The meaning of “ Hugelkultur” is hill culture or mound culture and this gardening technique originated in Germany. By following the permaculture principles, you can create a beautiful garden with rich soil.
This is a very old technique and in this method, you will use logs, branches, and woody material and cover them with other compostable materials and soil.
The wood material which is added at the bottom of the raised bed rots down and slowly releases nutrients into the soil. A decomposed organic matter Humus can increase the fertility of the soil and water retention.
The woody materials can produce stable humus. Lignins are carbon compounds that resist the breakdown process in the wood. So your soil can take advantage for a long time. In the composting process, heat is produced which is good for the growth of the plants.
In a raised bed, you can maintain the fertility of the soil which is not possible in-ground beds. With the help of the Hugelkultur technique, you can create a fertile raised garden bed. Compact soil is very poor so you should use this method to improve the quality of the soil.
Advantages Of Hugelkultur
There are many benefits of Hugelkultur gardening. Some of them are mentioned below.
- You can use scrap materials in this method of gardening. For instance, the logs which you use can be obtained without using one penny. The fallen trees on your property can be used. You can also use grass clippings and leaves for creating a hugelkultur bed.
- Most of the materials such as logs take a long time to break down and supply nutrients to the soil naturally. It is suggested that you should use hardwood for this purpose. The reason is that it will take longer to break down.
- This way of gardening will help to extend the growing season in your garden. Just like in a compost bin the compost pile heats up, in the same way, the hugel garden heats up due to the composting process. This heating will help to extend your growing season. The rise in the temperature in the soil makes the growing season long. If you are living in such a climate where the summer season is very short then you should follow the principles of hugelkultur.
- Many people are facing the problem of a shortage of water. In this situation, gardening is not an easy task for you. Then this style of gardening will help you because it requires less water. During the first year, in a hugel garden, you need water so the logs will absorb and use it in future. But after the first year, there is no need for a lot of water. There is a joint sponge at the base of your garden which absorbs water and provides a constant and natural supply of water to your plants.
- For healthier plants, you need aerated soil in your garden. In this type of soil water moves very easily and your plants will have better drainage. In aerated soil, your plants will get ample space to spread their roots. If you want to grow deep-rooted vegetables then you should prefer created soil. The logs which you use in the hugel garden will break down and make your soil aerated for a long time.
- It doesn’t matter in which area you are living. You can start hugel garden in any climate. For example, if you are living in a desert location or a colder climate you can follow this technique of gardening because it is a self-sustainable way of growing plants. You can use less and cheap material for starting a huge garden.
Climatic Considerations Before Starting Hugel Garden
Before using any gardening technique you should keep in your mind your climate and location. If you are using hugelkultur gardening techniques because it is the latest trend then you are wrong.
We should not simply copy what others are doing without understanding the techniques. Think about your local conditions and decide which techniques suit you most. You should critically analyze the site where you want to start hugelkultur gardening.
Raised beds drain faster than ground beds. An area with reasonable rainfall will not face the problem of a shortage of water. In such areas, the raised beds drained but not enough due to the ample supply of natural water from rainfall.
If we talk about that area which is facing the problem of drought and water shortages then hugelkultur bed will perform best. The trench you build under the hugelkultur bed will help to capture more water.
Materials You Need For Starting A Hugelkultur Garden?
When you want to start your hugelkultur garden then this question will come to your mind: which materials you can use for starting this technique of gardening.
If you are not sure what materials you can use to build your hugel garden then we will help you. Here is a list of materials which you can use.
- Grass clippings
The selection of the right wood for building a hugel garden is very important. The wood of some trees will not decay or rot easily, for example, cedar.
You should not use such a type of timber for this technique of gardening. You should not also use wood that contains any harmful compound that stops the plant’s growth.
For instance, black walnut wood contains the allelopathic compound Juglone. You should also avoid using any diseased plant in building your hugelkultur garden. The diseased plants will become the reason for spreading diseases in your garden.
How To Make Hugelkultur?
Now you know what are the advantages of a hugelkultur garden. This article will help you a lot to build your hugel garden very easily. Here are simple steps. After following them you will have a beautiful garden.
1- SELECT YOUR SITE
The first step is the selection of the site to start your hugel garden. A sunny location is best for growing plants, especially vegetables. You can also choose a shady area but according to the type of plants you want to grow.
2- MOW THE GRASS DOWN
When you start your hugel garden then first, dig the grass from the selected area. Mow the grass down from the area then move on to the next step.
3- GATHER YOUR MATERIALS
Gather all the materials which you want to use. Heavy branches, old logs, rotting wood and trunks of small trees. A bucket of compost which you can make at home. Fertilizer and green garden material is perfect for starting your garden.
4- DIG A TRENCH
After clearing the area, the next step is digging a trench. The depth of the trench must be one foot deep. This is the place where you will put the logs. The trench must be wide enough to fit all the logs which you want to place.
5- SPRINKLE A THIN LAYER OF ORGANIC FERTILIZER OVER THE SOIL
You need blood and bone fertilizer like manure. When fertilizer touches the woody materials then it will prevent nitrogen draw-down. In this phenomenon, the bacteria that are present in the soil draw nitrogen away from the surface of the soil and use it to break down the wood.
6- FILL THE TRENCH WITH LOGS
Now, the trench which you made needs to be filled with logs. You can place dialogue horizontally in the French or stacked on top of each other. The other way is to stand the logs on their ends and place them vertically.
It’s up to you which option you use to place the locks in the base of your garden. If you are using large logs then There must be an air gap between the logs which can be filled with composted wood chips and small branches.
If you want the nutrients to stay longer in your soil then you should add more materials.
7- COVER THE WOOD WITH COMPOST
This step is very important, a thick and rich layer of compost will help when we go to plant. Now apply compost to cover all the logs which are in the base of your garden.
The composting material will provide a lot of soil organisms such as fungi which will help in the decomposition process. Fungi play an important role in breaking down the woody material.
8- PILE ON MORE ORGANIC MATTER
Add more organic matter and make the pile too high. The more composting material you add the higher chances of the garden absorbing more water. When you have a better sponge at the base of your garden then there is no need for water.
After some time the color of the pile changes and the wood starts its work.
9- WHAT TO PLANT IN A HUGELKULTUR GARDEN
In this gardening technique, we follow the rules of the No-dig gardening planting process. In no-dig gardening, you have to do four steps:
- First, make shallow holes. The width and depth of the holes must be 10-15cm or 4-6 inches.
- The holes must be filled with compost.
- After that sow the seeds or plant seedlings or plants.
- In the end, water thoroughly all your plants.
Any outdoor plants can grow in a hugelkultur raised garden bed but it is suggested not to grow annual vegetables. Because they need nitrogen that is consumed by the wood as it decays.
In a hugel garden, the surface of the soil is dry as compared to the base. It means you should select those plants that need more water for the bottom. Such plants need less moisture along the sides and the top. You can grow onions, annual flowers, kale, cabbage, summer squash, and cucumbers.
You can also get all the information from your local nursery about the plants which you can grow according to your climate.
10- MULCH WITH ORGANIC MATERIALS
Don’t skip this step because mulching will help to retain the moisture in the soil. It will improve the health of the soil and prevent evaporation. Moreover, it adds additional nutrients to the soil.
You can use straws, grass clippings, rotting hay, and composting wood chips for mulching. You can get different materials for this purpose from your backyard.
Here are some tips and tricks that will help you to establish a hugelkultur garden.
- You should use dead wood for placing in the base of your garden. If you use live wood then there is a chance that the logs will sprout again. If it happens then it will turn into a tree in your garden and you don’t want it.
- If you want your garden to look more beautiful and you have more growing space then you can combine hugelkultur gardening with straw bale gardening. At the end of the growing season when the straw bales are finished then you can add them to your compost pile.
- In a hugel garden, there is no need for water after 1st year.
- Before creating a hugel garden, you should arrange all necessary materials and have an ample amount of water to sustain the garden for the year.
- First, you should research and take all the information and basics about Hugel gardening. In this way, you will be successful in creating a garden. This method is very helpful for growing a gorgeous and fruitful garden for many years.