Our First Hugelkultur bed

So upon getting this land and quickly diving into research about farming, gardening, farm animals, homesteading, etc I stumbled upon Permaculture. Shortly after that someone on a Facebook homesteading (nationwide) group mentioned a Hugelkultur bed. So then, of course, I had to research Hugelkultur and I was just blown away!!!

 

Hugelkulture is where you dig a small ditch or trench (depending on what size you want) down into your soil and then place old tree logs Ā down in it. They can be any size, any length, any thickness as long as they fit into the area you dug out. So you can dig an area to fit whatever logs you have and what you’re working with on your land! Which is fantastic! Then you layer on top of that dirt, twigs, more dirt, water each layer and then finally cover with dirt so you have a mound and top that with mulch! The REASON you do this is because (it is totally genius I’m not sure why everybody isn’t doing this with their extra wood laying around their property…if they don’t have or use a wood stove) as the wood begins to rot and decompose under there it is putting nutrients (GOOD nutrients) into all the soil around it. The dampness from you putting water on that layer when you first built it in combination with the dirt and leaves added to it to retain that moisture, aid in that break down process. Also, when you do water that mound in the future, those logs help the entire mound to HOLD ONTO every bit of water you put onto it, as does the mulch. So you’re keeping more water right there where you need it to do what you need it to do without irrigation. And since the bigger logs could take years to break down, you have a setup that takes you maybe an hour tops and it is a self-fertilizing gardening mound for YEARS! Brilliant!

 

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So I knew I’d incorporate this on the homestead somewhere but I didn’t know where. The big site I plan to do the food forest on is going to need a lot of prep work before I can plant anything or even put in hugel beds to sit and break down for me as I’m not sure where I’ll want them yet. So one day raking up some leaves in my small front yard area (fenced in in front of the front deck) I decided I could totally do it in one of these raised beds that goes around the front deck. It is a large deck so there are 3 pretty good sized raised beds.

 

So I got to looking around for supplies because I knew I had wood logs, twigs, mulch, top soil, etc and so I just wanted to make sure I had what I needed. Then I remembered another video I had seen where they talk about using dead, dry leaves as part of the layering and I had those as a few of our trees just started (or finished) shedding the very few pitiful leaves they had, lol! So I got to work!

 

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This is the bed I started out with. Pardon the extension cord running out to Christmas lights, haha! There were some nice little weeds that started growing in there with some recent rains we had. Also the overhang of the porch waters this area pretty abundantly when it rains (until I add a water harvesting system in the future, of course!). So I pulled a lot of these by hand and dug out some of the peskier ones with a shovel. I didn’t worry about getting them all.

 

So I had my trench area dug out.

 

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Then I grabbed cottonwood tree logs I had cut up and set aside for outdoor bonfires but hey…this is way more important than that! =D Put those guys in there. As soon as they were in I watered the area down so those logs would be wet.

 

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Then I covered that with a little bit of dried leaves and debris from the yard, not a ton.

 

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Then I covered that with some of the dirt I had dug out.

 

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Then I covered that with cottonwood twigs and kindling.

 

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Then I covered that with some potting soil because I had some handy and I didn’t think it could hurt. Then I sprayed this down again with water.

 

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I put more top soil on this and then spent some more time digging out additional weeds on each side. And then watered it down again.

 

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Then once I felt the twigs were mostly covered and the ground around it was all good and I had covered it in water then I added my final layer which is mulch. This was the last bag of this stuff I had so I can’t do the other beds until I buy some more supplies, which will hopefully be here soon.

 

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I just finished by cleaning up that concrete area to the left, which is what is just off of my deck with a pergola above. And she was done!!!

 

THE PLAN is for these to sit and develop and let the wood start breaking down. I won’t plant anything in these until spring and I need to do a little more research about what I want to plant right up by the house. I know a Wisteria vine is going up on the pergola but that is a few feet further to the left here that you can’t see and doesn’t have anything to do with this one bed. I’m thinking I’ll do a mix of herbs, maybe a flower or two (something like citronella which will repel the mosquitoes come spring and summer) and then some lettuce type crops that you can frequently harvest from since these are so close to the house.

 

I will water this weekly just to give it a little soaking and help aid in the process as we do not get regular rainfall here. And I’ll probably take weekly pictures just to kind of keep a record and keep an eye on it and how it does.

 

XoXo,

Elizabeth

 

If you have any suggestions on what I should plant here in Zone 9 in southern Arizona that would be great to have right off the front deck, also an area all visitors see and walk passed as they walk up to my front door, I’m open to suggestions. Please comment below with ideas and don’t forget to subscribe to the page so you can get a quick email any time I share a new post about our homestead setup adventures! Thanks so much for checking us out!

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7 thoughts on “Our First Hugelkultur bed

  1. Deb

    Nice. I wonder if soaking the logs in water first would cause it to work faster and better since the logs will already be retaining the water. This is something I’m going to try. Thanks much

    1. lizandrk26

      I’m not sure but I have heard people talk about the opposite, setting the logs out to DRY and “age” for a period of time before putting them in the ground and starting this process. I’d say maybe do a tiny bit of research OR if you want to try it just for fun then dive in and do it and see how it turns out!

  2. Mike

    Has anyone ever experimented growing mushrooms in these hegelbeds? I ask bc I have had great success growing mushrooms in yard and garden setting using nothing more than grain spawn and pasteurized straw that are then covered with wood chips and saw dust.

    1. lizandrk26

      I haven’t ever tried to grow mushroom because I don’t like them and I’m just starting out on this gardening adventure! =D But I have seen in a lot of Permaculture videos that they talk about putting straw in the bottom of a swale and that with the straw keeping moisture down and shade trees above it blocking out a lot of sun it creates that humidity that mushrooms need to grow. So I know it can be done!

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