What is Hugelkultur?
Hugelkultur is a style of gardening, and it is also a component of Permaculture. Nature has an amazing way of breaking down organic matter; and Hugelkultur practitioners use this to their advantage. In this style of farming the bacteria and fungi break down layers of organic matter, and act as a slow releasing fertilizer. Hugelkultur is similar to a large, but slow compost pile. Although, rather then mainly kitchen scraps, and yard waste; Hugelkultur uses tree trunks and large branches.
The Hugelkultur ‘mount’ can supply the vegetation planted in it for up to 20 years, or more. This will depend on variables such as the type of wood placed in the pile, the amount of microbes and fungi present, and the moisture. By selecting harder woods such as oak and maple , you can extend the life of the Hugelkultur mound for many years.
How To Start Hugelkulturing
Step One: Find the Perfect Hole
Dig a hole, or find one that already exists. This may seem like a thoughtless task, but take time to select a good hole. You want to check the elevation, and look at how the water flows in that area (if at all). You don’t want your Hugelkultur mound in a very rocky, or a very sandy soil. Moreover, you don’t want to put it in a swamp, or on top of a steep hill. If you can guide the water close to your mound, you can save yourself time and money.
Step Two: Find Some Worthy Wood
Collect your wood and place it in the newly dug hole. When selecting wood try to get various types such as apple, aspen, birch, maple and oak. Use both hard and soft wood to allow different rates of decomposition. By selecting wood with varying density, you will construct a balanced and healthy Hugelkultur pile. Place the larger pieces of wood at the bottom of the pile. and add smaller branches and other organic matter on top of that. You can use things like leaves, grass clippings , kitchen scraps, compost and other organic materials for this objective. The purpose of the wood is not just long lasting nutrient; it also retains water, and supply’s a great growing medium.
Step Three: Kick Start The Cultivation
Take the top soil (and grass) that was taken off the surface of the hole, and place it upside down (green facing down) on the pile. Make sure all the wood is covered with organic matter to help speed up the decomposition. The grass will decompose quickly, and it will get the ‘living’ process started. It will also supply a great place to start new vegetation and germinate seeds. You can also add compost or topsoil to the surface of the pile, with a straw cover layer. Make sure to water for the first few months to a year (dependent on climate and season). Concentrate on perennial plants, so you save yourself time planting each year.
Variations Of Hugekultur
Raised Bed Hugelkultur
This method is similar to a standard raised bed garden, and a key hole garden. Rather then having to dig up the dirt, a container is built to house the dirt and organic matter. The material used to build a raised bed can vary from, wood, stone, metal, and plastic (although its best to use natural materials). The process will be virtually the same, big wood on bottom, followed by smaller, and then loose organic matter. The height of the bed can be adjusted to your preferences and needs.
Observe and Conserve
To build effective gardening techniques you must be observant of nature, and follow its patterns. Ideally working with nature rather then resisting it. The constant death and rebirth of nature allows us to live and thrive on this planet. Try to find ways of letting nature do its work, while benefiting you in the process.