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Hugelkulture: permaculture gardening for hot, dry places (not Scotland)

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all images via Minga Verde

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Hugelkulture is a method of permaculture gardening that will hold moisture, increase soil fertility and maximise a growing area. It is an ideal place to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs.

I read about it first via the Food is Free Project (and Minga Verde) on Facebook today:

“We love hugelkultur. We’ve had great success with our spiral hugekultur garden and didn’t have to water it all summer in the Texas heat. In case you haven’t heard about it, it’s a water-saving gardening method. First you can lay down a layer of cardboard. Then put down a layer of wood branches or stumps of varying sizes. Cover the wood in some soil or compost and mulch the garden with straw or wood chips. Plant right into it! The buried wood acts as a sponge that stores water and slowly releases it over time. The wood also breaks down into great soil with lots of beneficial organisms.”

I joked above that this is not a gardening method required in Scotland – what with our abundance of wet and cold. But even though we don’t really require the water saving properties, hugelkultur has other benefits. This is how permaculture.co.uk describes the technique:

Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound.

Instead of putting branches, leaves and grass clippings in bags by the curbside for the bin men… build a hugel bed. Simply mound logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available, top with soil and plant your veggies.

The advantages of a hugel bed are many, including:

  • The gradual decay of wood is a consistent source of long-term nutrients for the plants. A large bed might give out a constant supply of nutrients for 20 years (or even longer if you use only hardwoods). The composting wood also generates heat which should extend the growing season.
  • Soil aeration increases as those branches and logs break down… meaning the bed will be no till, long term.
  • The logs and branches act like a sponge. Rainwater is stored and then released during drier times. Actually you may never need to water your hugel bed again after the first year (except during long term droughts).
  • Sequester carbon into the soil.

click here to read more...

I have a couple of areas in my wee garden where the increased fertility and other benefits of hugelkultur would be extremely welcome. And it looks like a perfect way to handle garden waste in a far more sustainable manner!

To finish off, here are some more nice images from Minga Verde:

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