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Most of you know California is going through a pretty serious drought. We've only had a few days of rain since November (it's storming right now but I doubt a few days of rain are going to fill the very empty lakes and reservoirs in the Sierras). Many farmers are not going to be getting enough water for their fields...which means less fields will be planted...which turns into higher costs for the veggies that come from this area because there will be less available. We've been encouraged for quite some time to be careful with our usage...there are lots of dead lawns and the school I'm at has stopped watering the huge grass area for sports ( its completely brown).

I want to expand my garden but know how much water it takes to keep it going here. In normal weather times it stops raining around May/June and doesn't start back up until Sept/Oct. The weathers been so off lately who knows what will happen. :(

Our soil is very hard clay here so I've never bothered to try and dig...I garden on top. Raised beds and containers. The problem with containers is during the hottest months you sometimes have to water twice a day to keep things alive. Raised beds are good...but require the initial startup of buying the wood, etc.

I've been doing some research on hugulkultur which I heard about on the survival summit. It seems to be a simple, no or low cost way to build a bed and reduce water usage. I've started a small one in my backyard. It'll be interesting to see how this works. (I didn't dig a trench as it says in the directions. I just started a big pile)

IMG_20140205_105527.jpg

 

What is Hugulkultur?

Hugulkultur is a German word translated as Hill Culture.

Turns out hugulkultur is a permacultural way of making raised beds using rotting wood, twigs, branches, hedge clippings, brassica stems, felled or discarded trees or any kind of wood that would otherwise have been burned or shredded.

 

How to make a Hugulkultur raised bed

 

The concept is brilliant yet so simple. You dig a trench about 30 centimetres deep and 1.5 metres wide. In the centre you dig another hole about 30 centimetres deep. You pile in all the woody bits and cover it with turf turned face down and then place well rotted compost, leaves, manure and the like over it.

 

The wood provides water retention, so less watering. Depending on how large the wood is that you are using the decaying process can take a few years. The raised beds are full of organic matter, nutrients and air pockets for roots to establish. As the composting process is still active it can be that the raised bed stays warm for a long time which will even extends the growing season. These raised beds are perfect for hungry crops such as courgettes and pumpkins.

 

It is a great way to use clippings, branches and twigs which would have taken a long time to compost or ended up in a shredder. This way uses up less energy and creates a perfect environment for your veg and for the creatures that live in the soil.

 

Not all kinds of wood are suitable. Go to richsoil.com to read more about Hugulkultur and which woods to use and ones to avoid. Or this article on inspirationgreen.com with great photos of all kinds of raised beds using the hugulkultur method.

Edited by dogmom4
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I was interested when I heard about it but the work involved for a decent sized garden is too much for me. I would also have to have someone dig out the soil, then haul the wood and cover it up. Too old for that much work. I am concerned about the wood pulling the nitrogen from the soil until it rots. If I started out with fresh cut trees it could take a few years before the wood returns the nitrogen back to the soil.

 

If you do this please post pictures so we can follow along.

 

 

 

:wormie2:

John

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I dont do digging here at all. Soil is too hard. I put it on top of an old raised bed I haven't been using so there's already some loosening of the soil around it. I started out with dried wood from a dead tree. And I'm doing a little at a time...I throw yard waste on top when I get it. I won't be planting it until probably March/April...depends on how warm the soil gets. The plan is to try tomato and squash...they row deep roots and do better with less watering.

I'll post pics. Right now the pile is about 4 feet tall. I'm sure it will shrink with the rain we're getting. I plan to keep adding...I have an area of ivy I'm taking out and I'll top it off with some compost that should be ready in March.

 

Have you heard of Ruth Stout? She gardened with no digging at all.

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/mulching-ruth-stout-style

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I was interested when I heard about it but the work involved for a decent sized garden is too much for me. I would also have to have someone dig out the soil, then haul the wood and cover it up. Too old for that much work. I am concerned about the wood pulling the nitrogen from the soil until it rots. If I started out with fresh cut trees it could take a few years before the wood returns the nitrogen back to the soil.

 

If you do this please post pictures so we can follow along.

 

 

 

:wormie2:

John

 

 

Wormie, you only have to worry about nitrogen depletion for a year or so. So, if you want to fertilize the first two years, you can. Or, an easier solution is to plant a nitrogen fixer cover crop, and then chop & drop. (Leave the root nodules in the ground)

 

I've experimented a bit this year. I had to repot my raspberries, so in half of the pots I put about 12" of wood in the bottom (3' tall pots) and in half I didn't. I'm curious to see how it turns out!

 

Dogmom, we have heavy clay here as well. I've slowly (9 years) transformed most of my planting beds into really rich soil. I started out by treating every hole I dug to plant something in as a "planter". I would fill the hole back up with compost and planting mix and then plant my seedling in that. I'd throw the leftover clay onto the compost pile. Slowly but surely, my soil is really coming along! You can also compost directly into the clay, especially now that the ground is wet and soft. Dig holes here and there, throw your compost directly into the hole and cover it up and forget it! If you use this method, it's probably best to make sure your compostables are chopped up fairly small. Every so often, I'll uncover the remnants of a banana peel that I didn't chop up! It's no big deal. :)

Edited by Andrea
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Back To Eden Gardening...very similar. Katzcradul uses BTEG, Wranglerstar uses BTEG also...he lives in Oregon I believe. BTEG uses only mulch as a base also. We'll probably put in some mulch around our raised beds when we get settled at Little House, just to keep the grass off since we'll be planting in the FRONT yard! LOL Decided we'd grow instead of mow :-) Checked with city official about planting in front yard etc, and his response was "sure! I love gardens!" Hope this works as good for you as she tells you it will, and be sure to keep us posted. We can all benefit from various gardening techniques that are successful.

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  • 1 month later...

Here's a shot of the garden bed now. I did add one bag of manure from Ace Hardware ( on sale for 88¢) as well compost from my own yard. These are the plants (tomatoes, a cucumber and June bearing strawberries on one side...watermelon seeds on top). I gave them a thorough soaking a week ago when planted...checked the bed 2 days later (still damp)....4 days later it was dry at the top so I watered where the seeds were but only at the base of the pile for the transplants because I want the roots to grow deep. We got rain today so I have to water again for a while. The plants are looking really healthy and have already shown growth after one week.IMG_20140326_093941.jpg

Edited by dogmom4
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:) Greeeeeen stuff! Being still monochromatic here....I love seeing GREEN. Can almost smell the tomato plants.

 

Do you think the composting action is keeping the pile warm? That might help those of us in colder temps to extend the season a bit.

 

MtRider :lois: Grey, windy, ominous-looking on my mountain today. :unsure:

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Wow! Awesome!

 

:sigh:

 

 

I took that idea, when I did our spring yard work and filled in the area where an antique palo verde had fallen over and died. Plus, I converted that idea for my mulch bin.

 

 

2 months later, my tomatoes..... 29 plants sprouted.... but they are still tiny seedlings ~ January and February planting. I've been transplanting .....maybe I should put my tomatoes in there. :scratchhead:
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