Sunday, March 27, 2011


Our new mantra and exciting project: Hugelkultur! We recently discovered the idea of Hugelkultur as part of Permaculture.

Hugelkultur is a process using woody material, usually at the base of a raised garden bed, to improve soil drainage, hold moisture, and use up woody materials. The wood will break down and rot over extended periods of time, which creates a great home for fungi and bacteria to live in while they break down the organic matter in the soil, and leave behind their nutrients and blessing. The wood also acts like a sponge, soaking up tons of water. This is most beneficial, because in theory, you can drastically reduce the effort and resources associated with irrigating!

Cleaning up scrap wood from the log yard.

Unloading in the new bed area.

Hugelkultur is awesome!!

The wood layer.

So, we have a soggy woody "mess" at the bottom of our bed, allowing for a deep space for plant roots to grow deep and strong into, with tons of moisture and bacteria deep at the root level. This is most exciting to us, because with a sawmill in our yard, we are always in an abundance of wood. For years we tried to come up with ways to clean up all our wood scraps. We ended up using a bit for firewood, but most of it just got burned, without any other output benefits. A beneficial way to clean up our wood scraps?  Hugelkultur is Genius! 

I must note that more research determines that woody material can rob the soil of nitrogen, but this can be overcome by using nitrogen fixing crops, such as legumes, buckwheat, and many other crops. Keep in mind that every soil condition is different, and everyone has access to different materials, so this is an experiment for us based on theory. Our plan is to use as much polyculture growing in the beds as we can, mixing many nitrogen fixing and other nutrient rich crops with our first food crops.

Hugelkultur suggests that a height of at least 3 feet will see the most benefits, and we've started somewhere in there. As we grow more soil and organic matter, the beds will grow taller and taller, and more nutrient rich, thus continuing to expand our growing area and production. My dream is a bed as tall as me someday (I am 5'6"), although I don't know how I'll harvest the top. :)

Taking the dirt back to the garden area.

We are cheaters--we do enough shoveling!

The first dirty layer.

Looking and working it over.

A layer of straw that the chickens had used--rich with their "blessing".

Our rough dimensions for the bed are: 24 feet in length, about 5 feet wide, and about 3 1/2 feet tall. We figure that with the large bed, and all the growing space around the mound, we tripled our growing area compared to last year in about 2 days. Exciting!! Can't wait to build 2 more!

We will add at least 2 more layers of rich, enhanced soil mixed with the compost we've been working on the last few weeks, and a nice mulch. The goal is to end up with about 12-16 inches of good, beginning soil for our first plantings.  

The other dimensional lumber is our rough layout for 2 more beds in the same area. 

For more Hugelkultur information, see this helpful hugelkultur article, from the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, and Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article on, for more scientific and how-to explanations on hugelkultur. 

Thanks for visiting, stay tuned for more Hugelkultur and other fun projects!

1 comment:

  1. Nice! I recently created our first hugelkultur bed recently but at about half the size to be planted with mostly jerusalem artichokes.