This garden bed method helps repurpose materials, saves time, and is more effective long-term
Forget the tamed and polished raised bed gardens you’ve seen on Pinterest, eco-gardeners—and say hello to the reclaimed and productive hügelkultur garden bed. Hügelkultur beds save you from buying new lumber, they repurpose unused logs and branches, are more productive long-term (plus, they look pretty darn neat!).
Originating in Germany, Hügelkultur (which means hill culture or hill mound) is a type of gardening where you create the base with rotting wood. When the wood breaks down inside your garden bed, it will continue to feed the soil (and your plants)—and unlike most raised bed systems, the fertility lasts beyond the first season. Overall, hügelkultur beds make growing your own food easier, even more eco-friendly and cheaper.
More benefits of the hügelkultur bed method
- It helps you to clean up your yard. Instead of picking up the debris (sticks, logs, leaves)
and tossing them, this method allows the materials to break down and be returned to the earth.
- Not releasing Co2. Whenever logs and branches are burned, they emit carbon dioxide
(Co2) into the atmosphere, which is an environmentally harmful greenhouse gas. Allowing the logs to recompose actually traps the carbon in the ground, preventing it from being released.
- Supplies nutrients to plants. As those logs decompose, they provide a natural supply of
nutrients to your plants over the years. If you use hardwoods, they could supply enough nutrients for your soil to last 20 years!
- The bed doesn’t need to be fertilized annually. The wood takes a while to break down, so it’s a slow release of nutrients rather than a quick fertilizer boost. This means less money spent on expensive topsoil and less work once the bed is established.
- It stays warmer than beds on the ground. Firstly, because it’s raised, and secondly,
because it’s working like a compost pile. It generates its own heat (as the logs break down), which warms up the soil faster in the spring and keeps it warm longer in the fall. This means extending your growing season.
- Less weeding. Due to the heavy mulching, and not digging up the garden, there will be
fewer and fewer weeds as the years go on. This means less bending over for back-breaking weeding and more time to enjoy the garden.
- Needs less water. The logs function like giant sponges that keep in moisture. Having
this moisture retention in the garden bed means watering as usual for the first year, and then barely watering in future years. If you have good rainfalls, you may never have to water! Once again, the logs will slowly release the moisture for your plants as they need it.
- Increased growing space. Because of the “mound” shape, not only can you plant on top
of the bed, but along the sides.
How to set up your hügelkultur bed
- Mark out your space. The best part is you can arrange the logs to make any shape of
garden that you’d like. Be sure to select large logs that have been decaying for 2 to 3 years.
- Fill in the gaps in the logs with wood chips, and then add lighter materials like smaller
rotting logs and branches.
- Add your nitrogen rich materials on top to compress the wood. These are materials like
sod (grass clippings) or rotting hay.
- Spread out your nutrient-dense compost on top, and lay it on thick. This is a new, no-dig bed, so you’ll want to think about your plants’ root systems and how much they’ll need. The compost will also compress, so be generous.
- Mulch the bed with leaves, rotting hay, straw, wood chips or grass clippings.
- Pull aside your mulch and get to planting. Then enjoy the ease and wonder of this tried
and true permaculture gardening method.