Hügelkultur: What Is It & Why You Might Want One?

Hügelkultur: What Is It & Why You Might Want One?

Hügelkultur

Got an unsightly compost bin, or a messy scrap pile of accumulated yard waste, or maybe just had a large tree come down in your yard? Don’t let that pile of logs, sticks, and leaves go to waste!

Turn it into something unique and beautiful - and incredibly beneficial!

What is Hügelkultur?

clean hug

Hügelkultur has been used for centuries in Eastern Europe, as part of a broader permaculture system. Literally translated as a “mound culture” or “mounded bed”, Hügelkultur is a horticultural technique where a long linear mound is constructed from decaying wood, yard debris, and other compostable biomass and plant materials.

Plus you can plant directly onto it!

How To Make a Hugelkultur Raised Bed

While large installations of Hügelkultur can be labor-intensive to build, that messy-looking compost bin or pile of dead branches in the backyard can be transformed into a smaller version and made to become part of your landscape instead of a scrap heap!

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  • In a trench or on the ground itself, lay down larger hardwood logs in a row
  • On top, layer softwoods and smaller logs/larger branches parallel to the large logs
  • Start piling on smaller twigs, mulch chips, and leaf litter, alternating with compost until you have a large pyramidal heap that extends along the entirety of the largest logs. It can be as tall as you are able.
  • Cover with 10-20 inches of soil that you can plant directly into
  • Adding logs along the base or stones can give you a boost to continue piling more on top, or help keep the soil from washing away until the Hügelkultur outer layer settles and roots from turf or plants stabilize the soil.
  • Continue extending your Hügelkultur to lengthen it rather than continue making it taller than you can reach, creating a privacy berm or raised bed that decomposes naturally and slowly over time.

Hügelkultur can be either left as is, covered in turf or sod, covered in mulch, or immediately planted as a Raised Bed Garden.

Things To Be Aware Of When Creating A Hugel Bed

  • Avoid making the sides of your Hugelkultur bed too steep. You can cover a newly made mound in mesh netting, straw, or mulch to hold soil in place while plants work to take over. Also because of the increased exposure, plants grown on tall hügel beds may be more susceptible to wind and frost damage.
  • Tall plants growing on steep-sided beds may fall over or be difficult to tend. Grow shorter, sprawling plants until the hügel shrinks and breaks down further.
  • New Hugel Beds can be low in nitrogen, so enrich that top layer of soil with compost, fertilizer, or a cover crop of nitrogen-fixing clover if you are planting vegetables or flowers directly into a new Hügelkultur. It can take a couple of years for the natural processes to break down and the nitrogen becomes available to all layers.
  • You can use larger stems and branches secured into the ground to hold the logs in place while you pile on the other layers. Preventing them from rolling and eroding.
  • You can add earthworms to the upper layers to help speed the process.

worm

Over time, the logs and wood break down and you will notice increased biodiversity, beneficial insects, and native pollinators frequenting your garden! You will also notice your Hügelkultur mound shrinking as plant matter breaks down.

After several years, you can remove this mound spread its contents onto your vegetable gardens, and renew them with newly created Hügelkulturs!

Reasons Hügel Beds Are Great!

hugel

  1. Rotting wood absorbs moisture like a sponge and becomes home to beneficial insects and fungi.
  2. Plus it becomes home for many native bees and other beneficial pollinators to overwinter!
  3. Acting as a slow compost bin, there is no need to turn your Hugel mound as you would need to turn a compost bin! These raised beds naturally aerate themselves and won’t become rotting piles of stinky mess.
  4. Increase the three-dimensional space of your garden and give height to a flat boring area, while disguising your compost pile as flower beds or screening!
  5. Require less space in the garden because fewer garden paths are needed and you can create dimensional layers to your landscape!
  6. Hügel beds warm faster in the spring, giving you a place to kick-start your spring annuals or cold-hardy veggies!
  7. Naturally sequesters carbon into the soil.
  8. Create planting berms if you have poor drainage areas.
  9. Raise ground for privacy, screening, and landscape dimension.
  10. Increase biodiversity and native insect and wildlife shelter.
  11. Improve soil quality, improve organic matter in soil & increase microorganism presence.
  12. Creates snow drift barriers and windbreaks when sited just right

Get More “Mound Culture” In Your Life!

Double-duty berms that solve more than one problem in the landscape, Hügel Beds disguise your messy compost pile, improve the ecosystem, elevate your landscape, and are a sneaky way to include permaculture methods right in your own backyard!

Get ready for spring sooner with the help of Nature Hills Nursery by checking out all our latest sales and promotions to get your spring garden blooming beautifully!

Happy Planting!

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