What is a HugelKultur? 2019

HugelKultur Garden

What is a HugelKultur?

Have extra twigs, dead trees, leaves and other compost AND you want an incredibly efficient and self-sustaining way to garden? You should try a centuries old method of creating HugelKultur. Very simply put, you build a long shallow trench, add some logs, top with twigs, leaves and other compost, then cover with soil.  You plant right on top of the HugelKultur and you have a long-lasting, self fertilizing, self aerating, self watering raised garden bed.

The process of using HugelKultur has been used in Germany and Central Europe for centuries, and is based on a very simple premise that you are emulating the natural way that plant life decays on the forest floor and re-enters the eco system, but with a little engineering added by man.


HugelKultur are becoming increasingly popular in urban environments where gardening can be difficult, and are incredibly useful if you have a cabin and want to make the most out of the resources around you without having to tend to your garden every day.  Moreover, it doesn’t have to specifically be used for traditional gardening such as vegetables or flowering plants, it can be used for mushrooms, wildlife feeding, or just for improving the quality of the land that you own.

Advantages for having a HugelKultur on a rustic property:

  • It creates a very fertile growing area
  • The size and shape can be used to improve and modify drainage
  • Provides a practical use for excess twigs and fallen trees
  • Keeps moisture from leaving around the HugelKultur
  • Creates a garden that requires no harmful external fertilization


Making a Basic HugelKultur

You don’t have to be a gardening expert to make your first HugelKultur, you just need to know the basics.  Here are some tips on making your first one:

  • Find a location that will get the sun that is needed for what you plan on planting.  The HugelKultur doesn’t change the sunshine needs for whatever you plant.
  • Your trench should be about 1 foot deep, but there is no exact perfect depth. Consider the size of logs that you will be putting in the trench and just try to make the logs get back to ground level after you lay them in there.  A starter HugelKultur is around 1 food deep by 3 foot wide, by 6 feet long, but there is no rule on this.  You can make it as long as you want, and the width is flexible as well.
  • Fill the trench with logs. You can have these cut up or lay them down length wise. Avoid cedar or walnut trees.
  • Add some branches above this layer, and top with smaller twigs, leaves, and other compostable materials. Water as you go. Cover this with dirt (you can use the dirt from the trench you just dug). The goal height is about 3 feet, but if you generally keep the height and width close to equal, you have lots of flexibility.
  • If you can plant them in fall in a cooler environment, the HugelKultur can do its thing, and by Spring your mound will be ready for seeds or transplanting right on the mound.


Rustic Living uses for HugelKultur

HugelKultur’s are most often used for traditional gardening, as they are very practical and popular with people concerned about eco-friendly sustainability. However, they are wonderful if you have a lot of property.  In fact, they might be the perfect answer to many rustic property owners. Consider:

  • Can be used as a method to improve land quality by utilizing resources you already own and often find problematic (fallen trees and twigs). You can build long HugelKultur’s throughout your land that can mature over time, creating fertile land for the future.
  • Excellent tool for self-sustaining wildlife food sources. After you build your HugelKultur where you want to feed deer or other wildlife you can seed and forget it for the season. The mound will do the rest of the work. Also, by creating a long feeding source, you keep deer from feeding too close to each other, helping to prevent disease that can be spread by overly focused feeding methods.
  • Great for wildflower areas. Build your HugelKultur in the fall, seed with wildflower mix, black eyed susans, etc., and enjoy all throughout the next year.
  • With a little extra study on growing mushrooms, can be used to grow wild mushrooms. (one of ours sprouts a generous portion of Morels every year)

HugelKultur Video


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