Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hugelkultur garden, a mounded garden bed approach

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hugelkultur garden is an ancient form of "lasagna" gardening from Eastern Europe.  With this type of raised bed garden, you don’t even need to water.    Hugelkultur is German and means “mound culture.”  It is great way to use fallen trees and brush and adding an interesting elevation element to the garden.  

This time of year is ideal for starting your hugelkultur garden to give it time to begin decomposition to provide nitrogen and organic matter for your spring garden plants.  It is a great way to build soil depth in shallow top soil areas, to create a raised bed, and for gardening in dry areas.  The hugelkultur mound absorbs and holds the water from rains, releasing it back to the plants as they need it.

Basically, you build a mound out of logs and brush as high as you would like.  Keep in mind that your hugelkultur garden will settle over time.  You can dig it in a foot or just lay them right on top of the ground.  When you gather the logs and brush you want to use, you start with the largest at the bottom.  For the base, use at least 1-2’ of logs and brush.  Then, stomp on it.  Then add leaves, filling the crannies.  Then add the sod you cleared for the hugel garden.  Be sure to turn the sod upside down to smother the grass so it will decompose to feed the spring garden.  Add compost, garden waste, manure, and top with dirt, making a mounded heap with about 45 degree sides.

The taller the mound, the less the need for irrigation.  Some are over 6 feet tall!

As the logs and brush decompose, they create little pockets and organic matter; tilling and fertilizing themselves.  The garden fertility improves over time and the need to irrigate reduces over time.  You can plant in it the first year, but you will see improved results over time.  To help it along, plant legumes as they are nitrogen fixers.  Peas or fava beans in the spring or fall and green beans in the summer.  

The best would be to prepare the hugel garden in the fall so it will be ready for spring planting.  Another way to get a jump start would be to use new wood on the bottom and well rotted wood on the top layer to quickly release the nitrogen plants need for optimum growth.

You can edge the garden with logs, stones or nothing at all.

There are very few trees that are not the best candidates for this type of garden like cedar, black walnut, any treated or painted wood, black locust, or black cherry.  Hugekultur is a fun way to use a fallen tree or create an interesting raised bed.

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