Hugelkultur is a special form of raised bed with wood as a base acting as a sponge for water and nutrients.
If you are not familiar with the term 'Hugelkultur' you might think I am making up words! But I am not.
Hugelkutur is a German word and it basically means ‘hilled culture’. The term I think was coined by Sepp Holzer, a farmer with creative and unconventional methods of food production in the Austrian Alps. Look him up on youtube. You will be impressed by his methods and ideas of food production in the harsh environment of high altitudes.
Huegelkultur is a form of raised bed with timber, branches or shrubs as the core. The Wood then is covered by grass sods and top soil. The height and size can be varied due to ones need.
Hugelculture beds have numerous benefits that allow for a sustainable way of gardening and growing vegetables, fruit or herbs.
First dig out the area where you will have your bed. Remove the sod and some soil and put it aside. You will need it again later. Keep the sod and the top soil separate.
Cover them with the grass sod face down. It is important to face the sod with the grass down or might grow through again.
The cover everything with the top soil you put aside earlier. Don’t compact it. The soil should be loose.
Don’t make the mistake to use any kind of tree or shrub that will regrow
easily from just the timber or a branch. A prime example for this would
be willows or alder. As long as the willow is green it will regrow and you will
end up with a willow plantation instead of bed suitable for growing
vegetables! Once the willows have dried and are truly dead they can be
used for this purpose.
Avoid any wood that is slow to break down like for example cedar. Also, trees that are allopathic (inhibit the growth of other plants) like walnut should probably be avoided.
Watch this short video to get a better idea about the whole process of building hugelculture beds.
You can grow any kind of vegetable, fruit or herb in these beds that you can grow in your area. A hugel is great for polycultures. That means you grow a variety of different vegetables or herbs side by side. This much more natural system helps to avoid pests and diseases. You can also grow perennial vegetables like asparagus, artichokes or rhubarb in these beds. Depending on the size of your bed you can also include fruit bushes like currants, raspberries or blueberries into your mix.
If you want to learn more about this way of gardening and how to design hugel gardens check out Sepp Holzer's Permaculture Book…
Photo Credit: Mark from Flickr
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