|Hügelkultur - Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, Texas|
I belong to a homesteading group and on that group I was sharing that due to my very steep slope at The Shack, the raised bed I had been planning for berries was not going to work out quite like I had envisioned. I asked for advice.
One person mentioned Hugelkultur. I had never heard of it. So I "Google'd" and "youtubed" that term for days. This is the summary of what I've learned so far:
- Hugelkultur is German for "mound culture" or "hill mound"
- A garden mound (biomass) is created using a pile of wood covered by soil
- The resulting biomass retains warmth and water
- The slowly decaying wood creates a richer soil via all of the processes that happen during composting
|insert from photo above|
Oh man, oh man... Hugelkultur, or using some of the aspects of it, might be just the thing for my rocky, compacted, DRY, ridge-top future homestead.
The Land at The Shack
Half of my land is open "yard" and half is wooded area. My land was previously an apple orchard. So I know that it can grow fruit trees. The wooded section seems to have far better "soil" than the yard section. But there's not even really rich soil in the woods.
There are MANY things that make my land an unlikely choice for gardening. The lack of an onsite water source, the extremely rocky/gravel terrain, steep slope, and the herds of deer that immediately try to eat every plant I put out are just a few of the things stacked against me at growing any of my own food.
Sufficient water is one of my main concerns. While camping at The Shack, I sit on my deck and look across the valley, watching it rain below. But it seems that little of the rain falls on my yard. For that reason alone, Hugelkultur was a very exciting idea.
|Rain clouds moving across the valley|
It will be years until I live up there full-time, and I intend to retire up there and happily putter around my yard and gardens rather than raise huge amounts of food. So I've got some time to start several small gardens, try a variety of plants and ways to plant them.
The Berry Patch
Using a combination of Hugelkulture and Back-to-Eden gardening, I started a berry patch during my last visit to The Shack. Later, I will write a separate post about the berries and the berry patch; how it came to be and how it's growing. Right now I will share that I used "green" wood (sticks and chunks of green firewood) that I had gathered around the yard. I filled the hole first with cardboard (from Back-to-Eden gardening). I covered the cardboard with the sticks and firewood chunks (Hugelkultur) and made a mound. Then I covered the wood with hardwood mulch (Back-to-Eden gardening).
My little berry patch is not as raised as other Hugelkultur beds are. Frankly, I started in a hole... filling a low spot in the yard. But I am optimistic about the decaying wood that is going to be composting and retaining moisture in my horribly rocky and dry "soil". I have seen some videos in which people claim that Hugelkultur was not helpful. But I noted that it seemed those folks used a combination of what looked like dried/old barn timbers and very poor soil. I made sure to start with very green wood from recently fallen trees.
The photo below is my little Hugelkultur-esque berry bed in process. I know, it looks a mess but it is at that point in the process that you can see the layers.
|black berry patch at The Shack in process|
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Photo Attribution: Hugelkultur - Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, Texas - public domain CC.0