Monday, April 29, 2013

Gardening Methods: Hugelkultur

As I began research and exploring various gardening methods over the last few months, I've been reading more and more about the Hugelkultur method. This method is a hot topics and is based on the idea of building a raised garden bed using a variety of materials, many of which you may already have on hand.

I'm excited to try this methods on a new bed we will add this fall. If you're looking for some information here's a run down and some links to find more information.


Hugelkultur gardening is based on the same principles that are at work in the forest.  This method uses a combination of wood, compost, grass cuttings and fallen leaves, and creates a deep bed that decomposes over time.  The decomposing wood creates a sponge-like environment that retains moisture and adds nutrients to the garden bed over time.  In addition, the decomposing process naturally creates heat and can actually raise the temperature of your gardening bed.  Many of the photos I've seen of these garden beds are created with a huge mound in the center (6 or 7 feet), but I've also seen the bed done just a few inches above ground, and you can also read about building a bed right into the ground here.

In addition to adding nutrients and creating a warmer bed, the Hugelkultur method also attracts beneficial animals (such as worms) and creates natural spaces for air and water.  For all the benefits, you do need to put in a lot of work up front and you need to be aware of nitrogen depletion as the wood decomposes.  During the first few years you need to continue to add nitrogen via green composts, nitrogen fixing plants, or naturally nitrogen rich supplements (like rabbit poo).

How to create a Hugelkultur Garden
  1. Lay down a layer of cardboard - to block existing weeds
  2. Lay down a pile of wood - create a mixture of large and small logs and branches
  3. Add a layer of whatever you throw into your compost bin - greens, grass clippings, fallen leaves, etc and pack this down into the spaces in the logs
  4. Cover with compost and water thouroughly
Although you can plant vegetables in your bed right away, there is a benefit in allowing the garden to cure for a time period.

Our hope is to build a bed this fall and have it ready to plant next spring. I love that this method uses so many things we already have on our mostly forested lot.  If your looking for some great detailed posts and first hand experience, and want to learn more about Hugelkultur, check out Joybilee Farm and Arcadia Farms.

Or check out some of these books on permaculture:


Do you have a favorite gardening method? Check out some of these posts below and share your tips and tricks in the comments (if you're reading this on email, you will need to click through to see the posts)

1 comment:

  1. We do a combination of many methods. I don't know if that's good or bad, but that's what we do. I definately like the idea of using what I have and what might be otherwise be wasted.

    We have some friends from Kenya and they do something like this. Because their soil has so much clay they use that to build their homes. So they dig out an area and then fill it with branches, leaves, animal bedding...whatever they can find. Then they plant in it. I think it's interesting that people adapt to whatever works in their enviroment. There's not really one "right" way to garden.