Always fun to try something new in the garden.
Especially with a friend who is strong and keen and knows more than you do! I don’t usually have company when I garden, but I can highly recommend it. Recently, I have become intrigued with Mounds – Hugelkultur – so decided to give it a bash.
The best thing about this method of creating a bed is that it uses up so many things that are lying around (often annoyingly) in the garden – lawn clippings, old logs, dried leaves, pruned branches, over abundance of comfrey and stops one being tempted to take all this biomass to the dump.
Hugelkultur are raised beds that hold moisture, build fertility and maximise surface area. The word is German and means means hill or mound. It is built with layers of logs, branches, leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available.
The gradual decay of wood is a source of long-term nutrients for the plants and acts as a sponge storing water to be released when it is drier. The composting wood generates heat which helps plants during the colder months and soil aeration increases as those branches and logs break down. The most important aspect of all is that the mounds sequester carbon into the soil. I think building soil is the most important thing we can do on the planet – certainly better than planting random and inappropriate trees.
We made our heap on existing veggie garden, so there was no need to lift the turf. First we dug a trench about 30cm deep.
Then we filled it with a selection of logs from different invasive trees (soft and hard wood) we had removed a while ago. Because they had been piled up for ages, they were colonised with mycelium, so the decomposition was already starting – perfect!
Apparently, if you have removed turf to create the trench, you should add it back on top of the logs, upside down. We had no turf.
We continued our layers – next adding lots of branches and twigs. Then cutting comfrey leaves and adding them.
It was quite exciting finding that we had all these lovely ingredients lurking nearby. Next we put in a layer of old grass clippings.
We tipped out one entire worm bin onto the heap. So many worms! So many sprouting pumpkins! Lots and lots of egg shells! All too good!
Then dried leaves that we raked up nearby. It was certainly getting taller!
Next came compost. Wandering Jew piled in the hot driveway, had decomposed into absolutely lovely compost – who would have guessed?
We topped it with the soil from the trench,
planted seedlings (heavy feeders like cabbage), then covered with a layer of mulch. During the first year of break down the wood (and fungi) uses a lot nitrogen, so we planted plenty of nitrogen fixing peas and beans.
Actually, we emptied all those half packets of seeds that sit about losing their vitality. Whatever comes up will be a lovely surprise.
Over the next couple of weeks, I watered the mound every day. Hadedas love walking on it, eating seeds and pulling up worms.
After three weeks, we were harvesting leaves. Yum!
So naturally, I am planning another mound. While I haven’t observed all the alleged benefits yet, it was so much fun and looks so pretty, that it is definitely worth repeating.
Thank you Xola for the inspiration, energy and let’s do it attitude.