Building Giant Hugel Beds

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Starting the hugel bed

One of the projects I am the most excited about is my giant hugelkulturs. This is also one of the projects that will take the longest to complete, if it is ever complete. I want to build a hugelkultur bed all the way around my lot. Almost like a fence, but full of life instead. It will be both beautiful and hugely beneficial to the plants, animals, bugs, and, of course, my family. It will take season after season of collecting and stacking rotten logs, branches, leaves, compost manure, and whatever else I can find to build up the beds. It will take year after year of buying plants, planting seeds, propagation, seedlings, saplings, and any other method you can think of to bring the beds to life. It will provide food and shelter for all the critters living here and it will provide food and shade for me and my family.

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prime hugel wood, covered in fungus

In case you don’t know what a hugelkultur is, it is a thoughtfully stacked compost pile that you grow your perennial garden, bushes, fruit trees, or anything else, directly in. You start with stacking big rotting logs and then add on smaller and smaller pieces until you finally bury the whole bed in leaves and hay. As the bed rots more and more each year, the soil in the bed gets richer and richer. (I will include some links at the bottom for more information.)

gianthugel3I think these beds would be an amazing addition to my homestead. I set the beds up once, fill them with perennials including a whole orchard, and have years of food with minimal additional work. You may need to prune a little and eventually you will need to add more rotting materials, but you won’t have to rebuild your beds every year. Almost like being lazy and still getting fed.

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Bigger and bigger the hugel grows

I started on the North East (very rough directions) corner of the lot, next to where the driveway meets the road. I had started a bed here last year, but it didn’t really have what it needed to thrive. I had stacked a bunch rotting logs that were laying around and that was all I had gotten to. Since it is fall, and I have leaves everywhere, it is the perfect time to get this bed in shape. I picked up some smaller branches and things and started filling in the cracks between the logs. I added leaves here and there along the way. If I can get the cracks filled in then it will help to retain the moisture and encourage rotting. I piled the bed high and buried it in leaves. I had an old rug nearby that I was to cover the pile with after a good rain, to further retain water. After I got this bed all tucked in, I realized how much more materials I had laying around. Tons of rotting logs of all sizes. Tons of branches everywhere. Tons of leaves blowing down from the trees.

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and all tucked in to rot

I had to make the bed a little bigger. Can’t let all that good stuff go to waste. So it got bigger and bigger until I was forced to stop building because I came up next to where the runoff drains through on one side, and the road on the other. I will likely have to put a covert through here because the runoff causes flooding in our “driveway”. The hugel bed would run along side the driveway here so I have to get that in place before I can continue on. I also need to get a solid idea where the property lines are before I can continue much.

I will continue to build the giant hugel bed at various spots along the property line and eventually they should all come together. I will plant cover crops, herbs, bushes, and trees as the beds mature and can provide what all the plants need. It should be a wonderful ecosystem all it’s own in just a few years.

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