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Hugelkultur – the Ultimate Raised Garden Bed

Low maintenance gardening. Plant it and leave it. Well almost.

Okay, so they’re not the most beautiful of garden styles, (although there is a beautiful visual example at the end of this article). In fact hugelkultur beds, (pronounced like ‘hoogle-culture’ or hoogle-cultur’), can look downright messy. But hey, they work! Things grow and with the least amount of effort from gardeners, because hugelkultur follows the principles of nature!

Hey… we are all for saving time while increasing production year after year!

We first learned of the gardening method called “hugelkultur” a while ago and were impressed enough to try it ourselves this year. We like to keep learning and improving by being open to trying new approaches that work well for others. We especially like how hugelkultur appears to be one of the lowest maintenance options in raised garden beds and permaculture. Living in the woods as we do makes it a no brainer because of the abundant supply of naturally felled wood.

How to Make Hugelkultur Permaculture

First, what is the Hugelkultur?

Permies.com says: Hugelkultur is an old German concept/word meaning “hill-culture”. Wood is buried under topsoil (either in a hole or right on the ground) and as it breaks down, it holds lots of moisture and provides sustained nutrients for plant growth.1)https://midwestpermaculture.com/2010/12/hugelkultur/

Permaculture is about designing in accordance with nature, using plants and processes that keep on producing, growing and improving over time, rather than the garden beds that have to be re-tilled and replanted year after year.

Think of the woods and the richness of forest soil. Hugelkultur raised garden beds are designed to mimic the process of how topsoil is formed in the forest. Beginning with digging a pit and loading it with logs, branches, rocks, and layered over with soil and organic materials, the super mounded raised bed improves over time as the materials below break down and all the lovely microbes, and other lively critters join the party in creating a very lush growing environment. It considerably speeds up how forests make rich soil.

Here are a couple videos about our project. In the following gardening videos, Coleman Alderson mentions planting perennials like asparagus and dandelions (yes, planting “weeds”!) along with Jerusalem Artichokes. Further research warned us about setting out the Jerusalem Artichokes due to their tendency to take over. So we planted rhubarb, chicory, sorrel, onion sets, scallions, and the wonderful multi-purpose plant, calendula, with its medicinal benefits and defense against garden pests.

At the end, you’ll see our Mid-Summer update at the end of this series.

Hugelkultur Part 1: Building our Bed, What we’ll grow, & Log layering

Hugelkultur Part 2: End result, Layers diagram, & Tips for growing

 

So how did it all turn out?


Here’s a photo update  just seven weeks later.

Rhubarb in foreground was just 10" Tall 5 weeks ago.
Rhubarb in foreground was just 10″ Tall 5 weeks ago.

IMG_6093

Needless to say—but we’ll say anyway—we’re extremely pleased with the results and look forward to next year when we get to harvesting these perennial crops.

Hugelkultur Part 3: Update Tips, & Overview

Now… if you have a front yard garden, or just prefer a tidier bed, here’s a picture of the prettiest hugelkultur bed we’ve seen, with step-by-step diagrams on how they did it, including impressive before and after pictures from LewisCountryRecycles.org/projects.2)http://lewiscountyrecycles.org/projects

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Hugelkultur Bed by WSU Master Recycler Composters, Lewis County, Washington. The stones help to keep extra heat in the bed. Image from LewisCountyRecycles.org/projects

For more info and extensive illustrated diagrams on how to create hugelkultur raised garden beds, you may also enjoy this article.3)https://www.gardensall.com/hugelkultur-best-raised-garden/

Coleman Alderson

G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson

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