Hugelkultur is a gardening technique that limits water use, eliminates the need for fertilization, provides oxidization and more. In short, it’s the most awesome way to garden ever. A neighbor recently told me about this crazy gardening method. He’s had a lot of success with it. My garden is all planned and laid out for the year. Next year, though, you can bet I’ll be trying out Hugelkultur. So, what is it, exactly? Why isn’t everyone gardening this way?
Hugelkultur in short
Hugelkulter begins with a huge pile of large branches in a cleared, 3×6 area. You can do several piles if you wish. Each one will be a garden bed. Generally, people use large branches from downed or fallen trees. On top of that goes medium, then small branches. The Hugelkultur is finished off with compost material such as kitchen waste, then ordinary topsoil, then a natural mulch, such as straw. The finished pile is relatively tall. Hugelkulturs start at around 3-5 feet high.
That sounds incredibly high, doesn’t it?
It will stay fairly high. However, keep in mind that as your Hugelkultur ages, it will shrink somewhat from natural decomposition. If you’re concerned about appearances, you can dig down and start your Hugelkulter below ground level.
What are the benefits?
How does Hugelkultur save water and watering time? The wood in your Hugelkultur will readily soak up and retain rain water. Buried under layers of soil, the wood becomes a water reserve for your garden bed. You’ll seldom have to water at all. This is wonderful news for physically limited gardeners or those who haven’t a lot of spare time. Best of all, retaining water isn’t the only way Hugelkultur saves time and effort in the garden.
How does Hugelkultur eliminate the need for fertilizer? Conventional gardening sometimes involves a great deal of science, soil testing and the like. Not so with Hugelkultur. It actually turns fertilization into a self maintaining process. A Hugelkultur mimics the way forests self fertilize. Wood falls, leaves tumble over the wood. The whole thing breaks down and fertilizes forest growth. No soil testing. Mother nature takes care of the hard work. All you have to do is plant and weed.
How does a Hugelkultur provide air for plantings? Remember, under your Hugelkultur pile is that lovely stack of wood. Between the branches are natural air pockets. The air pockets provide proper air circulation that your plants can take advantage of. So, there’s no more worrying about loosening your soil, either.
Is there anything that a Hugelkultur can’t do all by itself?
Well, it can’t plant itself. So, as a gardener, you’ll still have that. You’ll also want to wet it thoroughly when you first build it, just to get things started. It can help with fall clean-up. Why? Because you can just let the plants rot in place. In fact, you should. It’s all part of the natural process that keeps a Hugelkultur functioning well and provides nutrients for the bed.
More benefits: It’s also a great way to dispose of wood from clearing your yard and garden space. There are no beds to construct and no yard prep to do. Yet, you can easily reach all your plants without bending and stretching. A Hugelkultur provides awesome drainage too. The Hugelkultur seems to do it all.
Why don’t more people use Hugelkultur?
Wow! This Hugelkultur stuff is making me wish I hadn’t already laid out my garden. How about you? I wonder why it’s not more popular. Well, it is sort of ugly. Plus, people tend to use more conventional methods, particularly when offending the neighbors is a concern. But hey, if you’re like me and don’t have to worry about what the neighbors think, Hugelkultur is a gardening technique you might want to try.
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