Today we started the process of building a hugelkultur garden bed.  Here is the “before” picture, though I had already created a path, next to the asparagus bed at the side of our garage. I lined the path with logs from the land, leveled it, and covered it with wood chips. Ever since I created the asparagus bed, that slope has been a bit of a mess, from all the dirt that I moved around to do asparagus plantings.

Before hugelkultur

Hugelkultur means hill culture, or hill garden, and is one of the tools in a permaculture tool kit that we had never used before. It is a kind of raised garden bed, with rotting logs at the base, brush, leaves, and other organic materials over that, and soil over the whole mound. The logs hold moisture, so that eventually you don’t need to water your plants as often, and they contain nutrients that are gradually released to the soil. They also extend your growing season because their slow decomposition warms the bed. It also serves as a use for old rotting wood and brush that otherwise might go to the dump, and it sequesters carbon in the soil. Some folks make them 6 feet high, but ours will be smaller than that.

With everything happening because of the COVID 19 pandemic, we felt it would be a good time to increase our capacity to grow more food. So far in our garden, we’ve focused on cultivating fruit trees and bushes, and herbs and other perennials. The only annuals I have grown are snap peas and kale, in amongst the trees. So this bed will be for annual vegetables, like carrots, lettuce, and zucchini.

The first stage was to go around with a wheelbarrow and collect old logs that have accumulated on the edges of our land. Most of them were there when we arrived four years ago. I think this will be the hardest part. These logs were heavy! Margy and I both had to rest in between loads. But it has been a beautiful sunny day, so what could be better than to sit in our yard in the sun.Logs for hugelkultur

The next step is to arranged the logs every which way in the area that will be the bed. Some people might be more orderly than this, but it doesn’t really matter. It does matter what kinds of wood you use. Hardwoods are preferred, but not cedar, which doesn’t rot, or black walnut, black cherry, or black locust because of how they protect themselves in the soil. Pines have tannins, and might make the soil more acidic, plus they don’t last as long. We were also careful not to use any bittersweet cuttings, and to make sure no bittersweet roots had colonized the rotten logs. Margy spends half her time going around cutting back all of that.Logs layer hugelkultur

After the big logs were laid out, we filled in with smaller logs and long branches. And that was as far as we got today. I came in to have a cup of tea, and to write all about it. Tomorrow’s weather is supposed to stay nice so we’ll do the next steps then, and I’ll do an update.hugelkultur branches

Oh, I should also mention that Wednesday Margy and I had a big outing–since we’ve been staying home for three weeks now.  We went out to Winslow Park beach, and gathered seaweed, and got to see the beautiful ocean. All that seaweed will go into the hugelkultur too. One of my favorite things about permaculture is that nothing is wasted–what we might think of as waste is passed along as food for another part of the cycle of life. So rotten logs, brush, dead seaweed, fallen leaves, cut grass, vegetable scraps–all of it goes back to help create fertile soil. That is something beautiful to perceive.

Gathering seaweed


8 thoughts on “Hugelkultur

  1. Hi Myke and Margy, what are ‘bittersweet cuttings’ ?
    Thank you for a very useful and inspiring writing. I just have a small garden, front and back…took out most of the pavement and started eco gardening when I moved to here in 2017, each season it’s getting more and more perma cultured, now I collect the rainwaters, and seeds from different plants to make seedbombs to ‘throw’ along roads and other bare pieces/bits of soil that I pass by around this city. Also planted a few berries that belong in this climate along with a few vegetables and quite a few herbs. There were already 3 different smaller berry bearing trees here when I arrived, so that was a good beginning. And earlier this spring I noticed a tiny new Birch tree in my front garden that had flew over from one of the bigger ones in my direct neighborhood…so lovely.
    Okay, thanks again for your inspiration to create fertile soil.
    Kind regards, Annette

    Verzonden vanaf mijn Windows 10-apparaat

    Van: Finding Our Way Home
    Verzonden: zaterdag 4 april 2020 22:41
    Onderwerp: [New post] Hugelkultur

    Myke Johnson posted: “Today we started the process of building a hugelkultur garden bed. Here is the “before” picture, though I had already created a path, next to the asparagus bed at the side of our garage. I lined the path with logs from the land, leveled it, and covered i”

    • Hi Annette, your garden sounds wonderful, and I love that you are planting bare spots around town with seed bombs. “Asian bittersweet” is an invasive vine in our area that can grow around trees and eventually kill them. Margy has been cutting them back as much as possible each year.

  2. Pingback: Hugelkultur, part one & a half | Finding Our Way Home

  3. This was a breath of fresh air to read…and to see. I love that you included the photos. I used to have a garden where I grew fruits and vegetables, but I no longer live in a house. I shifted to apartment living years ago. I do miss the gardening sometimes. I loved being able to go into the garden and pick some raspberries or a tomato or whatever I needed. I loved coming home from work where I used my mind all day to just having my hands in the dirt. I am so grateful to you for sharing this delightful post with us all. Good luck to you and Margy in your endeavors. To both of you stay well.

  4. Pingback: Raised Garden Bed, Part 2 | Finding Our Way Home

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s