HUGELKULTUR.....anyone tried this?

joewormJanuary 17, 2012

If so, how did you set it up?

What did you grow?

Did it really work?

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This was discussed here several years ago and tried by some people that contibuted to this forum back then. Since i've not seen much discussion about this of late a search of the archives may yield more informaton.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 6:23AM
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I have built several scaled-down versions. Too early to judge the results.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 8:56AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

g'day joe,

been doing it for years:

check our presentation, just another adaption to gardening german word means hill culture, all breaks down flat in the end. good way of disposing of large prunings instead of shredding.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens straw bale garden

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 2:20PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

Paul Wheaton from is making a big push to increase hugelkultur awareness at the moment.
I haven't yet tried it, but plan to bury me some old stumps this winter. One of hugelkultur's big benefits is it hugely increases the bed's water-carrying capacity, and I could really use that!
Below's a link to the article. Please pass it on if you find it useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: hugelkultur article

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Looks interesting, guess I'll give it a try.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 6:48PM
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Sounds like trench composting in reverse.

Here is a link that might be useful: trench composting

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 12:32AM
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I tried hugelkultur for the first time last summer and it was very successful. I live in Nova Scotia and have thin rocky soil and also access to lots of wood, so it seemed like a good method to use to add a new bed to my garden. I started by cutting down the existing vegetation and spreading large sheets of cardboard over the area where I wanted the bed. Then I piled on wood - a mixture of brush, prunings, rotting logs, etc. Here is what it looked like as I started adding the wood. This was early in April.

Next I covered the wood with leaves and other vegetation that I had raked up in my spring clean-up and tromped on it quite a bit.

After that I added some compost and horse manure.

Then I had to cover the pile with several inches of soil, something that is not easy to come by for me. What I used was soil from the large ant hills that dot our property. They are not active this early in the spring and the large piles of soil are completely rock-free, so this worked really well. Here is the bed partially covered with this soil.

I added more logs around the edges of the pile to help hold it all in place. Here is what it looked like when it was complete.

Then I waited until the middle of June when the weather had warmed up enough to plant some squash. I put in small transplants and some cosmos as well. I planted these into small pockets of added soil so that the roots would get a good start before growing into the mass of wood.

This is what it looked like by the end of July. The only time I watered it was a few times when the plants were very small. Mind you, we did have an extremely rainy spring and early summer and I mulched around the plants with old hay.

It produced a huge quantity of squash. This last photo was taken in early October just before a frost put an end to the harvest.

I was really thrilled with the success of this method. I was quite surprised that I got such a good crop in the first year. I've already prepared 3 more hugelkultur beds and am looking forward to planting squash and potatoes into them this summer. I'd definitely recommend giving hugelkultur a try.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 12:16AM
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Lovely! Looks somewhat like my beds except mine are tiny in comparison, I don't have any flat space and create freaky terrace/raised bed hybrids. But I have been burying stumps and pieces of wood, adding any organic refuse, a little soil/compost on top, without knowing it had a name. I learned about it today in the morning and it made my day.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 7:42PM
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Nice pictorial Janet...I'm intrigued.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:52PM
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How long do you think that bed will last before the wood deteriorates to the point that it no longer holds water?
Since I started looking into this, that is my only issue with hugelkultur.
The beds will have to be rebuilt eventually with a new base of wood.......just don't know how long it will last.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 10:29PM
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This looks like a really great idea. Our property has lots if fell-wood on it that could be put to good use. Thanks for showing the pictures of how it was done.

I first saw hugekultur mentioned on of all places and it got me intrigued. I wanted to know what issues there might be with it, and so far the Internet hasn't turned up any serious drawbacks. But here are some things I came across:

Use if certain woods like black walnut will make it difficult for some plants to grow, like tomatoes.
Use of green wood in the mound will initially lower the nitrogen content until the wood begins to rot and release nitrogen.
Use fine chicken wire over the wood/under the soil to prevent voles or other garden eating pests from taking up residence in those nice spaces created by the logs in the garden.
Flat raised beds, mounds, terraced, or trench-laid wood are other ways to use hugelkultur.

Other than that, I'm looking forward to reading about anybody else's experiences with it.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:39AM
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From my experience with hugelkultur so far, it is easy to do and fun to see the results. I'd love to see more people trying it. If you have trees on your property, you probably have a brush pile that could be used in hugelkultur instead of being burned or chipped.

"How long do you think that bed will last before the wood deteriorates to the point that it no longer holds water? "

I'm hoping that the bed will continue to be productive for a long time. I assume that as the wood slowly rots, it will turn into good soil, which because of its high organic matter content will still retain water well. I'm sure the bed will gradually shrink down, but I plan to mulch it with leaves every fall and add mulch around the plants in the spring, so that will help to counteract the shrinkage. As the outer logs rot I can push them in toward the centre of the pile and add new ones on the outside. That, plus the added mulch on top may be enough to maintain its effectiveness at retaining water. I don't think that the bed would have to be rebuilt, but it would probably require some maintenance.

Depending on the nature of the soil underlying the hugelkultur bed, what you might do if you're worried about water retention is to start by digging a shallow trench and throw your wood into it. That would help to keep the wood wetter and you could also use the soil you dig out to cover it. I tried this with one of the beds that I started in the fall, but it was just too hard for me to dig out the rocks, so I had to go with building the bed on top of the ground and using anthill soil to cover it as I did with my first hugelkultur effort.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:09PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

Seems like this would be a great way to create a base for hedgerows when clearing forested land. You take out all the usable wood and use the waste to border the field and then later plant the hedgerow with whatever you want.

Too bad we don't do hedgerows in the US anymore.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 12:33AM
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I am truly interested in this method. This past year I erected 2 raised beds for my tomatoes, peppers and other veggies and did 3 mounded hills for my pumpkins, squash and cucumbers and melons. Last year my neighbor had a tree taken down after a storm cracked it and it fell into a power line. The didn't want the logs so I asked if I could have them. I have about 6 really big logs that are now aged one year. I plan on re-digging my raised mounds and connecting them to make one long raised row. They were 4x4 with 4Ft in between, this will give me another 8ft of growing area.

I am at least going to dig down and half bury the large logs and pack them in with some smaller branches and twigs from a brush pile I have growing on the back of my barn. Then I will cover that with the sod from the two 4x4 sections of lawn that I will be tearing out amd then I'll throw some of the goodies from my year old compost pile on the top. Then I'll cover all that with screened soil from a pile I have from a project last year.

If I can get enough logs and old wood, I'd also like to put some wood in the bottom of the 8 raised beds I plan on adding the to the other part of the garden. It's going to be a big project, but I took a week of work after memorial day so I can finish up and then plant.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 9:46AM
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I made ten small German Mounds this year. One foot by two, up to one foot by four. Used wood chips soaked in water with dap of blackstrap molasses for two days.

Planted some lettuce and spinach this week (zone 6), and plan to put tomatoes and peppers later.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 3:18PM
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Ok, so here is some pics I took. Only could take pics of the first half, the second half I was into the dusk/dark and didn't want to waste the daylight with taking pics. This portion took me about 2 1/2 hours.

Digging hole

Raked it smooth and shaped the sides up to a bowl like shape.

Adding the logs

Adding sticks

Adding the sod, I took the picture then added a couple wheel barrels full of 90% Completed compost.

One side finished, I stole the timbers from one of our landscaped beds in the front of the house, we are putting a brick border out there sometime this summer so I thought these would edge the bed nice and allow me to weed whack it easier.

Flat shot for showing the bed height. I estimate 2 FT above groung and 18 inches below ground.

Will be planting my squash and pumpkins and melons on the patch, it's 20 something feet by 4 Ft.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 7:31AM
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david52 Zone 6

I pile up the fairly significant amount of pruning I get from my trees, cover that with vegetable waste, grass clippings, and soak the piles with water now and a gain.

Then every few years, knock them over and take out the good stuff at the bottom.

What I'm seeing is that any nearby trees just send their rootlets up into the pile, so I'm tempted these days just to leave them alone. But I suspect that I'm also getting termites, what with finding them in the soil around the piles.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 5:55PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

My husband has been working on one. He put branches on the bottom and then dry grass clippings. Then free straw and old potting soil and more grass clippings. He will top it off with black cow we already had. Next hugel will have local cow or horse manure that is aged. Our friend had a hugel and it was awesome! She had never gardened before. I had never seen plants grow so well. I can hardly wait to get mine planted.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 7:30PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

With that much wood under dirt, would termite be problem?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 3:53AM
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Termites would LOVE those piles. However, if it's in the garden, not buried next to the buildings, that shouldn't be a problem.

These are getting used in NM and AZ as rain collectors - bury downed wood and slash in a pit and direct the runoff into the pit. Plants downhill from the pit - usually trees - get a slow trickle of moisture as the water keeps moving slowly through the soil.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 8:31AM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Are termites harmful to whatever planted on or around the hugelkultur? They only eat rotten wood or also munch on other stuff?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 1:30PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

termites will only eat dried material, so living plants will be safe.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 2:34PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Most articles online recommended a tall (3ft+) mount with steep sides. Being so tall and steep, orientation comes into play. Should this mounts be oriented north-south so both sides get half day of sun or east-west so one side gets full sun and the other mostly shade except noon sun?

Also to get to 3ft tall, it almost call for 3 logs? 2 in the bottom and 1 on top plus all the smaller branches and stuff?

On the subject of pine, what kind of harm can high content of tannins?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 2:42PM
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david52 Zone 6

There are termites and then there are other termites. They can eat/burrow through drywall, and at least some species will eat tree roots eg the Formosan Termite. Which is one reason why several species of trees have evolved with natural pesticide-toxins in their roots.

I once lived in a tropical rain forest, and if cotton clothing fell off the clothes line, if it wasn't picked up immediately, there'd be termite damage within an hour. When they swarm, they're attracted to light. I was working at a huge hydroelectric dam in the middle of nowhere, and the big spot lights on top the dam were the only thing for miles and miles of forest. When the termites would swarm, they'd be eight inches deep on top the dam. They'd shed their wings, and the next morning, driving over the dam, the truck would kick up huge clouds of wings.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 11:53AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

My friend did hers north to south. She had permie experts design it.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 8:35PM
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Didn't work for me. I had an outbreak of bugs, not termites, attracted by the logs. I had read about the "good bugs" before I started the process. I didn't realize what a magnet the wood would be.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:09PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

bugs attracted by logs that should be covered with dirt or such?

no such issue in our 6 beds.

anyhow whatever, don't need experts to design it or anything really, whether permaculture or not, all common sense.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:21PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

My friend did east to west orientation. She had permie experts do her hugel.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 7:08PM
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Hilary McDaniel

We built ours 15'x3' deep. It took about 3 months to dig out. We are on solid limestone in Central Tx. We filled the hole w/wood in various sizes. The purpose is for the trench to collect and hold water. We are in a terrible drought so this is working great. We let the wood settle before filling with hay, then soil/compost mix. The other thing we are doing is the keyhole garden. That's great at holding water as well. It's what is being taught in the arid 3rd world countries.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 10:06PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

have i got this right? you mean a trench 15foot long and 3 foot deep?

wow lot of effort, hope you enjoy the fruits of that labour at some time.

ours are working just laying the logs etc.,. on top of the ground building a side and covering with dirt.

yes zahy, east west is best orientation permaculture expert or not.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens permaculture essay

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 2:43PM
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I do raised beds w/out the hardware around the edges. What might be a lot less work for me, would be to bury the individual sticks along the hillside of my bed to help keep the dirt in place.
I agree with those who say, we are currently looking at a lot of work for little return, in some of the pix shown.. :)

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 9:55AM
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got bored and was looking through here, anyone have updates? i buried a few half rotten logs under a new raised bed i just made

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 12:17AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

our beds are doing fine, we hid a lot of timber, but going great planed all summer crops now.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 2:37PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I was wrong! Her's was east to west. We did a small one with fire wood size logs and tree branches, old oak leaves, old grass and native sand. Garden grew like crazy. Heirloom tomatoes died in July, but we had rain almost every day and I might have watered too much. The permies worked for free. She's a city girl, so she doesn't have common sense when it comes to gardening. Our hugel was about 3 feet tall. Weird to water. Always afraid of falling down when I'm on top of it and weaving in and out of the plants, but then having slight vertigo doesn't help. Flowers grew better than veggies, with the exception of cukes, pumpkins and Lady Bell peppers. The peppers produced better than any other I ever had. Can't tell if it was the variety or the hugel. The only bad part I can think of is if you plant something perennial, like I did. Now I have to work around it or move it., because fresh materials will have to be added each year. The hugel is now about 1 1/2 feet tall.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 2:48PM
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zackey- in mine what i did was remove sod, then just bury the logs, one upright which was about 8inches tall and 6 inch diam, then a couple mostly rotten in whatever direction they fell in, then i put a layer of woodchips to level it out, grass clippings to break down the chips, carboard, and then a topsoil/manure mix. i have planted peas and plan on digging them into the top few inches of the soil at the end of the season

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 7:50PM
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I was quite interested in the philosophy of this after starting raised bed gardening. So as an experiment, I built up a 3' x 3' area along a fence line that gets sun all day. I used lots of small, dry tree limbs, leaves, grass clippings, and dead weeds before I started layering it with humus, top soil, and native soil. Then, I let it sit for a few months - not planning on actually using it this year.

Well, after buying a late season cantaloupe transplant, I finally decided to put it somewhere (it got root bound in a container) and figured my Hugel hill was the best place.

Boy, was I shocked at how friable the soil was. And even more shocked at how the plant took off and grew like crazy after it'd only been in its new home one week! The pic reflects that. However, currently it's under attack from spider mites and aphids. I doubt it's salvageable at this point, in spite of my efforts to save it.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 4:53PM
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That is a primary issue that I also struggle with sometimes, these intensely organic and natural settings really harbor shelter for insects of all kinds. Only happens once in a while though, most of the time insects are not an issue. :)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 8:05AM
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under both of my beds are about 2 inches or more of wood chips, then layering. they seem to be doing fine the first season like this

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 7:05PM
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maplerbirch, the insect attack has been ongoing throughout my gardens for several weeks....due to extreme dry conditions, even though I watered almost daily and had to use organic insect controls. The cantaloupe was the last to be victimized. I have no qualms about using this area again for next year's plantings.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 7:52PM
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I lost cucumbers one year and for some reason they were overwhelming on just the few plants I had. Maybe it had nothing to do with the debris in this particular section of the garden. The asparagus and the Roses are both in that area and they were fine, but I associated the beetles with the habitat.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 10:03AM
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Has worked well for us though I did use soaker hose during our summer drought. Wood wasn't new, but rather fallen storm debris & rather than hauling out of the garden put it in the pallet bed (raised bed 1st as compost pile, then as potato bed with layers of straw to cover, then partially composted manure, then the woody debris topped with compost again, then squash, then potatoes again by happen chance last empty bed available to plant when time to do so & easy to add straw for layering without it blowing away.

Will be most interesting when we move the garden this fall through spring after logging more trees from the forest. Long story about moving the garden. So much of that soil was made by layers of organic matter. Eager to see the pallet bed bottom and what it looks like under there 2 years later.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 10:09PM
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I made a 40' long hugel this year about 4 1/2 feet tall. I dragged a bunch of rotten oak and hickory logs out of my forest, piled on brush and leaves then dirt, rabbit poop and bedding. Everything is doing really good except the deer got to my bush beans big time. I am letting the garden go sort of wild with minimal weeding as It seems to be distracting pests from my main plants. I put a water hose with a bunch of soaker hoses off of that to allow for a long water time and everything so far is doing good. The tomatoes seem to be pest free and other than the deer everything is good. I think I need to do some sort of netting to deter the deer or a fence would help.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 8:50PM
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I am starting now my first raised bed as HugelKultur. Old rotten wood on the bottom. I have a few questions.

This is the first time I am building a Raised Bed. 18 inches deep with a wooden base. It's 4 inches off the ground and air is circulating it. Trying to avoid roots of two trees on each side. Other dimensions are 7 feet and 3 feet.
I liked the Idea of Hugel Bed gardening. (Reasons Explained Below.)
To minimize the nitrogen draw down I know I need to add supplemental material. I don't know what to add.
Let me Tell you what I have access to.
Can you please be nice enough to tell me what to use in what order.
I have access to
1 year composted mixed vegetarian animal manure.
Composted mulch. city provided free.
Hay with no seeds in in.
70% Top Soil 30% Manure Compost mix
Why did I decide to go with Hugelkultur?
I live in southern California we have drought and published articles on Hugelkultur claimed that the wood or log that forms the base help to retain water during wet months; then release water during dry months.

Here is a link that might be useful: Strart of a HugelKulture Raised Bed

    Bookmark   November 8, 2014 at 12:09PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I just know how we did it. wood and twigs on the bottom. soil, then, grass, then manure, then more soil and then grass mulch after planting. I would google suggest you google Hugelkultur for ideas. I just harvested 1 and 1/2 five gallon buckets of sweet potatoes off of our hugel this week.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2014 at 3:21PM
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