“Hügelkultur” is a German word meaning “hill culture,” or “mound culture.” A hügelkultur mound consists of a raised plant bed built up over decaying wood and other compostable materials. A practice that has been used for generations by German and Eastern European peoples, it is now getting some serious attention from permaculture aficionados for its excellent results.
- Black Walnut
- Black Locust
A summer storm roars through your town. Rain comes down in solid sheets, and the wind knocks large branches from the trees around the house. You may be tempted to just clean up the fallen debris and dispose of it, but wait! Mother nature has presented you a great opportunity to do some creative (and time-tested) permaculture gardening! It’s the perfect chance to build a hügelkultur bed.
The Benefits of Hügelkultur
Hügelkultur recreates the natural process of decomposition found on forest floors. A fallen tree becomes a “nurse log”, decomposing, releasing nutrients, and nourishing new growth above. A hügelkultur bed can provide nutrients to your plants for years, even decades to come. As the wood decays, it becomes more porous, storing water like a giant sponge, and releasing it slowly back into the surrounding soil for the benefit of nearby plants. In the garden, this equals less watering. Some gardeners have reported that their hügelkultur beds barely needed watering, and thrived all season from rainfall alone. The decomposing wood also generates heat, which is a bonus in colder climates.
Dig The Trench
Dedicate 6’ long x 3’ wide area for your mound. This is a minimum; feel free to make the mound area bigger. Dig the trench that will be the base of your mound. The trench should be around 2 feet deep.
Place The Large Logs
Place the first layer of the logs and branches into the trench. Make sure the material is dead. You wouldn’t want a new tree unexpectedly sprouting through your veggie mound
Add A Layer Of Straw
Cover the logs with sod or straw. You can also mix in other compostable material to make an even more nutrient-rich bed.
Add Another Wood Layer
Cover the straw with smaller branches and sticks.
Grab The Shovel
Time to shovel on the soil. Cover the branches to create a mound. A slope of 65-80 degrees is recommended.
Plant It Up!
Plant up the hügelkultur bed, and water. Congratulations, you are now versed in the ancient art of hügelkultur!