chas045(7b)June 16, 2013

I had never even heard of hugelkultur until today. Has anyone here had any experience with this type of raised bed gardening? It seems like it might be a natural, practical method here where many already recommend raised beds or layered gardening methods.

The method is to make a long tall pile of large and small logs and probably brush too; and then cover it with perhaps sod if you had to remove some, and then soil. This mound is supposed to be really high and mounded; like as much as six feet high, and perhaps five to 8 feet wide. The theory is that the mound will slowly decompose and collapse from the inside. It would have significant ever changing crevices for oxygen and water retention. Supposedly, watering is not required after establishment.

Except for the extensive soil moving required, it sounds like a great idea to me. I happen to have a lot of pine logs around slowly rotting away anyway. Well duh, I'm in central NC. Has anyone tried this method? With pine logs? Whataya think?

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I think it would work very well, but I hope you love snakes.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:40PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

I've never tried it but I think I read somewhere that pine doesn't do as well as hardwoods like oak and hickory.

I know that pine rots faster but it contains tannins which isn't too good.

I looked it up on Google to confirm.

Check this link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: hugelkultur

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 12:44PM
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nerissar(Zone 7 NC)

My husband and I are starting a couple of these beds. It's a lot of work because we don't have a tractor or other vehicles to move the wood. I have high hopes for these beds. Hope to use them for potatoes, onions, garlic, and squash. I will let you all know and take some pics to post of progress to date.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 1:42PM
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The few times I've seen it done it was mostly because the gardener had a surplus of logs and tree roots to get rid of and it was easier to just bury them than haul them away. I think that because of the mass involved, it can take a while to completely break down the logs - so think of it as slow going compost pile. The rotting logs act like sponges and soak up a lot of water which is why you don't have to water. But, if we have a severe drought, all bets are off. In the end I don't know if this technique is better than any other technique, it's just another way to get plant material broken down into compost.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 3:11PM
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lorabell NC(8)

I did a small variation of this by adding woods old branches ..not the bottoms of my raised beds then layer the compose materials and finally about 4 inches of rich soil. I do this as a way to increase the soil temp in the cold months as the decomposing wood will put off a good amount of heat. I just picked some cilantro yesterday from an area that I don't even have covered this winter. And it's been a cold one for sure...had 8 degrees a few weeks back.
This year was my trial year, next year I plan on running with it for all my Fall veggie gardens and do some trials on some tender perennial flowers. Sounds easier then bringing everything inside...if it works, and doesn't give snakes a home.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 4:53PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

I'd be more concerned attracting termites and carpenter ants with all that covered rotting wood material.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 6:11PM
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lorabell NC(8)

I've several pet chickens that take care of my unwanted bugs and worms...snakes on the other hand. Not my favorite.

Gardening in zone 3a made us think outside the box in increasing the growing season, just didn't know it had a fancy name and was part of the permaculture movement....

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 8:08AM
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hamchuk(z6b NC mtns)

We have been using hugelkultur beds for years, though we don't make them 8 ft tall or anything. It turns out to be a VERY cheap way to create raised beds. We haven't had issues with termites, ants, tannins, or snakes. The biggest issue is that it's a variation on lasagna gardening, and you can actually find that the bed will start composting so warmly that you'll burn the roots of your plants! That happened when we had beds in the Piedmont region of GA. So now I prefer to let the beds cook down a bit first. It helps to throw in some clay to the mix, to ensure high water holding capacity. Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 7:01PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Wondering how you keep the growing soil layer from falling through the bottom layers of heavy branches?
Are these beds 'steppable' or do you risk punching through to the bottom?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 1:27PM
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I'm not sure Dottie, since I haven't tried it yet; and I started the thread; but my impression was that the width of these beds would be like other raised beds where you wouldn't step on them anyway. Secondly, there should initially be enough soil to prevent initial gaps and Then the pile would begin to collapse, maintaining an ever deepening soil level.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 1:26PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

After my earlier post I had a du-hu moment on hugelkultur!

I have done it before, with out knowing it!

From my post on vegetable gardening:

In 1981 I bought a 50 acre piece of land that was mostly pine in the area that I was planning to build the house on.

I had the pine harvested for pulpwood and hired a bulldozer to level and clean up the area. He just piled up the stumps and scrub trees along with the dirt in a low spot. It was about a 20' high and 30' wide mound.

After I moved in to the house about 8 months later, I was out at the pile in spring and I could feel the heat coming from the pile. Not really hot, but warmer than the surrounding area.

I had plenty of Martin gourd and pumpkin seeds that I had saved, so I just went around the mound sticking them in the dirt. They came up fast and grew like crazy.

Then after the weather had warmed more and I had my regular garden in. I put my extra tomato and pepper plants on top of the mound and stuck in a few bean, squash, eggplant, and seeds of other things randomly around the pile.

I didn't water, fertilize, or take much care of the plants. Everything on the mound did much better than my garden that I carefully tended. But due to the bulldozer work my garden didn't have much topsoil.

I had truckloads of Martin gourds and pumpkins. Too many tomatoes and peppers. I gave them to friends, family, and food banks.

Then I got a divorce and had to sell, so I don't know how it would have done the second year.

I have bunches of fallen, rotting, large tree branches, and several whole trees, mostly oak, sweet-gum, and hickory that I have to clean up when the weather warms.

I think I'll dig a hole with my backhoe, bury them and cover and see if it works!

Link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hugel

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 3:09PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

wertach, what you are describing was a pretty common practice up until the 1990's here. Perhaps it is still done on large acreage outside town lines.
Stumpholes are verboten now, all trees and stumps cleared from building lots must be carted away or ground up and spread outside the building envelope.
And, that's a good thing because unknown stumpholes eventually collapse. I didn't have one on my land but the properties to either side of me did.
One had to be totally excavated of stumps and wood before an inground pool was installed.
The other, I told the 2nd buyer the lot had a stumphole.
Nothing done and three years later his 4 year old son fell through it. Builder out of business, nobody to sue for its removal costs. Fortunately,the child was not badly injured in
the fall.
Before you go digging a hole to bury these hardwoods think about subsequent buyers of your home/land. At the very least, have a surveyor measure the area of hidden risk
and record it on your survey.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 11:32AM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

Thanks for the advice Dottie.

But it will be no problem, Mine will not be that deep max of 2' in a well established garden area.

No more of a hazard than someone tripping on their own shoestrings.

"At the very least, have a surveyor measure the area of hidden risk and record it on your survey."

You've got to be kidding......... This isn't a subdivision or a postage stamp lot, it is 10 acres of farmland!

I guess I need to pay someone to record where the snakes are, the other unknown hazards that came before my time, and where the trees might die and fall on someone or rot and leave a stump hole?

Plus, I am here until I die.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:25PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

wertach, It's 2014 and not an entirely preposterous suggestion that you have some written record of where the darn stumphole is on that 10 acres. Even if you stride it out and put a notation on your survey yourself.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 12:42PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

I didn't mean to be an A-h***. You just came across as a person that would sue at the drop of a hat.

"Nothing done and three years later his 4 year old son fell through it. Builder out of business, nobody to sue for its removal costs."

Unless I die in two or three years It will be rotted and gone before I go. Yes it's 2014, and if it was a subdivision or a lot that would make sense, however, it's not.

Farmland is a different animal............... Farmland has many hazards. It hasn't been cleared of stumps, leveled, ETC. It has wild animals that bite and carry diseases. Deer that will run over you and gore you!

Sure I can make a note, instead of paying $1,000 to have a surveyor do it. Do you think that anyone would pull out the record and look at it? NOT!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 7:24PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

wertach, I was the next door neighbor who told the homebuyer there was a stumphole to beware of. Nobody else knew besides me, especially not the agent, because I saw the hole being created and the stumps and trunks dumped in there and covered with dirt.

I've never had occasion to bring suit against anyone.
I'm giggling about your description of the dreaded deer. My dog still is growing his fur back where a deer stomped on him months ago.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 4:08PM
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Just want to put in my 2 cents about 'hugelkulture'. I did a little hugel-esque experiment last season.
I had moved to a new place in the Triangle (NC) in June and wanted to put a garden in real quick-like. I was coming from a place where I had cheap and easy access to mushroom compost, which is hard to find (and pricey) in the Triangle. I wanted to use something that would give me similar results, and had read about hugelkulture.
I did an experiment with 6 raised beds. For 3 of them I went back into the woods and gathered buckets of humus and decaying wood from fallen trees (mostly loblolly pine). I spread this stuff along the bottom of 3 of my beds and put compost from the garden center over top as well as some Espoma organic fertilizer.
For the other 3 beds I did just compost from the garden center and the Espoma stuff.
The plants (mostly tomatoes and peppers) in the beds that had the decayed pine wood and humus did WAY better than the just-compost beds. There was no comparison! It was just like I was growing with mushroom compost again. :-)
I figured I got the benefits of hugelkulture just by using the rotting/rotten wood from the forest, instead of piling new wood and having to wait several seasons for it to break down. Granted, I'm in a lucky situation where there are dozens of downed trees cut from a driveway that was put in behind our lot. But even if you had access to just a few decaying trees you could really help out your garden by stealing some humus!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 12:45PM
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