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I Made A Hugelkultur Bed How & Why

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Hugelkultur, which translates to “hill culture” in German, is a gardening technique that uses piles of decomposable wooden debris such as branches, logs, and twigs. These wood piles are then covered with compost, soil, and sometimes other organic materials to create raised garden beds.

I had just chopped some trees down on the new allotment plot, so I decided to experiment and create one of my own. Here’s how I did it.

Building My Hugelkultur Bed

To get things started, I gave the grass underneath where the bed was going to go a really harsh cut. This was in February, too, while it was dormant. I left all the cuttings on the ground. The idea was just to weaken and try to kill the grass a little so it wouldn’t grow through the bed.

Where The Bed Will Be Built
after mowing

Then, the next step was to start laying the larger logs I had about. Ideally, these would be older and already rotting, but I didn’t have enough of those, so some were freshly cut.

Some of the tree cuttings I needed to use up.
Laying down big logs
Add smaller logs and then sticks and branches.

Once you have used up your biggest logs, you want to start filling the gaps with smaller logs and, eventually, sticks and branches. The idea is to build it into a symmetrical mound, with your materials getting smaller and smaller as you go.

I then added well-rotted woodchips.

I then added a whole load of 1-year-old woodchips to the top of the pile. This helps fill any remaining gaps and also starts to weigh down the branches so they don’t stick out everywhere.

Next, I added a load of soil. I built a new raspberry patch next to the mound, which I dug out and filled with compost so I had plenty of soil to use.

I added a whole load of compost to the soil. This was my homemade compost from last year’s growing, so it didn’t cost me anything!

Then soil & compost
The mound next to my new raspberry patch

Why Make A HugelKultur Bed?

Well, as I stated earlier, I had lots of branches and logs to use up, and that is one good reason. However, aside from that, there are many benefits to this method of gardening. Let’s take a look at them.

Wood acts like a sponge, absorbing moisture during wet periods and releasing it during dry spells. This significantly reduces the need for watering and makes Hugelkultur beds resilient against drought. This is not a massive benefit in the North West of England, where it does nothing but rain, but it is still worth mentioning!

As the wood decays, it releases nutrients back into the soil, enriching it and reducing the need for external fertilisers. As the wood breaks down over time, it continues to feed the soil for many years, reducing the need to rebuild or heavily amend the beds frequently.

The rotting wood is also the perfect environment for fungal growth, which leads to strong root development and a symbiotic benefit for plants.

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