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How to Make Hugelkultur Raised Beds

James WhiteThe technique of making Hugelkultur raised beds has been in practice for probably thousands of years, though lately it’s becoming increasingly popular. Hugelkultur beds are created by putting compost or soil on top of rotting wood and using the small hill to plant.

Many fellow gardeners seemed to have an endless list of good things to say about these raised beds. So after hearing about the harvests other gardens were putting out, I decided it was time to test this method and see if it lived up to the hype.

hugelkulter bed | courtesy RichSoil.com

Image by Rich Soil

Benefits of Hugelkultur Gardens

Now that you know the benefits of this gardening system, let’s move into the labor part – actually building your raised beds. While it might seem like a hassle to put these gardens together, once they’re built they’re so low maintenance, it pays off in the long run.

How to Make Hugelkultur Beds

In a first-year Hugelkultur garden, you want to plant things like potatoes, tomatoes, beans, lettuces or berry bushes. Avoid planting squash, broccoli or corn your first year, since these plants have a high nitrogen demand. Unless there’s a large amount of organic matter on top of the wood, the breakdown of the wood the first year is very demanding on the nitrogen in the surrounding environment, so it’s necessary to add nitrogen, plant things that have a low nitrogen requirement, or use plants that add nitrogen to the soil.

The gradually decaying wood provides nutrients for the soil and plants, and the composting process produces a slight heat that leads to a longer growing season.

Thriving for Years to Come

While the initial startup can be more labor intensive than a traditional garden, my hugel bed will be growing for the next 20 years. The hardwoods used as the base of my garden will provide nutrients and moisture for decades, while the soil around it grows more fertile.

The effort put into this will absolutely be repaid with abundant and delicious harvests. If low-maintenance, sustainable gardening is what you’re looking for, these raised beds are ideal for you. Plant your garden, sit back, and reap the rewards for years to come.

hugelkultur bed | courtesy Port Angeles Community Gardens, www.PACommunityGardens.org

Photo courtesy Port Angeles Community Gardens