With space at a premium on a 1/3 of an acre lot, and the challenges of trying to blend productive garden area and aesthetics, Hugelkultur beds made a lot of sense for our backyard. This is a look back at the first year with our Hugelkultur Beds.
First off these aren’t traditional Hugelkultur Beds, they lack the distinctive high mounds that are found in traditional Hugelkultur. These are more of a hybrid raised bed/hugelkultur attempt. The initial building off these beds can be found in a earlier post Raised Beds with a Twist.
- These beds needed an enormous amount of water compared to our more traditional raised beds in the other garden. I’m attributing this to the wood taking up volume in the bed, and it not being a state where it can yet absorb an appreciable amount of water.
- Staking taller plants took an increased amount of effort as the wood was difficult to get through.
- Summer Squash plants did very poor in these beds. I’m not ready to chalk this up to the beds as we had a real Squash Bug problem this year, but it is something I’ll have to keep an eye on. On the flip side of this Tomatoes went bonkers in this set-up. Again I figure it needs another year or so before I can chalk either of these up to the beds themselves, but the yields were noticeable enough to mention.
- Except for Squash Bugs, insects were not an issue. Burying that much wood had me worried as some of it was pretty nasty, and home to all sorts of critters, but the gardens remained relatively bug free.
- I went to great lengths to add Nitrogen to the soil. Bone Meal was carefully raked in several times over the season and the beds were put to rest with more Bone Meal and a good mulching. I’ve read that until hugelkultur is established the wood can act as a Nitrogen sink, so in the interest of healthy plants I kept the Nitrogen levels high.
We are going to consider these beds as a success so far. We will continue to watch the water needed, and the requirement for additional Nitrogen. We are hoping that these beds will mature inside of 2 more seasons, and we will be able to reap the main Hugelkutur benefits of decreased water and fertilizer needs. That pretty much sums up the first year with our Hugelkultur beds.
Sepp Holzer is one of the leading advocates of Hugelkultur and other Permaculture principles. Check out his book on Amazon.
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