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.
Learning to produce our own food is essential if we are to ever truly take control of our own lives. It liberates us from the role of passive consumer, remote from real decisions, alienated from Nature.
Permaculture Design PrinciplesCompanion Planting
Many of these relationships are fairly general. The best results come from creating diversity by using a variety of herbs and ornamental plants alongside the edible crops planted in the garden.
Some Companion Plants are:
Basil helps repel flies and mosquitoes
Birch leaves encourage compost fermentation
Borage in the strawberry patch will increase the yield
Catnip repels fleas, ants and rodents
Caraway helps breakdown heavy soils
Chamomile deters flies and mosquitoes and gives strength to any plant growing nearby
Chives grown beneath apple trees will help to prevent apple scab; beneath roses will keep away aphids and blackspot.
Elderberry a general insecticide, the leaves encourage compost fermentation, the flowers and berries make good wine.
Fennel repel flies and ants
French Marigold root secretions kill nasty nematodes (not the beneficial ones) and will repel white fly amongst tomatoes.
Garlic helps keep aphids away from roses
Hyssop attracts cabbage white moth keeping brassicas free from infestation
Mint repels cabbage white moth. Dried and placed with clothes will repel clothes moth.
Nasturtium secrete a mustard oil, which many insects find attractive and will seek out, particularly the cabbage white moth. Alternatively, the flowers repel aphids and the cucumber beetle. The climbing variety grown up apple trees will repel codling moth.
Pyrethrum will repel bugs if grown around the vegetable garden
Rosemary repels carrot fly
Sage protects cabbages from cabbage white moth
Tansy (Tanacetum, not Senecio) repels moths, flies and ants. Plant beneath peach trees to repel harmful flying insects. Tansy leaves assist compost fermentation.
Wormwood (Artemesia, not Ambrosia) although it can inhibit the growth of plants near it, wormwood does repel moths and flies and keeps animals off the garden.
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.
Last year, I had a pretty good test run with this system and had a mini harvest. (My tutorial here.) However, the location was not ideal and I had poor water retention. This year I leveled up to 15 cages, moved to a better location, and strawed the shit out of that circumference for better water retention and slow release nutrition.
I’m not growing potatoes in all the cages; I’ll show you guys the surprises soon.These cheap and easy-to-make vertical towers provide the most optimal use of my available space. I am able to micro-tune the soil requirements to specific plants. Most importantly, the cage provides the plant protection from wildlife and my own chickens who would otherwise wreck havoc on the garden.