My First Hugelkultur Bed

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It’s finally time to share my first effort at hugelkultur—building raised beds with rotting wood and other materials.

I started with a 4 X 12 foot bed that was already surrounded with landscape timbers. I especially wanted to build a hugelkultur bed here because the underlying soil was extremely wet and choked with plants like nut sedge and slender rush, which are nearly impossible to get rid of.

For the bottom layer I put down a few rotting sticks and strips of wood, along with already rotted wood that I dug out of an old wood pile. (Sorry, forgot to take a picture of this.) I followed this with more old wood, including lichen-covered branches and twigs from a dead tree.

I covered that with partially-composted chicken litter, then with a pile of seed-free weed and grass cuttings, followed by more nearly finished compost. I think I added some greensand here—at least I hope I did, because I meant to!

At this point I found some more rotten wood and wood pieces, so I added those on top.

Finally I added a layer of organic potting soil (shown at the beginning), and seeded it with Johnny’s Fall Green Manure Mix—a combination of winter rye, annual rye, crimson clover, field peas and hairy vetch. I also planted 16 garlic cloves, marking the locations with orange flags, and a row and a half of Chieftain seed potatoes, some of which have already emerged.

My main challenge was keeping the chickens and guineas out, since they descended on it and began tearing it up whenever they could! But soon I extended the garden fence to include it, so the damage was minimal. Since then I’ve come across two empty tire planters that I didn’t know what to do with and built mini-hugel beds in them, using roughly the same procedure.  Since I have an ample supply of wood, I plan to keep building more of these whenever I have the time and the space to do it.