Permaculture is a very common practice among preppers and homesteaders. Most of you are already familiar with the concept of Permaculture – an agricultural ecosystem, built to be self-maintained. In this blog, I want to discuss one of my favorite sub-categories of Permaculture, which is Hugelkultur.
What is Hugelkultur
Hugelkultur is the practice of burying large volumes of wood to increase soil water retention – often referred to as a raised garden. The porous structure of wood acts as a sponge when decomposing underground. During the rainy season, masses of buried wood can absorb enough water to sustain crops through the dry season.
How to build a Hugelkultur Garden Bed
- Gather your materials: Wood logs, tree branches, Nitrogen rich soil/compost/manure, and top soil.
- Designate an area for your garden. 5 feet by 3 feet is standard, but you can use a smaller or larger area.
- Lay your logs down first. Add your tree branches to the second layer. (A tall log pile (3 feet high) sounds intimidating, but keep in mind that the end goal is a raised garden bed.)
- Water these layers.
- Fill the cracks and creases with the manure or kitchen compost.
- Lastly, place 1-2” of top soil on these layers.
Tips and Tricks of Hugelkultur
Recently I attended an online Preppers summit. One of the guest speakers was Paul Wheaton – a master gardener and contemporary permaculture theorist. Below are some of the things I learned about Hugelkultur from Mr. Wheaton:
- Use rotten wood – The decomposing wood creates the perfect ecosystem/environment for your garden. Air pockets inside the wood are ideal for the roots you begin to plant. Over the years, the wood begins to contract – which creates more tiny air pockets. This will allow your soil to be self-sustained.
- Don’t use Cedar. Cedar takes a long time to rot/decompose because of its natural pesticides, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Good soil is loaded with fungal and microbial entities.
- Start with shallow soil (if you can). This is the fastest and easiest way to build your raised garden.
- Avoid watering in the summer by building your raised garden 6 feet tall. That sounds crazy, right? Paul Wheaton says not to worry because your garden will shrink – usually within the first month.
- Tall beds, eventually, will not have to be irrigated. Mr. Wheaton also adds that the flavor of your crops will be better too!
When can I begin planting?
You can begin planting immediately, but many gardeners believe in letting the garden bed will be more effective after curing for a few months.
Questions about Hugelkultur?
I hope this blog has at least piqued your interest in Hugelkultur! If you have any questions, please send us a message or comment below!
Permaculture Article by Paul Wheaton – http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/
The Permaculture Research Institute – http://permaculturenews.org/2010/08/03/the-art-and-science-of-making-a-hugelkultur-bed-transforming-woody-debris-into-a-garden-resource/