Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hugelkultur - that's not a swear word

The word Hugelkultur, literally translating to “Mound Culture”, is the gardening practice of using excess wood debris in creating giant raised beds. The woody debris (sticks, twigs, logs, etc.) is placed in the base of the raised beds, acting as a sponge, holding in moisture, creating fungal hyphae and also building soil fertility.

I learned about hugelkultur during my permaculture design course. Last year, we had several trees removed from our property along our back fenceline, including an apple, elm and several box elder trees. I asked the tree service to chip all the small branches, but to leave me all the trunks and larger branches with building a hugelkultur bed in mind.

The logs have been sitting in the yard since because I didn't have enough dirt to cover them. But after excavating for our chicken coop run, and also excavating for my raised bed paths, I have enough to create a hugelkultur bed.

I want to keep the bed moderately in place, so I'm using some of the largest logs to reinforce the sides. And I'm using some of the skinniest logs as stakes to hold it all together. This is just about the opposite of the very square, very level, very precise garden beds we are also building in the back of the yard.

Next, I added coffee grounds that I collected this winter on top of the wood. 

Last spring, I collected coffee grounds from local shops for the big orchard sheet mulching project. Then I discovered that Starbucks gives away five pound bags of espresso grounds. No five-gallon buckets and no paper filters flying around the back yard.

Finally, I added soil from a big pile onto the logs.

Hugelkultur beds are best when built tall, and having steep sides so the fungi can get enough oxygen. I don't know how much dirt I have yet, but I'll pile it as high as I'm able. I think I have a lot of excavating to do yet from the raised bed paths.



The first few years of a hugelkultur bed is its most fertile, so planting heavy feeding plants is best. My plan is to plant asparagus (a heavy feeder) into these beds. As the wood decomposes, the whole thing will sink and I'll have to add manure (again, asparagus is a heavy feeder).

This is a total experiment, we'll see what happens.

Today's poultry phrase: good egg: a regular guy, good-natured person.

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