Hugelkultur.

21 May

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This area at the bottom of the garden was going to be a greenhouse built by the previous owners of our house.  However the greenhouse never happened…it would cost a pretty penny to built a greenhouse this size.017

We decided to clear the area and make veg beds there. Hugelkultur is something I have been reading about for some time. It is a permaculture technique where rotting wood is buried then covered with soil to make a rounded top bed. Lots of old wood lying about so we decided to give it a go. I have seen videos of people building the beds very wide and high too but as we intend making 4 beds in this area we kept them to 4 feet wide. The outside edges of the foundation will serve as sides for the beds. For the internal divisions we used old scaffolding sleepers which we bought for 3 euros each.

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We then put any old wood lying about in the bottom of the bed.  After reading up about the technique the consensus is that it’s better to use wood that has already started to rot as it doesn’t use up as much nitrogen to break down. The rotting wood also emits some heat so that could extend the growing season a little.

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Compost is then piled on and worked down between any spaces.

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More compost on top and there you have it. A nice bed ready for planting.

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There was really heavy rain after we’d made the bed so that helped it to settle. Before planting another barrow of compost was piled on top and raked in.

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Onion sets were planted in our first hugelkultur bed.

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I like to plant them fairly close so that I can use every second one as spring onions or scallions as we Irish call them. Only 3 more beds to go and our first section of vegetable garden is done.

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31 Responses to “Hugelkultur.”

  1. KL May 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Very good idea; My bed is made up of compost and lots of fall leaves. Hoewver, I read that they should be left at least a year before put into use. I am using them this year only. If you have any good tips for growing big or atleast store sized onions, let me know. I need them desperately.

    • bridget May 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

      I always dig a good bit of farmyard manure where I’m going to plant onions. Did’nt have manure when we did this bed so we’ll see how it goes.

  2. elaine May 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    I have never heard of this before – it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

    • bridget May 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      It will indeed, will post pictures as the year progresses.

  3. sweffling May 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I’ve never heard of it either but interestingly I have just been doing the very same thing, but for different reasons. Our veg patch is on uneven ground at the top of a bank/hill and to fill in the large hollow I have piled old wood and brushwood and covered the top with old subsoil and then well rotted horse manure. I had assumed that it would take several years to become level and then only could I use it, but perhaps I could use it this year?

    • bridget May 21, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Sounds like the ideal hugelkultur bed to me. Nothing to lose by trying it. I think it would be good.

  4. thegardendeli May 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    I’m trying hugelkultur for the first time this year too – only on a smaller scale and much less organised than you. I’ll be following your progress with interest!

    • bridget May 21, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

      So shall I. Apparently it works very well so fingers crossed. Good luck with your efforts.

  5. cathsveggies1 May 21, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Wow, very interesting. I must collect up the bits of wood around here so 🙂 Looking forward to seeing how you get on!

  6. Pam's English Garden May 22, 2013 at 1:35 am #

    Bridget, I garden like you in many ways — raised beds, lots of organic material, and plant everything fairly close. It works for me, and I believe your new veg. garden is going to be superb! P. x

    • bridget May 22, 2013 at 7:45 am #

      Thanks Pam! I do like to try out different things…always experimenting.

  7. Ogee May 22, 2013 at 2:22 am #

    New to me…interested to hear the results as well.

  8. islandthreads May 22, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I heard of this sort of thing, though not just with wood, also with other rotting materials, I also read some say as it can take up a lot of nitrogen you can add nitrogen to balance it, it will be interesting to see how it developes,

    lovely to get scaffolding boards so cheap, this is sometimes mentioned on the bbc radio 4 gardening programme, I notice too that the breezeblocks are the hollow kind, another thing I read about, none of which are avalible to me here on the island, (sigh), I am though finding way of using what I do have like stones, those split logs and the pines,

    Bridget, I logged into my e mail this morning and found 4 blog posts from blogs I read, all the others are about ornamentals, yours is for me the most interesting and useful, I wish more people would post about their veg growing and projects, thanks Frances

    • bridget May 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      We were delighted with those scaffold boards all right. Got them from an unemployed builder. The breeze blocks were here at the house so we did’nt really have to buy anything to do the beds. Just a bit of work. I too like to read of other people’s projects in the garden.Some interesting ideas to play with.

  9. Anne Wilson May 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    It’s a similar idea as a ‘keyhole garden’. As we had a load of stone laying around we built one of these last year, although designed for hot climates I could see no reason why they would not work well here. Well they do, the crops we had from such a small area had to be seen to be believed, built up with rotting wood and compost/ manure. If you have not seen a keyhole garden just google them, lots of information, and they look so good, could work very well for people with very little land in which to grow.

    • bridget May 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      Thanks Anne, will look that up. Hope your garden is growing well.

  10. Anny May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    I remain in awe of your hard work – you certainly deserve for it to do well after all that effort. Fascinating to hear about a new – to me- technique.

  11. Rambling Woods May 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    I am a new gardener only 3 years but I am trying to plant native and live a more green life. This is such an interesting technique…great post..Michelle

  12. oakfoodie May 23, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    Thanks for sharing! Let us know how it develops!

  13. Leigh May 23, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Looks super! Well done.

  14. wellywoman May 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    How fascinating. I’d never heard of this before. I got rid of quite a bit of rotten wood recently but it was all of dubious origin i.e treated that I wouldn’t have wanted to reuse it. It sounds like such a great idea though. I look forward to hearing how you get on.

  15. Mike @ Midwestern Bite May 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    I built three Hugel beds in very early spring after we moved to our new five acre place. Since I was starting with a clean slate, I build an A-Frame level and mapped the contours (topology) of the garden area. Then I dug the Hugel beds on contour so water would naturally flow downhill into them. I dug about 12 inches deep and filled with old rotting logs we scavenged from our woods.

    I’m excited to see how they do this year. Definitely post your results!

    • bridget May 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      We will definitely have to compare notes on this. We are in the process of building 3 more beds using the same method.

  16. Donna@Gardens Eye View May 24, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    Oh this is fascinating….I will have to think about it as we cut down trees….

  17. nordicgardens May 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    Love it! That would have been a massive greenhouse, but you could always put a pollytunnel up over your hugel beds if you needed in the future. I will definitely be keen to see how your hugelbed goes. We have some beans planted in ours and some potatoes, and have planned on building a few more beds in our allotment. When researching the woods to use we found that you can if needed you can use younger woods but add a nitrogen rich fertiliser of somesort (preferably organic) to provent the wood robbing the nitrogen from the hugelbed. But if you can find the older rotting woods that is the best source. Good luck with everything!

    • bridget May 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      Thanks for good wishes. As these are our first Hugelkultur beds we too are keen to see how they work out.

  18. marco t June 17, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    Thank you for a great post, read a similar one in a blog from Pennsylvania last week, I’ll take it as a sign it’s time we should make our own hugelkultur beds, will try using banana trunks with bamboo stakes and see how it goes.

    • bridget June 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      Ours are planted up now and everything seems to be growing well. Good luck with yours.
      Bridget.

  19. Mominthegarden June 25, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    ooh, I like learning about something new! Very cool!

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