What is hugelkultur?
The term "hugelkultur" is of German origin and roughly translates to "hill culture" or "mound culture" in English.
But Hugelkultur is a gardening technique involving raised garden beds filled with organic materials such as logs, branches, leaves, straw, and soil.
The principle behind hugelkultur is to create a self-sustaining and nutrient-rich growing environment. As the organic materials break down over time, they release nutrients into the soil, improve water retention, and create a fertile, moisture-retentive, and long-lasting plant growing space.
The best part is you don’t have to buy as many bags of soil to fill your raised garden bed.
Is hugelkultur right for you?
Before you get started, it’s important to remember that your fruit and veggies need around 300mm of good-quality soil to grow. You’ll also need around 100mm of space to add a layer of mulch. So, if your raised garden bed is 400mm or less, you can skip the hugelkultur and go straight to adding good-quality soil.
If your raised garden bed is higher than 400mm, read on to find out how to fill it cheaply. Here are some other raised garden bed mistakes to look out for.
Step 1. Add logs and branches
Start with larger logs and branches as the bottom layer, followed by smaller twigs and leaves.
The woody debris is the core of your Hugelkultur bed.
Step 2. Layer organic matter
Next, layer your organic matter, like leaves, straw and grass clippings.
Step 3. Add garden soil
Now, you want to add a layer of soil to fill in the gaps. The quality of the soil isn’t as crucial in this step. Garden soil is fine. Ensure you still have about 400mm of space left at the top for good-quality soil and a layer of mulch.
Step 4. Cover with nutrient-rich soil
Cover with at least 300mm of soil rich in organic matter.
Step 5. Plant
Now it’s time to plant your chosen fruit, veggies or flowers.
What is the best wood for hugelkultur in Australia?
In Australia, it's advisable to use hardwoods for Hugelkultur beds. Hardwood species like eucalyptus, acacia, or other native Australian hardwoods are an excellent option because they are solid and resistant to decay. Ensure the wood is untreated and has aged for at least a few months to reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
What are the drawbacks of Hugelkultur?
We know the pros of Hugelkultur, but like everything, there are some drawbacks. Consider the following to see if Hugelkultur is right for you.
- Building a Hugelkultur bed can be labour-intensive, especially when gathering and arranging wood and organic materials.
- The decomposition of the wood core takes time, so the full benefits of nutrient-rich soil may be realised after some time.
- Hugelkultur beds can be relatively tall, which might only be suitable for some garden spaces or may require additional soil.
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