HugelKultur! Hugelculture! Everyone is talking about hugelkultur. Well, some people anyway. What the heck is it? It’s an old way of having a garden that you never, I repeat, never, have to water. This is great for drought-prone areas. Impossible? Not if you do it right.
The basic idea is to use a fallen tree and cover it with soil. Then you plant in the soil. As the tree rots away it provides natural fertilizer and plenty of moisture for the plants growing above it. No trees have fallen in your yard lately? You can gather fallen branches and logs wherever and whenever possible and layer those with soil. These mounds can be made in rows or however you like.
This method seems to have come from Germany and can make for tall mounds of dirt wherever you have a hugelkultur garden. You can keep adding more wood and soil layers. Some mounds get to be 6-7 feet tall. That doesn’t fit into everyone’s landscaping plans, but you can adapt it.
A less dramatic hugelkultur garden could be 2 feet high. Then you can add an extra foot per year if you like. The mound will be sinking a bit every year anyway as the wood decomposes. This method also sneaks past restrictive home owners’ associations. It’s just a raised garden bed that’s not too high. Perhaps if you add just a foot per year it won’t be noticed if it starts getting higher gradually. Or you can dig a pit for all of the wood layered with soil. That takes more work of course, but it’s less unusual looking.
This method is great if you have a source of small scrub trees and/or logs. Or if you have a tree that fell in your yard! Layering the wood with the soil takes some hard work. However, after the basic garden bed is built, it should be pretty much care free for many years. You don’t have to water or fertilize at all, though I suspect you’ll need to weed it. Since the garden is raised, it’s somewhat easier on your back to pull weeds, plant vegetables, and harvest veggies. I’m assuming you have to water plants the first year until the wood starts to break down.
Click here for a great tutorial for building your own mound garden and answers to questions about hugelkultur at RichSoil. There are pictures there of tomatoes growing without watering that might make a believer out of you. Of course, you can find more information about hugelcultur via an internet search.