Here’s the sixth update from our facilitator Jennifer, as she creates a hugelkultur bed at her property.
Step 6 – Adding Compostable Green and Brown Materials
On top of the turf you can add whatever other compostable materials you have available. Ideally, include some green materials that have lots of nitrogen, are fresh, moist and decompose quickly, such as fresh grass clippings, food scraps, and/or animal manure from herbivores such as cows and sheep.
You can also add more brown materials, which are high in carbon, and tend to be dry, brittle and decompose more slowly. Brown materials come from mature plants such as trees. The hugelkultur bed already includes plenty of brown materials: the logs.
You can ask your friends and neighbours or use sharewaste.org.nz if you don’t have enough material.
I chose to only use garden waste as I didn’t want the risk of food waste attracting animals that could damage my hügelkultur bed.
If you do want to use food waste (such as the fermented contents of a bokashi bucket) I suggest adding it immediately after the logs and squeezing it into the gaps between the logs so it is well buried, once the turf and other layers are added on top.
Remember, if you want to learn more about ways to compost, the Compost Collective offers free workshops on how to bokashi, worm farm and compost.
If you have animal manure from herbivores or hens you could put it in a bucket, add water to it, mix it into a slurry and pour this gently onto your hugelkultur bed.
I have a pile of grass clippings (green material) that is about a week old. It has already started to decompose, warming up and matting together. It’s perfect for putting on top of the tall steep hügelkultur bed. The decomposing grass holds together reasonably well so less slides off.
The first catcher load of grass clippings contained a lot of dead leaves. I tried adding this onto the hügelkultur bed but it just slipped down the steep sides. It hadn’t warmed up and started matting together like the other grass clippings which were only grass.
Autumn is a good time to collect dead leaves (brown material). Contain them in something as simple as a wire netting cylinder and leave them to break down into leaf mulch before adding to your hügelkultur bed, garden or compost.
If your hügelkultur bed isn’t too steep you may be able to put fresh dead leaves on top.
I’ll be adding the final layer of top soil in the next blog. If you missed the earlier blogs, here’s where to find them:
1 Getting started
2 Collecting logs
3 Preparing the ground
4 Layering logs
5 Adding turf