Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden

This post discuses what a Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden is and how to make one.  There are quite a few pictures included to give you an idea of what I’m doing while putting this together.

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden - Hugelkultur Bed Start

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden – Hugelkultur Bed Start

Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, is a German word that means hill culture or hill mound.  It replicates the natural process of decomposition that occurs on forest floors. In its basic form, mounds are constructed by piling logs, branches, plant waste, compost and additional soil directly on the ground or in a shallow swale. Some designs recommend that mounds have a grade of between 65 and 80 degrees.  A high bed at this angle allow you to almost plant vertically and pick fruit without compacting the mound by walking on it.

The Wikipedia definition: “Hügelkultur is a composting process employing raised planting beds constructed on top of decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. The process helps to improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants grown on or near such mounds.”

Hugelkultur has recently been made popular by Sepp Holzer with his terraces and raised beds.  Sepp is from Austria and farms his family farm.  He has many hugelkultur beds and now writes about his farm and his farming practices.  Sepp Holzer, Paul Wheaton, and Geoff Lawton have been the leading force of hugelkultur in Permaculture.

Benefits

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden - The Makings of an Hugelkultur bed

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden – The Makings of an Hugelkultur bed

The basic premise of an Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden is making raised garden beds filled with rotten wood.  This provides several benefits to include:

  • The rotting wood adds nutrients to the soil that are bioavailable for the plants. The rotting wood will store nitrogen and release it for the plants to use.
  • The rotting wood will “wick” water up from the surrounding soil and hold it for the plants to use.
  • The wood rots slowly and provided nutrients for the plants over a long period of time. With a large Hugelkultur bed, nutrients may be supplied for 20 years.
  • Soil aeration increases as those branches and logs break down… meaning the bed will be no till, long term.
  • The composting of the carbon material will slightly raise the temperature of the soil, thereby slightly extending you growing season.

The Materials

There are materials you would want to use in an hugelkultur bed and there are materials you want to stay away from.  Some examples are listed below:

Good Wood:

Alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow (make sure it is dead or it will sprout).

OK Wood:

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden - Hugelkultur Bed Start

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden – Hugelkultur Bed Start

Black cherry (use only rotted), camphor wood (well aged), cedar/juniper/yew (anti-microbial/anti-fungal, so use only at very bottom or unless already well aged. Cedar should be broken down before new plant roots reach it), eucalyptus (slightly anti-microbial), osage orange (exceptionally resistant to decay), Pacific yew (exceptionally resistant to decay), pine/fir/spruce (tannins and sap), red mulberry (exceptionally resistant to decay).

Avoid These:

Black locust (will not decompose), black walnut (juglone toxin), old growth redwood (heartwood will not decompose and redwood compost can prevent seed germination).

Nitrogen:

Many will note that filling a large space with so much carbon will actually act as a draw on nitrogen and pull it from the soil.  This is true to a degree.  This is why it is recommended that you add a little nitrogen when you build an hukelkultur bed.  If you add a little bone meal and blood meal to your bed, then it will quickly absorb that nitrogen and then slowly release it to your plants as the wood breaks down over a long period of time.  Just add the nitrogen directly on top of the wood before you cover it up with dirt.

Sepp Holzer does this with other nitrogen or “green” products as described in his book “Permaculture”; “Then cover the logs with the upside down turf. On top of the turf add grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc…”.  Grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, and green leaves are all high in nitrogen.

My Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden

My hugelkultur bed in Maryland is buried in the ground about 18 inches deep and sticks out of the ground about 3 feet. I was digging a trench for an irrigation line back to the garden area and I had an old rotting wood pile laying around.  The water line is about 24” deep, so I filled the trench in a little, made it a little wider where I was going to put the bed and put wood in.  This is depicted in the three pictures above.  I neglected to add a nitrogen to my bed, but the plants in the hugelkultur bed are still growing better than anywhere else on the property.

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden - Hugelkultur Bed after 18 Months

Hugelkultur Permaculture Garden – Hugelkultur Bed after 18 Months

I have the following plants in this bed: Brown Turkey Fig, Goji, 4 types of Honeyberry, 2 types of high bush Blueberry, 1 low bush Blueberry, 2 Nanking Cherry, Lavender, Lambs Ear, Black Currant, Pomegranate, Rhubarb, and some volunteer cherry tomato plants.  The picture titled “Hugelkultur Bed after 18 Months” shows my hugelkultur bed this past summer after it had been in the ground for 18 months.  You’ll also notice my two photogenic Rat Terrier dogs, Molly and Murphy, had to be in the photo as well.

The Spring of 2015 was wet in the mid-Atlantic area but from mid-June through September it was extremely dry.  The plants in the Hugelkultur bed did very well.  I can only surmise that this was because of the wood under the soil and the deep mulch around the plants above the soil.

Do You Like Us?  If So, Check Out The Link Below!

If you like this blog post and want to find out more about Great Escape Farms please go to https://greatescapefarms.com/ Also, sign up for our email list at the bottom of the page.

Epi002 – Great Escape Podcast Week of 9/23/15

Epi002 – Great Escape Podcast Week of 9/23/15

Great Escape Podcast

Great Escape Podcast

Each week Great Escape Podcast will give you an audio alternative to reading the blog posts on Great Escape Farms.  This weeks podcast covers the week of September 23, 2015 and only has 3 days of content to cover as this was the week that I started blog posting.  This week we cover; the introduction of Great Escape Farms, Hugelkultur, and Lemon Balm.

If you would like to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, you can do so by clicking on Great Escape Podcast.

Click on the icon below for other RSS feed options.

 

Thanksgiving and Native American Farmers

Thanksgiving and Native American Farmers

This post, Thanksgiving and Native American Farmers, gives a glimpse into the lives of the settlers in the 17th century and some of their farming practices.

In the fall of 1620 the Mayflower arrived off the coast of Plymouth Massachusetts.  By the spring of 1621 only about half of the original passengers survived the brutal first winter.  In the spring the settlers were met by a Native American named Squanto.  Squanto taught the settlers how to farm, hunt, and avoid poisonous plants in the new land.

Hugelkultur

The Native American farmers showed the early settlers a new way to plant in this rich fertile soil.  They showed the settlers how to grow native crops like maize, beans and squash.  They mounded soil up around the stumps of felled trees, making a hugelkultur type bed and put a fish in each mound for fertility.  Other Native American crops included pumpkin, tobacco, and sunflowers.

Three Sisters Garden

The Native Americans taught the new settlers the concept of what we now know as a three sisters garden.  The concept here is to plant corn, followed by beans a few weeks later, followed by squash a few weeks after that.  The way it works is the corn will sprout and get some height to it.  The beans will sprout several weeks later and by they time they are climbing up the corn, the corn is strong enough to support them.  Once the beans are climbing and off the ground, the squash spread on the ground and shades the ground from direct sunlight, thereby keeping the ground moist.

Other Teachings

The Native Americans also taught the settlers how to make maple syrup, dyes from plants and clam shell hoes.  Native Americans did not use plows and tools to disturb the land in mass.  That was a European way of doing things.  They used advanced farming techniques like terracing, crop rotation, irrigation and the use of wind breaks to improve farm yields.

The Animals

The Native Americans had domesticated animals that consisted of dogs and turkeys.  The turkeys were among the first products of the new world agriculture introduced to European markets. The settlers in turn introduced European animals such as chicken, cows, sheep and swine.  The settlers also introduced grains like wheat, rye and oats.

The settlers were able to grow everything they needed on one acre of land with the exception of salt, gun powder, and iron for tools.

More History

The first Thanksgiving is said to have happened in 1621 with the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians during a three-day celebration of a successful harvest.  They shared a feast of their autumn harvest.  There is some controversy over exactly who had the first thanksgiving day feast as it may have been a Spanish explorer in 1565 or British settlers in 1619.

Thanksgiving Becomes an Annual Holiday

Many celebrations occurred in the following two plus centuries.  In 1827 Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, began a letter writing campaign to make Thanksgiving an annual national holiday to help unify a country heading towards civil war.  Her campaign lasted for 36 years and Thanksgiving officially came to be a national holiday in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it as an annual national holiday.

The annual Thanksgiving holiday has been moved around from the forth Thursday of each November, to the third Thursday of each November, and back to the fourth Thursday of each November.  The famous Macy’s day parade started in 1924.  In 1989 George H.W. Bush granted the first Presidential pardon to a turkey and this has become tradition each year since.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks to the Native American Farmers for their lessons!

Help us out by subscribing to our email list at: GreatEscapeFarms.com/subscribe/

Please give us your thoughts on Thanksgiving and Native American Farmers by commenting below.

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds at Great Escape Farms

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds at Great Escape Farms

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds at Great Escape Farms

Ever since I first heard about permaculture I wanted Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds at Great Escape Farms.  Below are pictures of my first Hugelkultur Bed.  It is basically a trench dug down about 2 foot which then has wood put into it mounding up.  It is suppose to be several feet high (about 6-7 foot high) with grades going up to the peak at about 70 degrees.  Mine are only about 3 foot high as I’m in a residential community and a 7 foot berm would look a little out of place.  I will cover more on what a Hugelkultur is and how to build one in a future post.  The hugelkultur bed will should have plants on the sides and the top.  In my permaculture garden in Maryland I’m working on an edible forest garden.  I discuss later what is planted in that edible food forest.  In my permaculture garden in West Virgina, I am planting all kinds of unusual things to grow in your garden.  I will write a future article about that edible food forest and will cover the easiest edible plants to grow.

The first three pictures below are of the installation of the Hugelkultur Bed in April of 2014.

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds

Hugelkultur Permaculture Beds

The third picture shows a trench, which was not part of the Hugelkultur bed.  I was running a 3/4″ water line out to my garden area and it just so happened to run right next to my Hugel bed.

The picture below was taken in mid-Septbmber 2015.  It is difficult to even see the mound through the plants.  I have the following plants in this bed: Brown Turkey Fig, Goji, 4 types of Honeyberry, 2 types of high bush Blueberry, 1 low bush Blueberry, 2 Nanking Cherry, Lavender, Lambs Ear, Black Currant, Pomegranate, Rhubarb, and some volunteer cherry tomato plants.  You’ll also notice my two photogenic Rat Terrier dogs, Molly and Murphy, had to be in the photo as well.

Hugelkultur Bed

Hugelkultur Bed

The Spring of 2015 was wet in the mid-Atlantic area but from mid-June through September it was extremely dry.  The plants in the Hugelkultur bed did very well.  I can only surmise that this was because of the wood under the soil and the deep mulch around the plants above the soil.