Patrick’s Work in Progress…
When I became part of the North Street Collective, I knewthat building a Hugelkultur vegetable bed was something I wanted to do right away.
After I first read about Hugelkultur, I was immediately inspired and enamored. Hugelkultur is a style of raised growing bed that retains water so it requires less irrigation and provides itself with nutrients over the course of several years. The water retention and nutrients are a result of the use of large pieces of fresh timber in the core of the growing bed. The sustainable principles embodied in a Hugelkultur bed as well as the aesthetic beauty of it fascinated me. I had never seen one in person, so it was an adventure right from the beginning.
My friend and co-worker Noel offered to help me build the Hugelkultur and to let me help him cut down some small trees that he was planning to use for his green building classes. We set aside the stumps and larger rounds of wood and used them as the core of the structure. We began by deciding on the orientation of our Hugelkultur. After discussing different options, we decided on a North-East/South-West orientation, which we thought would receive the best sunlight exposure on all sides of the bed.
We started by digging a meandering trench about 6 inches to 1 foot deep and about 25 feet long, and set aside the sod that we dug out. Next we laid the large pieces of wood into the trench, being sure to fill the voids between the large wood pieces with smaller pieces of wood and soil.
We continued to pile on progressively smaller pieces of wood, and continued filling the voids. Another project that we began around the same time was digging a hole for a pond. The material we dug out of the pond provided much of the material that was piled on top of the wood. We had one fantastic day with lots of people helping to dig the pond, and we all had fun throwing the worms that we found onto the Hugelkultur, picturing them beginning their task of breaking down the wood inside our new Hugelkultur and releasing the nutrients. I then added several alternating layers of mature manure and compost, and mixed it in with the deeper layers as best I could. Finally, I added a layer of straw, and then I began planting. We planted alternating sections of corn and potatoes. There are 2 varieties of corn, and 5 varieties of potatoes altogether.
We can’t wait to see the Hugelkultur bloom!