Anatomy of Hugelkultur image via

By definition, Hugelkulture means ‘hill mound’, which is an accurate way to describe the enormous, highly productive raised beds that this system produces. Hugelkultur beds aren’t like any other gardening system you’ve ever heard of. Not only do the beds build up their moisture and fertility content over time, they provide an ideal growing space for annual and perennial garden plants.

Best of all? The building technique couldn’t be more straightforward. Rather than dumping all your yard debris into curbside bins for your city disposal service to take care, instead utilize it all right at home to build up your own self-fertilizing garden beds. Simply build a hugel bed by stacking excess logs, tree branches, dead leaves and grass underneath any biomass you can pull from your house, like newspapers and food scraps. Once you have collected as much material as you desire, layer the pile with topsoil and plant your seedlings. It’s that easy!

There are many reasons why hugel beds are superior to other forms of gardening.

Hugelcultur bed
Hugelcultur bed

First, the set up of the system causes the starchy woods to break down slowly, releasing nutrients to your plants over the course of 20 years. Even better, heat produced from the composting wood keeps the soil temperature warmer and will allow you to keep your plants alive farther into the cold season.

image courtesy of
image courtesy of

Second, the soil will become full of oxygen because of the gaps left from the decomposing wood, preventing compaction that requires tilling.

Finally, the logs and branches in the soil soak up every drop of rainwater that falls into the bed, storing it until it’s needed during a drought period. This means that you will only need to water your hugel bed minimally (if at all!) after it’s been established.

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