A Bigger, Better Hugelkultur Bed

Author Photo
By Jennifer Quinn | Jan 16, 2018


I’ve written before about my forays into building raised beds with hugelkultur — using wood, especially rotting wood, as the basis. So far I’ve built three of these: one as a sloped mound, which is the usual form, and two as flat-topped, rectangular beds. The first has now been in service for two seasons, and has produced some decent carrots, green beans, and potatoes, now that it’s mostly broken down into a nice, humusy soil. The second — built in fall 2016 and cover-cropped with rye, then clover, then oats and Austrian winter peas — will be planted with bare root strawberries in the coming season.

The third (the sloped mound,) will be planted this season with a spring crop of spinach on one side, and will hopefully produce some garlic on the other. I planted the garlic in December, but found the mound mostly frozen and full of big holes at the bottom. Plus I had absentmindedly left the garlic sets outside in freezing weather, so that some were visibly rotting, and even the ones I planted didn’t seem in the greatest shape. So I’m a little dubious about the garlic, but I’m hoping there’s enough soil near the surface to grow some spinach.

My latest (and probably last, for now) hugelkultur project is the most promising so far. This involved building up a 4-by-12-feet bed that has always been compacted and prone to water-logging. Here’s the first layer, consisting of old and rotting wood, with a few leaves and greens thrown in:

Hugelkultur is a natural for me, since I live in the woods and even have a pile of rotting lumber on my property. It’s hard to see here with all the leaves, but — trust me — that’s a stack of slowly-rotting wood:

The next step was to add a layer of dead leaves, then a layer of the goose-litter compost that I wrote about earlier [Repurposing an Old Structure]:

Finally, I found a good source of partially-composted horse manure, which was just the thing to top it off, and something my previous projects lacked. Here’s the final product:

I then cover-cropped it with winter rye and fenced it in so the chickens wouldn’t tear it up. After the rye matures I’ll cut it down and sow some kind of legume in it, and in 2019 I’ll look forward to putting it into production — my biggest and best hugel bed ever!

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