What Is Hugelkultur?: I love this idea but...

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What Is Hugelkultur?

By Artistwantobe
March 21, 2016

Hugelkultur is an ancient method of raised-bed gardening, one that utilizes fallen wood. It has been used in Europe for centuries. In German it translates to "mound culture." Building one of these mounds takes a bit of work, but it will last for a long time, and it will be a self-watering, self-feeding, and self-composting raised bed! I have built mine in the vegetable garden, but you could have one serving as a perennial flower bed.

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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
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Weedwhacker
Mar 20, 2016 7:27 PM CST
Our "fallen wood" consists mainly of white cedar and spruce. Are those suitable for a hugel bed? (they seem to take a long time to decompose "naturallly"). And, if you have other plants growing in that bed, how do you add more branches and debris once things have broken down?
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Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
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Oberon46
Mar 20, 2016 8:09 PM CST
Good question. Assumes that what is planted is consumed at year end rather than perennial flowers that live there for a long time if not forever.
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Name: Treehugger
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treehugger
Mar 21, 2016 7:50 AM CST
I love this idea. It takes a while for plants to break down but while they are they keep adding to the soil. Feed the soil and you have great plants. I bet this method of building the soil I agree keeps for a very long time.
Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
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LindaTX8
Mar 24, 2016 3:49 PM CST
I'm doubting the self-watering thing. If you live in a fairly arid region, it would have to be watered when there's no rain, I bet!
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Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
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LindaTX8
Mar 24, 2016 3:49 PM CST
I'm doubting the self-watering thing. If you live in a fairly arid region, it would have to be watered when there's no rain, I bet!
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad
Name: Steve
Millbury, MA (Zone 5b)
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steve_mass
Mar 26, 2016 5:12 AM CST
Is there any science to back up the claims about a self-watering, self-feeding system? Have you ever done a soil test on one of these beds?

Steve
Name: Michelle
Cheyenne, WY (Zone 5a)
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MrsBinWY
Mar 26, 2016 7:55 AM CST
In our yard they aren't self-watering. They do, however, act as moisture banks. We did our first one in 2010 or so. We hadn't collected nearly enough material (I way underestimated!), but that bed continues to be the go-to bed for plants that need more consistent moisture than my haphazard style generally affords. The soil is ever so slightly warmer (from the slow composting process I understand), and some plants that don't overwinter anywhere else in the yard pop right back up in the spring in that bed (even Datura, which typically [thankfully] doesn't have a prayer of surviving winter in Wyoming).

There are old tree roots under parts of our front lawn. Their locations are revealed as trails of green turf when it's warm, dry and windy here. Expanding on that concept, I burried test plots of the city's single-grind wood mulch under the sod (excavated rather than mounded). Now, in addition to green trails, we have green polka dots. Last September the temperatures stayed warm (something like the second-warmest September on record for us), wind as usual and nary a drop of rain the entire month. The polka dots eventually went dormant, but they were the last places to do so - plus they greened right back up when we got rains in October. Maybe this will be the year I get wood chips burried under all the worst areas of the lawn and lose the polka dots...
Name: Laura
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Artistwantobe
Mar 26, 2016 8:14 AM CST
Weedwacker - cedar will not do. Any wood that will rot is good.
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Name: Laura
Georgia (Zone 7b)
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Artistwantobe
Mar 26, 2016 8:20 AM CST
Steve_mass
I don't know the science. But, hundreds of years of use in Germany and Austria is good enough reason to try it. Google it. My hugle is just wonderful. Bumper crops and no bending over. Now in it's 3rd year. Did a soil test this year. Waiting for results.
Check out my fledging blog about the journey to convert my garden to permaculture so I can keep gardening thr rest of my life.
[url=www.steps2permaculture.com]www.steps2permaculture.com[/url]
Name: Eve Hughes
Beautiful MS Gulf Coast (Zone 9a)
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Evegpt
Mar 26, 2016 9:54 AM CST
I think this is a wondrful idea but I wish I had known about it earlier in life.
I do the Ruth Stout method and it is great for those of us in our senior years. You just can't beat it if you have access to old hay. Just throw it on the ground in fall, pull aside and plant in spring. Add a Little more around plants. No weeding, no or very little watering. Enriches the soil, keeps it moist and keeps out weeds. I never weed, fertilize or water. Just keep nice thick layer of hay.
But I will pass this idea of the trenches onto younger ones.
Frugal, minimalist, still crazy after all these years! 😀
Name: Sue Smith
Southern Oregon Coast (Zone 8b)
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SueBee
Mar 26, 2016 12:22 PM CST
I started doing straw bale gardening last year. We placed the straw bales on top of our already raised beds. Now I can pick string beans without bending and my back loves that. We had very good results with squash, too. Did have to water, using soakers along the rows, but not too much because the "straws" hold water.
We need to get more straw bales for the parts we left alone. I figure I will get about 2 years out of a bale without adding another the 3rd year.
I love the idea of the hugel thing. Now though, we are too old to do all that work to get them started.
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chestnutmare
Mar 26, 2016 1:48 PM CST
Last Spring I decided to build a vegetable garden using this method. We have lots of stone and ledge here and rototilling is anything but fun. We also happen to have two horses and years worth of shavings from old bedding. It took a long time to haul many trailer loads of bedding, put down wet newspaper, leaves and logs and build it up to about 3 feet high (it settles) by 30 by 4 rows. I was rather doubtful about all of this but did it anyways. Furthermore, it was my first year with wintersowing and I had sown a few cool weather heirloom tomatoes which remained rather small in their containers. Plus, I didn't get them into the ground until the second and third week of June. I added some Tomato-Tone (organic) to each hole as I planted them and watered them in good. Kept watering as needed and then they took off. I got ripe tomatoes later in the summer but got so many wonderful tasting tomatoes. From what started as a rather doubtful beginning (experiment) ended up a huge success. So, last fall, I added more leaves and composted manure/bedding so that I could plant earlier this year.

By all means, try this. It certainly does make sense when you think about it. What is soil but sand with various minerals, crushed rocks and thousands of years of rotted vegetation.

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