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The Basic Principles Behind Building Hugelkultur Raised Bed Gardens

October 5, 2019


Hugelkultur. So what is it anyway? Well for starters, hugelkultur is a German
word meaning hill culture or mound culture. It has a history going hundreds of years back
being used in both German and Eastern European societies as a way to utilize the available
plant biomass materials that surround us. Effectively composting it down into the soil,
sequestering the carbon and allowing for the growing of plants, creating a more drought
tolerant raised bed that will continue to build the soil. Now there’s many different ways to build a
hugelkultur and it really does depend on your location, what you have available to you on-site,
the slope of your landscape and the goals for your property. I turned to hugelkultur initially because
I had an abundance of organic biomass material coming off some of these larger ornamental
trees in the yard that were here before I arrived. After looking at all the options I came to
the conclusion that the best way to harvest those organic materials with the least amount
of work and the least expense was hugelkultur. Initially I tried to run all these branches
coming from these trees through a wood chipper. That ended up being a lot of work, made a
lot of noise and to me I just couldn’t justify doing this year after year. Now of course I could hire a landscape company
to come back and trim back the trees and take out the branches, but that can become very
expensive and not very sustainable in my opinion. And because I’m capable of getting the work
done myself, I’m more interested in just streamlining the operation. I also looked at the possibility of chipping
up some of the excess branches in the yard and converting that into bio-char. But nothing compared to the possibility of
actually burying this wood along with other organic biomass in the yard and turning it
into a raised garden bed. So as I had mentioned before there’s many
different ways that you can create a hugelkultur, Whether your using large logs from cut down
trees or just branches from backyard trees, wood is one of the key ingredients to making
a hugelkultur work. Now, it’s best to add older wood into your
hugelkultur that’s had a chance to decompose and break down. Usually between a year and 3 years is best. You can also throw fresh wood into a mound. But fresh wood mixed in with the soil will
initially tie-up nitrogen. It’s important to note however that the nitrogen
will then be released into the mound after a period of time when it begins to decompose. So if your looking to plant edible crops and
such in your mounds immediately your going to want to try and use older wood up front. Now, depending on the diameter of wood that
you put into your hugelkultur is going to determine how long that hugelkultur is going
to actually remain a hugelkultur. What I mean by this is by including smaller
branches in the main structure of your hugelkultur after just a few years that’s going to break
down and become mostly a mound of premium soil. Whereas if you fill the core of your hugelkultur
with larger logs it’s going to last a much longer time before breaking down into pure
soil. So again, depending on your goals with your
mound you can play around with this. So my hugelkultur mounds, and I have three
of them back here consist of smaller logs, some larger branches and also smaller branches,
leaves, woodchips, native soil, potting mix, coffee grinds, many different materials have
been used in the construction of these hugels. I also trenched down beneath these hugels
about three feet on two of the mounds, and filled that with hugelkultur material as well. So in my experience, each year the hugelkulturs
reduce in size by about two and a half feet. So basically if I wasn’t constantly adding
to these hugelkulturs rebuilding them they would quickly reduce to a smaller mound predominately
made of soil. This actually works out very well for me as
I’m able to add to these mounds each year as I do my pruning on some of the trees around
here. As I’m adding on to the hugelkultur each year
I’m using mostly smaller branches and I’m mostly lining the perimeter of each bed leaving
the center of the mound mostly composed of soil. Then I top those smaller branches with soil
throughout the winter allowing the rains to soak into the mound helping to spread that
soil into the crevasses between the sticks. Then I’ll give them a nice good covering of
woodchips creating a nice skin on the surface. When it comes time for planting I just push
back the woodchips, push back some of that top layer of soil. I may even add in some more soil in that spot. Equivalent to maybe like a five gallon pots
worth. then I’ll plant right into there. This has shown me great results! And like I had mentioned, as the mound breaks
down over time it just get’s better and better. In the first two to three years depending
on where your at you may have to add a little bit of water to the mound throughout the summer
if you have plants growing on it, which is just fine. What ends up happening is as the mound breaks
down all the different biomass that made up the hugel is now composting down and marrying
together and becoming like a sponge. Which helps add to even more water retention
capabilities in the mound. So is it drought proof? No. Is it drought tolerant? Perhaps. There’s a lot of factors to consider and a
lot of it has to do with how you construct the mound. Is it in full sun or part shade? Is it primarily made up of wood? Or is there plenty of soil mixed in? Did you build it on contour of the landscape
with a swale on the side of it? All these different factors are something
to consider that will contribute to your results. For backyard gardeners with an abundance of
biomass available on-site I find hugelkulturs to be a great way to create a natural looking
raised bed. Now I just want to thank you all for tuning
in today and as always I hope this video finds you and finds you well. Out in the world and out in your garden planting
more abundance in your life. Take care everybody I’ll be talking to you
again soon!

45 Comments

  • Reply Sandy B February 22, 2017 at 4:00 am

    Thanks, great video!  Very inspirational!

  • Reply Bradenthor February 22, 2017 at 4:03 am

    Thanks for another great video Dan! Almost every raised bed in my garden is a hugelkultur. Here in Tx, it really seems to help with retention of moisture in the soil.

  • Reply Chad Armstrong February 22, 2017 at 5:48 am

    I love the videos Dan and your simple, clear way of teaching. Could you explain a little more about why you chose hugelkulture over biochar? Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Quantina Beck-Jones February 22, 2017 at 6:40 am

    been meaning to try this

  • Reply Adventure in a Day February 22, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Nice tips. I was curious how much they sink down. We were considering adding branches into some of our new raised beds (can't afford 136 cubic feet of premium compost but can afford to throw in old rotting branches from around the property). In your opinion how well do they produce in comparison to your standard bed? I'm still trying to get a grasp on how well these things really work. We like the idea because it's cost effective but are unsure about how well they produce

  • Reply ahmet yetiş February 22, 2017 at 8:58 am

    great video. makes everything crytsal clear.

  • Reply spikedcolor February 22, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for this video/tutorial. I'm planning on dropping a small dead tree in my backyard, and now I have a use for it that doesn't include renting a wood chipper 🙂

  • Reply bondoly66 February 22, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    This is the very best video that I have seen on this subject.  I appreciate you for sharing your knowledge.  Thank you.

  • Reply dancingcedar February 22, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    good explanation of the theory and technique

  • Reply Mark & Emy Shibukawa February 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I just love your narration! 👍😀

  • Reply Anne Hartmann February 22, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Really good explanation! I like the way you garden a lot and I love that you put all this effort in your video channel. Keep up the good work!

    Greetings from germany,
    Anne

  • Reply Daniel Murray February 23, 2017 at 2:37 am

    Awesome!

  • Reply Jeanette Waverly February 25, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Great information! Thanks!

  • Reply EdibleAcres March 4, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Really nice discussion on this! Great shots showing how well it works for you!

  • Reply Watermelon Man March 11, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    great stuff man, inspiring.

  • Reply Krish Ath March 12, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    Great video. many thanks

  • Reply jkanavel March 16, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    okay, im gonna try this.

  • Reply Michele Ritchie-Harris May 7, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    This is the most practical, realistic video that I have watched about hugelkultur. You are very easy to listen to and didn't ramble on unnecessarily. Very glad I saw it before we were about to start our first one with brush trimmings and old, huge fallen logs on our property. Another clip mentioned NOT using trimmings from bushes that regrow from the branches or invasive species. May want to mention that in your next video. For example, we have pussy willows that need trimmed each spring – those do not need to get stacked on hugelkultur unless we wanted to grow a hedgerow of pussy willows (which would be a very desirable feature on many properties or along stream banks to control erosion). Thank you for posting!

  • Reply neverlostforwords November 5, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I tried this about two months ago in our spring (Australia) with a raised bed and tomatoes. My layers are: cardboard liner (unfolded box with tape/labels removed) flat on the ground, twigs and branches from our large Chinese elm tree (bottom half), good soil from the front yard near large tree (quarter), compost, leaves and some garden centre organic mix (quarter). I then planted some tomatoes, staked them, watered them and mulched with sugar cane mulch (one and a half inches). The tomatoes are growing great and have plenty of flowers with fruit just starting to form. I am definitely a huge fan of hugelkultur now. I've just started up another hugelkultur bed for strawberries, built with a similar mixture of layers. The main advantages are (1) wonderful moisture retention (reduced need to water) and (2) organic filler to save filling costs. The growing medium is always moist. It never dries out so I don't have to be anxious about forgetting to water.

  • Reply Mars Green November 13, 2017 at 12:56 am

    Why would anyone consider taking out trees….? Just figure it out w/ what you have. We've done this for years but never knew it had a name.

  • Reply ZWATER1 January 20, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    👍ty

  • Reply ItNeverHurtToThink January 21, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Wow, the mounds lowering 2 feet a year is crazy! I just built two and barely made a dent in the log pile being generated by my trees. This is great info!

  • Reply S0MAS January 31, 2018 at 4:58 am

    This guy likes to say hugelkultur, but who dosn't?

  • Reply Brandon Burrell February 22, 2018 at 6:05 am

    Bless you brother.

  • Reply T S April 7, 2018 at 12:54 am

    Great info and video
    Have you had success with partial shade?

  • Reply Andy K May 4, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    I have only heard of this type of growing recently. I am thinking of buying a piece of land, around 2.5 acres, with standing woods on about 2 of those acres, on a fairly steep hillside (about 30 to 40 degree slope). Can this method be used to create create terraced gardens on the hillside using already downed logs and logs and debris that I cut out to thin the canopy? I was thinking of starting with plants requiring less light and, as I thin the canopy in areas, to plant things requiring more light. My goal is to have a fruit, berry and herb woodland…

  • Reply AJ Zamora May 6, 2018 at 1:37 am

    Love your channel brother! I've helped a few people build their hugelkultur beds but have never seen the outcome. I'm on a piece of land now that is perfect for this. Our land hosts are not quite sure about it but are willing to experiment so I want to make sure we get it right the first time! They want to grow corn and zucchini to start but I've read that corn doesn't do well on a hugelkultur bed. What would your move be if those were the only plants they are willing to experiment with?

  • Reply ILoveTheMoodyBlues September 23, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    What a beautiful garden! Thank you. Nice summation if the process and what to use and expect 😊

  • Reply Dawn Morgan October 29, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    very informative – thanks, I'll give it a go. All the best to you from sunny Cyprus!

  • Reply Alex Emery November 6, 2018 at 3:15 am

    The question is… How many times does he say Hugelkultur?      aaaaannnnndddd GO 🙂

  • Reply Bob w December 19, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Can Manzanita and pine be used ?

  • Reply Castle of Costa Mesa January 20, 2019 at 5:58 am

    Thank you! I enjoy your video!

  • Reply Lucial Joy Rajendraprsad February 24, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you very much

  • Reply Saeed Lourens February 25, 2019 at 4:58 am

    Thank you for this video. GREAT. Greetings from Curaçao

  • Reply Cris Ram March 24, 2019 at 4:18 am

    Great video. Thank you for all the information on the topic.

  • Reply Godzilla Destroys Cities April 6, 2019 at 5:05 am

    Seems to me you can increase log rot by drilling holes into a log. We do that to rot out tree stumps. Also, dump saw dust into the bed. Why not just use all saw dust? I used to live near a wood working shop. The owner always had a hard time find ways to get rid of his saw dust. He would use it for his smoker BBQ. Just an idea.

  • Reply RodTheFarmer April 11, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Great explanation about the techniques. Hugs from Brazil, bro!

  • Reply mu99ins April 15, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    I have hugelkultur mounds in my backyard. It was the easiest way to dispose of the dead tree from my front yard. In one of my h-mounds, I constructed it purely out of branches trimmed off the shrubs in the front yard. Some of those branches were sticking out of the mound, and began to grow leaves. It might be wise not to put shrub branches in the h-mound. I cut a 9 inch piece of one of these shrub branches to display a label for a tree. That 9 inch stick grew leaves and roots. I planted it elsewhere to see if it grows. I am dealing with heavy soil with clay, and after 2 years of trying to grow in this unsuitable dirt, I decided to invest a couple of years of transforming the heavy soil into rich soil. This house I bought a while back was a rental for decades, and so I am pioneering this property from weed heaven to a fertile garden. Last October, I planted cover crops (radish, peas, sunflower, clover, and parsley). The greens from the radish plants were huge, and excellent for my compost pile and mulch for the banana plants. The clover has beautiful flowers and lots of roots. The rolly-polly bugs and snails ate most of my sunflower sprouts. I'll have to experiment on how to start sunflowers. Right now, if I see a sunflower sprout, I water it and put a glass over it to keep off the pests.

  • Reply Joe Pah April 27, 2019 at 11:32 am

    awesome video… do you have to supplment your garden with manure or any other fertilzer?

  • Reply Chris C April 27, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    That native soil looks great i wish it looked like that in florida aswell

  • Reply Bokescreek May 17, 2019 at 12:13 am

    Where are you? What climate are you in?

  • Reply John Arment June 18, 2019 at 1:41 am

    Glad to see yours w/a swale too. Awesome!

  • Reply THE SOURCE June 22, 2019 at 10:01 am

    😀👍

  • Reply Carl James July 21, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    thanks man

  • Reply Experiências Saudáveis August 10, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Que show! Grata por compartilhar conosco.

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