Fall Prep: Hugelkultur
Written by: Sumati Shah
Have I piqued your interest? What is above ground as a raised bed, or dug into the ground as a trench, or a combo of the two – a swale or berm that’s partially dug and also mounded up?
It’s Hugelkultur! And it adapts easily to whatever circumstances you’re creating. It’s a great return on your invetments!
Last year in my garden, I dug 2 trenches and one more shallow bed. This fall, I have an attractive and efficient way to put the energy of this years harvest into next year’s garden already.
Here’s how you do it:
First, pick your spot and dig (or build your planter if you’re opting for above ground) Approx 2-3 ft deep and about 6ft long to accommodate the wood you have or the size of bed that you’re creating.
Next, lay down the logs and largest pieces of wood. Add smaller branches and twigs, kitchen compost and leaves to fill the small gaps. Any big air pockets will collapse as the winter progresses – avoid creating them.
Pack it well and layer the sod you removed face down on top of the log layer. (These are layers 1 & 2 in my garden drawing, above)
Next a big fat layer of fall leaves plus a little compost or garden soil mixed together. (Layer 3)
Last – a good layer of soil or compost. (Layer 4)
This is all done now during Autumn and left to rest over the winter so that the wood has a chance to breakdown a little before you plant. Start your project now and fill in with the leaves as they fall!
There’s going to be a lot happening in this trench or bed as the wood breaks down and there is likely going to be a need for added nitrogen next year…so it’s a good thing you use grass clippings to mulch with!
Rule o f Green Thumbs: HugelKultur turns Fall Clean up into Spring Prep
The main thing is just creating these layers that allow the natural decomposition to take place over time and to maintain and benefit from all the good stuff that comes with a more natural approach to gardening. As the logs break down (or just slightly large branches in my case) the level will drop a bit, so be prepared to top up a little come spring.
The wood and leaves also make a difference – cedar wood will take a long time to break down, and maple leaves take about 2 years too. There are guidelines but no rules for this – life is variable.
Tips: don’t use black walnut and for obvious reasons any treated wood would be best avoided.
Your HugelKultur bed is an excellent way to create a rich compost soil to grow in while you use your garden scraps and fall clean up.
Go Go Green Thumbs!