Monday, March 19, 2012

"HUGELKULTUR", Raised Bed Experiment

  A month back I was searching around on the internet reading about different gardening techniques and I ran across two forms that I had little knowledge on. The first I wrote about a while back called "Back to Eden, Gardening Gods Way" and the other was called "Hugelkultur". I was very interested in both, and both in their own rights are kind of the same concept, but also very different. So what is the method called Heugelkulur?
  Hugelkultur is an ancient form of sheet composting developed in Eastern Europe. The German word - hügelkultur translates as "hill culture". It uses woody wastes such as fallen logs, pruned branches, ect in order to build soil fertility and improve drainage and moisture retention. If you walk through a natural woodland, you will see many fallen logs and branches on the ground. The older these logs are, the more life they sustain. A log that has rested on the forest floor for five or ten years will be covered in moss, mushrooms, wildflowers and even young trees. Poke at it a little and you will notice that the decaying wood is damp in all but the most vicious of droughts. Hugelkultur is designed to take advantage of the natural fertility and moisture-conserving qualities of rotting wood, while speeding the process of decomposition up. The heat produced by decomposition also helps protect cold-sensitive plants.
Before Starting!
  Well I thought this was pretty neat! I am going to experiment with this in one of my "Raised Beds". It would achieve a few thing: get rid of old limbs and brush that I needed to do something with and it would save time, compost and money to fill up the new raised bed that I had built.
  I gathered woody waste materials such as dead logs, extra firewood, pruned and clipped branches, and more. The wood can be either rotting or fresh, although already rotting wood decomposes fastest, so mix it up on new and old!
  In the bottom of the bed, I did lay down a news paper and some compost (about 2 inches). Then I just started layering in all of the above, many different sizes until I reached about 6 inches from the top. You need at least 6 inches of dirt on the top to plant in.
Image 2
Finished Project
  









   
Different Stages
  In Image 2 I put the news paper and horse manure in the bottom, to encourage the worms! You can't tell because (silly me got ahead of himself and didn't that a picture between image 2 and the finished project) but i packed the wood of all sizes in as tight and full as I could possibly get them. I keep getting on top and crushing them down with my body weight. Then I covered the wood with other compost materials such as autumn leaves, grass clippings, garden wastes, and manure. (This stage is optional if you aren't planning to plant the bed immediately.) I covered the wood with a few inches of composted horse manure. Then before I plant I will finish it of with regular compost.
  I am gonna plant immediately or you can let the bed sit for awhile to rot. Among the plants known to do well in HugelKultur beds are shade plants, squash, melons, lettuce and a number of different species of berries. Other gardeners plant the bed with cover crops for the first year to improve the fertility even more before adding vegetables or other plants.
 Other ways that can give you similar results, though much more slowly, by simply burying logs and other wood waste in trenches around your yard in areas where you want to improve fertility and moisture control.
In swampy areas, buried logs will suck up significant quantities of water quickly and release them slowly, reducing the chance of standing water or flooding. I actually have an area right along the railroad track that gets standing water in that I will probably try this in. In drier areas, the logs will act in the same way, releasing stored water slowly into the surrounding soil and reducing the need to water. So before you burn, bury!
2 Different styles of Beds


Other good information sources: (You can type in your search "Hugelkulter Beds") or:
http://saponaria-wortsandall.blogspot.com/2008/07/hugelkultur-compared.html
Some people even use round bale hay for a starter!
Proof that God never needed us:
Genesis 2:5 "And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground."



62 comments:

  1. i have never tried anything like this, but I know someone who tried something similar and had great results!

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  2. I hope you plan to keep us updated as i am curious as to how this bed produces compared to your other beds : )

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    1. I will, I have seen some that say the first year can be bumpy but we will see. If it works I am gonna do another bed next year!

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  3. Really nice and informative post. I compost, but will try this method for woodier stuff. Thanks.

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    1. I am gonna try to use it will my compost, we will see!

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  4. I had not heard of this type of gardening..really interesting. Looking forward to seeing the results...so glad you shared.

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    1. I hope it goes well. Something new for me as well!

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  5. I hope your experiment is successful, Clint.

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  6. Clint, do you think it's okay to use cedar waste? Or will that make the whole thing too acidic - or something?

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    1. I did read that you should have a good mixture, I think it would be like alternating your mulches every year. I would make since not to do the whole thing with cedar, unless u you wanted a perfect place for Hydrangea's!

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  7. You've given me an idea that may just solve two problems in my garden... the folks I bought the house from left a tremendous amount of firewood. But it's all from trash trees and smokes (and smells) horrible when I try to burn it. Now, rather than going to the curb for my city's Spring Cleanup, I think it's going to burm up the sides of the raspberry row I am determined to finally get in this year!

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    1. There you go! That would work out great! I try to use everything I possibility can in the garden!

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  8. Oooo this is so interesting! I think I will be showing my hubby this. we have been talking about doing something different this year...thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. This is certainty different! Keep us updated!

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  9. I had heard of this, and saw a very brief description but didn't really know the details (but as a conservation biologist who worked in forestry I can totally imagine the benefits!). Thanks so much for an awesome post! I will definitely give it a try. I'm so glad you also posted which fruits and vegetables do well in this type of growing medium. :)

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    1. I am sure there are others that will grow well in this. Boy, I bet you liked the video "Back to Eden", conservation biologist?

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  10. so interesting.. now .we have standing water in our woods where the kids moved all the brush and logs to build their forts.

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    1. Maybe you could put one of these there?

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  11. Oh that is interesting to do it in a raised bed - I will be interested to see how it goes. I was a little concerned that the height would drop down as it decomposes. I loved that garden of Eden video and re-posted it on my blog to share with my readers.

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    1. It may drop down a little but I constantly am adding compost, grass clippings, mulch, etc. to the area so it should equal out.

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  12. What a great idea! My main problem with Hugelkultur is that I haven't wanted lumpy mounds all over the yard. Your solution eliminates that problem completely. I'll be interested to hear if you have any issues with ants in doing it this way. Good luck and keep us posted!

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    1. You can also dig down and make these beds.

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  13. I had never even heard of this until recently. Now your blog is the second time I've seen it. Sounds like a great idea. I look forward to reading about how it turns out this summer.

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    1. I sure hope it works well. I will keep everyone posted!

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  14. We've done some experimenting with Hugelkultur too, so I appreciate your research!

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  15. wow, this has given me a great idea. We tore out a lot of oak brush last year to expand the garden area and it has been in a huge pile out in the pasture since then just waiting for my husband to burn it......We plan a large are for raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and from what I am gathering here we could just bury it where we will be planting....I like that better than burning it. It might raise up the area but even that would be ok because it is on a slope thanks for sharing this!

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    1. That sounds like it would be a better idea! An extended part of your garden!

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  16. I built my mound last year. It worked wonderfully well. We grew cukes, melons, squash and around the edges HUGE TOMATO PLANTS.
    Even though the drought, grasshoppers and then the Husbands heart attack interfered with our gardening-- and we didn't get to harvest much of it...I still considered it pretty successful. Couple of thoughts/ questions:
    1.) I am curious about the age of one of the Hugelkultur beds? ... btw the chickens did pretty well with getting rid of the ants, however there are still some and we've since fenced it in. I hope to erradicate them with DE.
    2.) So do you think I can plant in the mound again or does it have to be built back up?
    Also-- I've never thought of filling holes with dead brush and debris. I'm so opposed to burning wood and trees just for the sake of clearing. I'm not talking about control burns for field regrowth... but just burning wood because it's there. I'd rather fill the holes in our field with natural material and let nature take it's course. (supernaturally of course) {smile}

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    1. The only thing I would be worried about with the older bed is the DE, It may not be healthy if your plants are rooted in it. But that I am not to sure on.

      Does anyone else on this thread have a better answer? I am always willing to learn more myself!

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  17. Clint,
    This looks awesome. I am going to research this too and try it. Thank you for always sharing something helpful and new. I hope you have a great week.

    Heidi

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  18. Interesting idea - I'll follow you and your adventure to see who it works for you.

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    1. I hope it works. I have heard good responses from others!

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  19. This is so interesting. We had a storm recently, and an old hollow tree came down. I hated to see it go, because it was full of life--critter life, that is. I am going to save this page of yours and may start one of these beds with my old tree.
    :)

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  20. This will be an interesting horticultural experience--looking forward to seeing the results of how it worked for you!

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  21. Very interesting, I hope you have good luck.

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  22. Thanks for visiting Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop! I'm so excited to be co-hosting this week! Very informative and interesting! I'm actually planning on starting some raised beds, so this info will be really handy. I'm pinning it as well. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You are welcome! Stop back anytime Debi.

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  23. How interesting! I always love learning new ways to make the garden grow better. :)

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  24. Lovley Post...really interesting :)
    and do not miss.,..
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    Håkan ( The Roseman)

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  25. Thank you so much for sharing on the Thursday hop. Sorry it's taken me a little while to get over here. Big Hugs!

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  26. Oh wow!! This is the first time I have seen this. I can't wait to see how it works out for you.

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  27. Great idea! Thanks!
    we will move in a house with a garden :-)) at the beginning of the summer so I'll try that and then let it sit until next spring...
    i wouldn't have thought of it because I had read that buried wood woud actualy low down growth in plants around... Guess not if it's done that way!
    Keep us posted about how it goes!
    Happy Easter!!!

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  28. Oups one question: what in your post do you call "shade plants"?
    thanks!!!

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    1. If you are growing veggies, anything in the Cole group, but I have learned since writing this and plan to put in the follow up, that almost any plant will grow in this condition! All perennials should be fine.

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  29. Hi Cliff, This was a tremendously interesting post! I'm a composter, but had never heard of this. Fascinating! And a very "green" way to garden. Thanks so much for sharing this. Happy Easter!
    Beth

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  30. I've actually seen a few of these in local gardens around Germany. Many of them just generally compost in this way, with small branches from trees and whatever garden wastes come along. One guy also gets horse manure delivered to go in the pile. He lets it through the summer, throwing new garden waste in until the winter, and then the following spring he spreads it in his garden. The plants seem to love it.

    Best of luck with this! Will look forward to seeing how it develops. :)

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  31. Excellent post! I'll be looking forward to the follow up posts with your progress! By the way, thank you for linking up all your posts to Homestead Helps! That was wonderful! This post will be featured tomorrow as the most "liked" and most click on post. I can see why!

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  33. Great post. I'll be following along for more ideas. Thanks for sharing.

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  34. I have never heard of this. I'm going to forward this post to my husband and have him take a look at it. He's our compost guy here.

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  35. Hi Clint, thanks for the link back! Looks like you're doing a really nice hugelkultur compared to my effort, I look forward to reading more about your experiences with it. Cheers, Liz

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