Hugelkultur: A different approach to raised beds, mounds

Audrey J. Powers

I really do not have a huge property, so I strategize to get the most use of the garden I have, and that incorporates planting vegetables and herbs in raised beds and containers.

I have been developing edibles in two 4-by-4-foot cedar boxes that my husband designed about 10 decades ago, and just about every number of yrs, I spend in copious amounts of compost and natural topsoil to refill them. Some friends back garden in a lot larger sized beds and the charge to fill them would make your salad spin.

A improved strategy, “Hugelkultur,” is stated to have been utilised in Germany and eastern Europe for hundreds of years as section of a a lot more extensive permaculture procedure, which maintains that nature should be remaining to do its have issue with as small human interference as doable. That includes enabling logs, branches and other plant debris to decompose into nutrient-abundant soil, as it would on a forest floor, which is arguably much better than everything that arrives in a bag.

Hugelkultur, or “hill culture,” has been a darling of the permaculture world considering that the 1970s, but has been gaining mainstream and social-media awareness recently.

It can be used in elevated beds or in mounds (or berms) directly on the floor.

Here’s how it functions:

Alternatively of filling deep elevated beds exclusively with bought soil and compost, create a layered basis of garden waste to cut down the volume of soil essential and boost nutrients and plant yields.

Begin by developing about 40 % of the depth of your box with a base layer of old firewood or logs from hardwood trees like maple, oak, poplar or birch (reward details if the wooden is rotted). Softwoods from needled evergreens are also satisfactory but will decompose additional rapidly. In no way consist of force-handled wood, which has harmful toxins wooden from black locust or redwood trees, which are decay-resistant or wooden from allelopathic trees like black walnut, which release growth-inhibitors into the soil.

Top rated the logs with lesser parts of wooden, like fallen branches, twigs and sticks to comprise the subsequent 10 p.c of depth.

Following, add a layer of leaves, grass clippings, and other delicate plant particles, as well as kitchen area scraps like fruits, greens and eggshells (never ever include meat, oils or animal goods like cheese, or doggy or cat droppings). Make sure these fresh elements also fill areas in the woody layer beneath them —and then h2o the pile effectively.

Lastly, include a layer each individual of compost and topsoil in equivalent quantities, wetting each individual layer as you build.

If you are producing a cost-free-standing mound, make your mind up how huge you’d like it to be and dig a 1-foot-deep trench as its foundation (help you save the sod if you are eradicating turf grass). Hold in brain it will be easier to plant and harvest on your mound if it’s no additional than 3 ft tall.

Fill the trench with logs, and top rated with a thick layer of twigs, sticks and branches.

Leading the woody layers with upside-down sections of the taken out sod, or cardboard, and deal with with kitchen scraps, compost and topsoil, as earlier mentioned, watering and tamping down as you go. Goal for a mound that is wider at its foundation than its major.

To optimize gardening area, plant the sides as properly as tops of berms.

As the natural and organic subject in Hugelkultur beds breaks down, the peak of the mound will sink simply best off with compost as wanted. That decay will also heat and aerate the soil, drastically minimize the need to have for irrigation (setting up in the second or third calendar year), and provide vegetation with a very long-expression provide of vitamins and minerals (fertilize regularly for the duration of the first two growing seasons, before decomposition definitely will get cooking).

Hope Hugelkultur beds to present rich, fertile soil, enhanced harvests, much larger plants — and savings — for up to 20 a long time.

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Jessica Damiano writes often about gardening for The Involved Push. A master gardener and educator, she writes The Weekly Dirt publication and results in an yearly wall calendar of every day gardening guidelines. Deliver her a observe at [email protected] and obtain her at jessicadamiano.com and on Instagram @JesDamiano.

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