The word hügelkultur translates into “mound culture,” which is an apt name for this process because hügelkultur gardens are essentially raised beds that are made of a mound of logs and branches topped with compost, soil, and other natural materials. Hügelkultur is the process of making raised garden beds filled with rotten wood. The result is a low-maintenance garden that doesn’t require irrigation or fertilization. Hügelkultur beds have naturally good drainage and produce incredibly rich, fertile soil that retains moisture. It’s also a great way to upcycle woody debris. Hügelkultur is often utilized in permaculture systems and even works in the desert.
Why choose Hügelkultur Method
Whether you grow ornamental or edible gardens, hügelkultur can improve your gardening experience in a number of different ways.
1.Less waste. Instead of tossing yard waste, like fallen branches and autumn leaves in the trash, the hügelkultur gardening method repurposes these natural materials and reduces the waste output of your home.
2.Less watering. As the materials inside the hügelkultur mound decompose, they will naturally hold water like a sponge, reducing how much you’ll need to water your plants as time goes by.
3.Less fertilizer. As the natural materials in a hügelkultur bed break down, they release nutrients into the soil, reducing how much extra fertilizer you’ll need to apply.
4.More ergonomic. Like other raised bed gardens, hügelkultur beds are built above the ground so you won’t need to bend over as far to tend them. This can be useful for preventing back strain and achy joints.
5.Longer growing season. As the sticks, leaves, and logs that are used to build hügelkultur raised beds decompose, they naturally generate heat. This causes soil to warm up a bit faster in spring and it may extend your growing season by a few weeks.
6.Supports heavy feeding plants. Pumpkins, squash, and melons can be quite demanding plants, but they will have all the nutrients they need when grown in the rich soil of a hügelkultur bed.
7.Good for gardens with poor soil. Gardens with that are rich in clay or sandy soil can be tricky to grow plants in. But hügelkultur beds are built on top of existing soil, allowing you to grow a garden even if you have very poor soil.
8.Small space friendly. You can grow on top and on the sides of hügelkultur mounds, so you can pack even more plants into a limited growing space.
9.No tilling needed. As the materials in hügelkultur beds degrade, air pockets open up in the soil, which can naturally aerate the soil without any need for tilling.
How to Apply Hügelkultur to Your Metal Raised Garden Bed
As soon as you set up your metal raised garden bed well you can build such eco-friendly hügelkultur raised garden beds by following the steps:
- Gather materials for the project:
* Fallen logs, branches, twigs, fallen leaves (the “under-utilized” biomass). Avoid using cedar, walnut or other tree species deemed allelopathic (toxic to other plants).
* Nitrogen-rich material (manure or kitchen waste work well and will help to maintain a proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in the decomposing mass within the hugelkulter bed).
* Top soil (enough to cover the other layers of the bed with a depth of 1–2 inches) and some mulching material (straw works well).
- Lay the logs (the largest of the biomass debris) down as the first layer of the hügelkultur bed. Next, add a layer of branches, then a layer of small sticks and twigs. Hügelkultur beds work best when they are roughly 3 feet high (though this method is forgiving, and there is no fixed rule as to the size of the bed).
- Water these layers well.
- Begin filling in spaces between the logs, twigs and branches with leaf litter and manure of kitchen scraps.
- Finally, top off the bed with 1–2 inches of top soil and a layer of mulch.
- The hügelkultur raised garden bed will benefit from “curing” a bit, so it is best to prepare the bed several months prior to planting time, but hügelkultur beds can be planted immediately. Plant seeds or transplants into the hügelkultur bed as you would any other garden bed.
How the Hügelbed Works Afterward
In the first few years, the heat-producing composting process warms the soil in a hügelbed, providing a somewhat longer growing season. The decaying woody matter is a source of long-term, slow-release nutrients and helps to keep excess nutrients from filtering into groundwater.
The wood, acting like a sponge, stores rainwater to release during drier times. Hügelbed soil is self-tilling over time. As woody material breaks down, tiny air pockets open in the crumbling soil, allowing air to reach plant roots. In time, you can plant into the topmost layer of soil/compost, which becomes rich with beneficial microorganisms.
Sustainable America has set a goal to increase U.S. food availability by 50% by 2035. One way we believe we can accomplish this goal is by increasing local food production through alternative farming methods like hügelkultur.