Hugelkultur - Creating Raised Beds that Mimic Nature

in permaculture •  4 months ago 

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What is hugelkultur? Basically it is wood buried in soil with plants growing on top. Sounds a bit strange right? But this way of making raised beds can greatly reduce or even eliminate the need to water your garden.

Are you interested?

Check out this week's blog post on my site all about hugelkultur beds: Hugelkultur Beds: The Best Raised Beds for Your Garden

The post covers the basics of hugelkultur beds and is the first in a 3 part series that covers the basics, the types of hugelkultur beds, and how to build your own.

What is a Hugelkultur Bed

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Collage showing a hugelkultur bed I built last year in various stages.

There are a number of variations of hugelkultur beds but at its most basic a hugelkultur bed is made by placing logs/wood on the ground where you want your bed to be.

Then you cover that wood with soil and plant into the soil.

That really is it.

You can make it a bit more complex by using big pieces of wood at the bottom, adding some soil, then adding medium sized pieces of wood, add some more soil, then add small pieces of wood, and then add a final layer of soil.

I started out doing it that way but now I just go with the easier way of large and medium pieces on the bottom and soil on top.

Hugelkultur Bed's Mimic Nature

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Nature has its own version of hugelkultur beds--the nurse log! Image credit: Virginia State Parks (CC BY 2.0)

So are hugelkultur beds really mimicking nature? They are but nature takes a slower route. Have you heard of the term nurse log?

Basically, this is when a tree falls in the forest and slowly rots creating the perfect habitat for other trees to grow. Often you can find young trees growing out of the rotting log before it even turns fully into soil!

But this can take a long time to work. The log slowly breaks down due to fungi, microbes, and insects working their way through it. Falling leaves and other organic material will also build up around the log.

That is all good but slow.

By taking the wood and burying it in soil you can still get the nice slow release of nutrients and water holding ability but you have the soil to start planting in. Plus the soil helps to keep the wood moist which speeds up the decomposition.

This is a great way to get the benefits of a nurse log in your garden on a timescale that works for the busy homesteader or gardener.

Are You Ready to Build a Hugelkultur Bed?

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The same hugelkultur bed shown being built 6 months later in full bloom. In addition to flowers I also grew tomatoes and many other vegetables and I only watered it once to get the seeds and seedlings established in May.

So are you ready to get started with hugelkultur beds? Then don't forget to check out my blog post to make sure you have the basics covered. Over the next few months the next 2 blog posts in this series will be released covering types of hugelkultur beds and how to build one.

Another great resource is the micro-documentary offered on permies all about hugelkultur beds. You can buy the micro-doc for just $3 over on permies using my affiliate link which helps support my site with no extra cost to you.

So what do you think about hugelkultur beds? Are you going to build one? Have you already built one? Please leave a comment with your thoughts on hugelkultur beds and if you liked this post please upvote it :)

Thank you!

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We've got one that's about 4x20 feet and one that's in the shape of an "E" where they bays are 8x8 and about 3 feet wide. The big one isn't complete yet cause I don't have enough soil. Should have partially buried it, but it is too big for me to have any interest in moving it lol

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Nice! I like the idea of building ones that are a bit more interesting in shape like your "E" one. My new kitchen garden will be all hugel and I'm thinking about making some keyhole parts to make it a bit more interesting.

Looks great I might try this in my new place just need to source some wood first. Looking forward to the guides 💯🐒

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Thanks! :) It would work great for your new garden area if you can find some wood to use.

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Yep not an easy thing to source but I will find a way 💯🐒

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At first I struggled too but I just let everyone know that I was looking for wood and that it could be rotten (that is even better really). These days I seem to have as much as I can use. Found several places that always have more than I can use. If it is too fresh I just let it sit in a pile for a year or 2. Good luck!

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I am on it sending it out to the universe I want some wood 💯🐒

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Once you start seeing it, it is everywhere. I thought we might be able to do a small 4x8 bed, and it turned into something that I don't even have enough soil to complete right now. Huge great massive thing.

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Not really easy to transport as I don't drive plenty in the woods but I would happily take with a lift. But it is illegal so needs to be done a night 💯🐒

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It's illegal to take branches??? How the heck does that work? Where do you live?

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In the UK you can pick branches but not fallen trees. I sure it wouldn't be enforced but I have been pulled on it before blagged my way out. But yer basically got to it was theft as it belonged to the council. That is way I will not do it on the sly 💯🐒