Hügelkultur (German pronunciation: [ˈhyːɡl̩kʊlˌtuːɐ̯]) is a horticultural technique where a mound constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials is later (or immediately) planted as a raised bed. Adopted by permaculture advocates, it is suggested the technique helps to improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants grown on or near such mounds. (This information was obtained from Wikipedia) I learned about Hugelkultur in an effort to get away from the traditional type of gardening where ;you did up an area and grow a few plants each year. My "area" has become infested with weeds and has made it very difficult to grow anything. I do not want to use chemicals of any kind because I use what I grow, to make juice and eat. I also had a lot of "debris" in my yard- dead trees, leaves, sticks, and a compost pile that I needed to find a home for. I have access to food grade plastic barrels, and also some very good compost, and composted would chips that I can get for free.
Step 1: Traditional Hugelkultur
This is a picture of my 1st attempt at a traditional hugelkultur. I have already planted carrots, onions, radishes, and beets down the center. It is still early (April 7th) when I planted so I covered it with plastic till they sprout and the weather warms up. With this project I dug out the area about 12 inches deep, filled it in with dead and fresh cut logs, put a layer of smaller sticks and a lot of leaves, next put back the grass that I dug up (upside down), put back the dirt I dug out, next a layer of very good compost, and next a layer on year old wood chips. This was a lot of work, but I think the results will be worth it. I hope to be able to post pictures in the future that will compare the 2 methods and see which works the best.
Step 2: Container I Used
I have access to food grade barrels. I cut the barrel with a sabre saw about 14 inches tall. I cut off the bottom and top. I was able to get 3 containers. I laid down a piece of cardboard on the bottom to kill off the grass that was under the area. Next I added the old logs and the fresher cut branches. It is good to use a mix of old and fresh. The old logs provide a good start with the materials to break down the fresher materials. It is basically like making a compost pile that you can plant things.
Next add the leaf and smaller stick debris. I have this all over my yard and was able to pack in about 1.5 buckets in each container. I packed it in tight. This prevents the next layer from going through.
Next I added a layer of my own compost that I have in my yard. This is just regular compost that I put yard waste, leaves, kitchen scraps etc. It is good compost, but I think it has also been a source of some of the weeds that I get on my traditional garden.
Step 5: Good Quality Compost
I get this compost from the county recycle program. They process trees and yard waste from local people and businesses, and give it away for free the following year. Check your area and see if they have anything like this for you. It is now ready to plant. You can also add straw without seeds or some fine wood chip mulch to the top to retain moisture and prevent weeds. These containers are a good investment and should provide plenty of food for several years without fertilizer or chemicals. Good Luck
Step 6: Making Some Progress
Today is April 24th. In the traditional Hugelkultur I planted radishes, onions, carrots and beets. Everything is coming up. In the containers I planted onions. They are already doing well. I will add tomato plants in the center of the containers in about 1 week. I also am planning 3 more containers that I will be doing tomorrow. I will try to post more pictures as things progress.
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