Layered Garden Beds or Hugelkultur

One of the most popular garden trends in recent years has been growing vegetables in raised beds. Raised vegetable beds can be easier to care for and it’s easier to harvest vegetables from elevated beds. One of the drawbacks to large, raised beds is that they require a lot of soil to fill, that’s where Hugelkultur comes in.

Hugelkultur (hoo-gell-culture) is a German word meaning “hill culture”. Hugelkultur refers to a method of gardening that involves burying logs or branches and covering them with organic materials and finally soil. This method of gardening can also be used for raised beds.

Benefits of Hugelkultur Gardening:

  • Saves money on soil for large, raised beds.
  • Rotting logs hold extra moisture, reducing watering.
  • It’s an easy way to use up wood waste in your yard.

Drawbacks of Hugelkultur Gardening:

  • You need a source for wood.
  • It can take a long time for the wood to decompose and start to hold moisture.
  • Rotting wood may cause nitrogen deficiency in your soil.
Hugelkultur Garden Layers

Getting started with Hugelkultur Gardening

Start by filling the bottom of your planter with wood. It’s best to use wood that is already decomposing if possible. Avoid using black walnut, sugar maple, red oak, or elm wood which produces compounds that could prevent plants from growing. The wood should fill up less than half your planter and there should be room for at least 8” of soil on top.

Around the wood, pack the planter with green waste including grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, leaves, and straw. This material will help the wood decompose faster and will prevent the soil from settling into the gaps in the wood.

Top your raised bed with at least 8” of topsoil or potting mix. Add compost or manure to the soil for extra nutrients for your plants. After planting, apply mulch to the top of the soil to retain moisture and prevent weeds.

Raised beds that work best for Hugelkultur are made from metal or bricks. If you are making beds out of wood, pick a wood-like cedar to prevent the walls from rotting.

As the materials in your Hugelkultur garden start to decompose the benefits of the garden with improve over the years.

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