This winter, I was looking for new ideas for my flower garden. I searched for traditional German style gardens and came across the hugelkultur. The article I was reading was using it for a vegetable garden, but I did more research and found it would work on flowers too!
While still debating on this project, I attended a lecture featuring Dr. Mark Hyman from the Cleveland Clinic. He had started talking about how changing the way we grow food is actually the best way we can slow or stop climate change. Being from a farm community, I was automatically getting my defenses up. He started talking about tilling causing soil erosion and all the negative effects of that. It was absolutely fascinating, but it still left the thought in my head of: how are my family members and neighbors going to make a living if we give up tilling?
I thought of this hugelkultur, but it’s not practical for farmers with hundreds of acres to plant. Dr. Hyman brought up no-till farming, which, again, is fascinating! I mentioned it to my dad who informed me that there is a farmer a couple roads over from us who has always practiced and benefited from no-till farming. It not only is better for the environment, no-till farming leads to a better harvest. All of this together made my decision for me: I would not be looking to either get my own rototiller or fix my parents. Making a hugelkultur was definitely in my future.
There seemed to be a couple different ways the easiest of which would be piling up fallen trees and covering them completely with dirt. I don’t currently have a lot of fallen trees or fill dirt at my disposal, so that option was out. One of the more popular options was to dig about 1-2 feet down, throw in the trees, cover the trees with the top layer of sod (grass side down), and then finish off with the rest of the soil you dug out of the ground. I went with this option.
In the pictures above, this was my step 1. On the left, I had my modern-traditional garden from last year which I extended a little bit. On the right, the top layer is completely pulled off!
There’s my hole, ready for the trees!
Like I said, I didn’t really have fallen trees laying around, so I used branches and limbs that had fallen off this winter and last spring. Some of them had actually already started to decompose or break down, so that will be perfect for this! The articles said that traditionally, it wasn’t uncommon to see these standing 6-7 feet tall. Mine is clearly not that tall. For starters, the family backhoe is not quite working, and that’s really the only way I would be able to get the dirt on top if it were that tall. Also, I only dug out about 1ft deep, so I didn’t have enough dirt to pile the branches too tall this year.
I put the top layer I had first pulled off, grass side down, to fill in some of the bigger spaces where dirt would just fall through the branches. I did find a few other bigger pieces to fill in the obvious gaps still in this picture.
I somehow forgot to get a picture before I planted with all the dirt piled on. It’s not the prettiest, mostly due to the dirt around the edges on the walking area which got packed down in a storm. However! I got my veggie seeds in today. Planted my herbs in pots to get started before moving them to the garden area. I watered lightly, just to really get them started. . .and it’s supposed to rain this weekend.
So! There is my starting attempt! I will post updates throughout the summer of how my veggies grow! I will also be using my dad’s backhoe for the flower garden. (Well, he’ll be using it put in my flower garden. . .boys and their toys!)