This is the first in a series of blogs from Compost Collective facilitator Jennifer Kerr, who’s going to take us through how she’s creating a hugelkultur bed at her property.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Jennifer Kerr, and I’m passionate about caring for Papatūānuku! That’s why I work as a compost facilitator for the Compost Collective, to help others in their journeys to compost more and better. Feeding the earth, rather than landfills, is one of the many ways to care for Papatūānuku.
Tell us a bit about the project you’ve just started and you’ll be sharing with us
I’ve decided to use our old logs from tree prunings in a hugelkultur bed, to turn waste into resources. Hugelkultur is a German word meaning mound culture or hill culture.
Diagram by unknown author – http://permaculture.wikia.com/wiki/German_mound Originally attributed to Wikipedia and marked as GNU Free Documentation License., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7643256
A hugelkultur bed is a special type of raised lasagne garden bed where the bottom layer is logs. These logs break down very slowly, providing nutrients to the plants growing in the bed over a long period of time, and retaining moisture.
Another benefit of hugelkultur is that it can be quite tall, so more can be planted on its sloping sides, which means more food can be grown in a smaller space. This is great for small gardens!
The height of the bed means it should be positioned north to south so that the long sides on the east and west both get a reasonable amount of sun. If it was oriented east to west, only the north side would get the sun, so it would be hard to grow anything on the shaded south side.
Step 1: Choose a site
I have chosen my site to the west of my vegetable garden, on the edge of where we plan to grow a food forest (see image below). In this position the hugelkultur bed will define the boundary between the vegetable garden and the future food forest.
If you want to create your own hugelkultur bed, find a space around two metres long and one metre wide, with room on either side to work. The long sides of the bed should face east and west and the short sides face north and south.
I first heard about hugelkultur from Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide For Farmers, Smallholders & Gardeners. This is available from Auckland Libraries as an ebook.
My next task is to gather the logs for the base of the bed. Over the next few weeks, I’ll also be sharing how to prepare the ground, fill the bottom with logs and add subsequent layers, before the bed is ready to sow seeds and seedlings. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!