a manhole cover?

After three hours the work was done. All logs and pots out of the bed, trees potted up.

It is now in need of more soil, compost, manure, and then planting.


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.


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!


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.


1 year of growth:

Hügelkultur mound, stormwater pond, and mallard house

I really like how the nasturtiums have just taken over on the mound. They will re-seed themselves for years to come, and I have a feeling the insect-rich leaf cover will be good news for the breeding pair ducks we are hoping will move in here (they come back every year).

The three species of semi-aquatic irises have also become established, which is another kind of camouflage for potential waterfowl inhabitants.

Inside the hügelkultur mound itself, there are some mice who have taken up residence, of whom I am quite fond. They eat a lot of the flower seeds.

I’ve seen bees and beeflies drinking from the water, and toads around the yard. 

I painted the mallard house itself with some salvaged paint – so it will last for much longer.

All in all, it’s so far been a successful experiment in building a little pond ecology!