Off-Grid » A Raised Bed Like No Other: Behold The Benefits Of Hugelkultur

A Raised Bed Like No Other: Behold The Benefits Of Hugelkultur

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There is a centuries-old, sustainable way of making raised garden beds that is once again all the rage among gardeners! Known as hugelkultur or “mound culture”, this technique has become popular again due to its association with permaculture, which is a gardening philosophy that incorporates natural relationships and systems into the garden. German horticulturalists Hans Beba and Herman Andra coined the term in the late 1970s, but the technique has probably been used in some form for thousands of years.



This ancient cultivation method involves making raised garden beds filled with rotten wood. It results in a raised-bed garden rich in organic material, nutrients, and air pockets for the roots of what you plant. Organic matter feeds the soil, so it gets better with time, making the garden bed incredibly rich and loaded with soil life. Sometimes the old ways of doing things turn out to be better.. if a technique was in use for thousands of years, chances are it was highly successful.

Hugelkultur uses tree trimmings, logs, clean scrap lumber, or an entire failed tree to form the base of its bed. This woody base breaks down slowly, keeping soil fertility and moisture retention strong over the years. How does hugelkultur work? The decomposing matter raises the temperature just enough to boost plant growth. As the base rots, it releases nutrients slowly and holds quite a bit of water.

Natural instances of hugelkultur are common in the woods where nothing ever goes to waste. Trees or tree branches that fall down on the forest floor sink into the earth and accumulate compost and soil over it as leaves fall. The decomposing pile of nutrients becomes host to seeds from trees, fungi, flowers, and lichen. Eventually, the log will be covered with new life. The log’s broken down roots and mulched fallen leaves will nurture the existing soil and future generations of new growth.

There are several benefits offered by hugelkultur to gardeners. This gardening method works well in every dry area and requires little irrigation or fertilizer. It is also very easy to recreate. For the bottom layer, you can use logs or thick twigs. The next layer needs a thick pile of dead leaves or dry straw. Green leaves or lawn clippings are for the middle layer while the penultimate layer is where the mature compost goes. The top layer accommodates the topsoil.

You can dig trenches and place the logs into them so that the compost and soil spread overtop to create a nearly flat surface. This approach works well to create the illusion of a standard garden. Another technique is piling logs and twigs a couple of feet high to create tall ridges. This will give you more surface space to plant soil and will allow you to harvest vegetables or fruits without having to bend too much.

Using clean, untreated construction, or demolition scrap wood is okay for building hugelkultur. Woods that are treated including railroad ties, pallets or painted wood should not be used. Also, avoid woods that contain natural chemical agents which tend to suppress plant growth. These woods include cedar, black locust, black cherry, and black walnut. Trees that work best are alder, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, and willow.





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A Raised Bed Like No Other Behold The Benefits of Hugelkultur
graphic – off-grid.info. Images – youtube.com/watch?v=Sso4UWObxXg


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