Hugelkultur Raised Beds: An Ancient Technique That’s Turning Gardeners’ Heads

Hoo-guh-what?! Hugelkultur, pronounced, “Hoo-Gul-Culture,” means hill tradition or hill mound in German. Hugelkultur raised beds are no-dig raised beds that maintain moisture, construct fertility and maximize floor quantity in order that you get double the yield when harvest time comes.

So, rather than placing all of your raked branches, leaves, and grass clippings in bags by the curbside, construct a hugelkultur raised bed!

What Is Hugelkultur?

According to permaculture expert Paul Wheaton:

“Hugelkultur is nothing greater than making raised backyard beds filled with rotten wood. This makes for raised backyard beds loaded with pure material, nutrients, air pockets for the roots of what you plant, etc. As the years pass, the deep soil of your raised backyard mattress turns into extremely wealthy and loaded with soil life.”

Hugelkultur raised beds are similar to lasagna gardening and sheet mulching – strategies that require no digging and no tilling, and which result in rich, fluffy soil with little or no work from the gardener. Hugelkultur raised beds, like lasagna gardening and sheet mulching, are particularly efficient in areas with poor soil quality, because they're constructed above the soil surface. The layers of those strategies assist maintain vitamins within the soil for a lot longer than if compost or fertilizers were utilized on to the soil surface.

While Hugelkultur is similar to gardening strategies like lasagna gardening and sheet mulching, it nonetheless differs in a few key methods (1):

1. Woody Base

Hugelkultur raised beds rely on a basis of wood. This includes issues like tree trimmings, logs, clear scrap lumber and even trees which have fallen over. The slow break down of this woody base retains soil fertility and moisture retention strong over years and even decades.

2. Size

You could make your hugelkultur big or small, however a few of them have been constructed as excessive as six feet tall!  In some cases, hugelkultur raised beds are construct over entire fallen trees. While the sky’s the restrict for constructing a hugelkultur, most individuals solely have room for hugel beds that are one to 2 feet tall – and that’s completely fine!

3. Steeply Sloped Sides

Hugelkultur beds additionally include steeply sloped sides. Keeping the sides sloped at forty five levels is thought to reduce soil compaction over time, in addition to extend soil oxygenation.

4. Moisture Retention

The woody base of the hugel mattress slowly breaks down over time – the cellulose and lignin-eating fungi slowly consume the woody base material, transforming the logs, branches and wooden chips into sponge-filled masses with tiny air pockets. These tiny air pockets create excellent moisture-retainers, which encourage strong plant root growth. Even in dry climates, the smallest of hugels can go weeks with out supplemental irrigation. Large hugels, on the opposite hand, can support lush growth through an entire summer with out additional water.

The Benefits of Hugelkultur Raised Beds

There are so many advantages of constructing a hugelkultur raised bed.

For starters, they work thoroughly in dry areas, even deserts, due to their excellent ability to carry water. They require little, if any, irrigation, making them an extremely sustainable addition to any garden. They additionally don’t want any fertilizer, because they're planted in almost pure compost, which is very nutrient-dense.

The beds create different microclimates appropriate for the varied wants of various plants. For example, the side facing the solar can be utilized for plants that require direct sunlight, the place because the shadier side can be utilized for delicate leafy greens and kale, for instance.

The wooden used beneath the hugel mattress slowly decomposes over time, so the soil warms up faster within the spring (compared to conventional flat-bed gardening). This helps the expansion and germination of seeds, particularly within the spring, and permits for an earlier begin of growth.

The soil is additionally loose and well aerated, meaning that it doesn’t freeze as quick in cooler areas.

The nutrients locked up within the wood get launched slowly over a interval of a number of years. Even greens with a excessive nutrient demand can be grown with out the use of additional fertilizer.

Last however not least, the approach to hilling, or sloping the raised bed, helps to extend floor area, permitting for extra develop space. This is especially helpful in small gardens with restricted space.

How To Make A Hugelkultur Raised Bed

The rising popularity of hugelkultur has to do with its affiliation with permaculture. Permaculture is an more and more popular gardening philosophy that seeks to imitate and incorporate pure relationships and systems into the garden.

If you are wanting to include a hugel mattress into your garden, you’ll want to consider the system as a whole. The beds you construct are long-term, and can get higher because the years pass on.


There are a few key issues you'll want to consider earlier than constructing your hugel bed:

1. Sun

Some hugel beds are constructed running east-west in order that the mounded mattress has a hot and sunny south side and a cooler shaded north side. If you want to plant greens and fruit that require loads of direct light, run the mattress north-south in order that your crops obtain extra even light exposure. If you’re planting a mixture of direct light and low light greens and greens, then running east-west is your best bet.

2. Water

Look on the water flow in your garden, and pin-point the areas that are low-lying and moist, and the areas that are simply drained. If you place your hugel strategically, it will soak up, or re-direct extra water. If there is an excessive amount of water, however, it can undermine the bed’s structure.

3. Wind

If you plan on making a actually tall hugel bed, you'll be modifying the air-flow in your yard. You’ll want to consider the place the dominant winds come from in your climate, and what areas might profit from a wind-block in your garden. You’ll additionally want to consider what you plan on rising in your hugel. Crops that are planted on the highest will have little shelter, and can have to deal with lots of wind if planted in an exposed, windy location.

4. Shape

The form of your hugel doesn’t have to be perfect. A lot of them have a tendency to take freeform shapes like gentle arcs, open bowls, or no matter form would be best suited to the local weather (taking light, water and wind into consideration). After all, some hugel beds have been constructed over fallen trees!

5. Location

If you have termite issues, keep away from constructing your hugel too near your home.

6. Type of Wood

Depending on the size of your hugel, you'll want various quantities of wood. If you know you want so as to add hugelkultur into your garden, begin saving logs, cut branches, tree trimmings and different backyard wood, even when you’re not sure the place they’ll finish up.

Some woods contain pure chemical brokers that make them very slow to interrupt down, so in that case, you’ll want to avoid:

– Cedar
– Black locust
– Black cherry
– Black walnut

Any wooden that's chemically handled (not naturally), like pallets, painted/stained wood, or pressure-treated wooden shouldn't be used. Wood chips can be used, however it will not offer the identical longevity of fertility that a classic hugel full of bigger logs and timbers would.

Building Your Hugelkultur Raised Bed

Below are the steps to constructing your hugelkultur raised bed.

STEP 1. Lay down your scrap wooden (freshly cut, well-rotted, or something in between), with bigger trunks and stumps on the base, and smaller twigs and branches up top. Water well.

Tip: The bigger the better. The bigger your mound is, the extra resilient it will be in regards to irrigation and fertilizer. The recommended size is about two metres by one metre with a height of about two metres. While you don’t have to make your hugel this large, it's recommended, because it will allow for shrinkage within the primary month because it settles down.

STEP 2. Fill the gaps of the wooden with compost, manure, leaves, kitchen-waste, etc. This nitrogen-rich layer will assist balance excessive ranges of carbon within the wood. Covering your hugel with grass sod face down is additionally extremely recommended (always make sure the grass sod is face down, because the grass might develop through once extra if confronted up).

STEP 3. Finish with a layer of topsoil about 5 cm deep after which a layer of mulch (like straw).

STEP 4. You can plant within the hugelkultur raised mattress proper away, however when you permit it to cure (like over winter), it will give it time to settle and soak in rainwater. However, if you don’t want to attend and want to plant within the hugel proper away, you are doing no hurt in doing so.

Note: You can begin off with smaller/lower beds and add to them over a few years to create a taller bed. However, the smaller beds won’t be as resilient and would require some watering (although far lower than a ‘normal’ raised mattress containing simply soil and compost).

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