Soil Carbon + “How to Build a Hugelkultur Bed”

This is a fascinating gardening tip from my FaceBook friend, David M-B. I’d like to try this someday. The goofy thing is that I try so hard to keep the woody stuff out of my compost pile!

Soil Carbon & “How to Build a Hugelkultur Bed” from Garnet MacPherson of Earthworks Ecovillage

I’ve been experimenting with this for years, but never realised that it had a name, until I received this as a message from Garnet.  I started by observations and comparisons between dry eucalyptus forests in fire prone areas versus pockets that had not had a fire for many decades, and also with coastal rainforest on the South Coast of NSW and Antarctic Beach forests on the NSW North Coast, then experimented as I went.  1 kilogram (2.2lbs) of soil carbon can hold up to 26 litres of water, so getting  carbon into garden beds for long term use can only improve the water and nutrient holding ability, and increase the biodiversity of soil ecology with varied soil habitat.

The other thing that I do is ensure a fair bit of naturally high nitrogen material in the higher layers of a high carbon raised garden bed, such as acacia prunings, grass clippings, diluted urine, fish or seaweed emulsion etc to counter heavy nitrogen draw down due to bacterial action.  I would also wonder about the introduction of local fungi species, if sufficient fungi spores aren’t present in bio-improverished areas?

Garnet MacPherson 18 June at 03:34  QUOTE
“Hugelkultur is an ancient form of sheet composting developed in Eastern Europe. It uses woody wastes such as fallen logs and pruned branches in order to build soil fertility and improve drainage and moisture retention. Sepp Holzer has refined the process of Hugelkultur to a find art even in the altitudes of the Austrian mountains he is getting amazing results.

We are holding a workshop on Hugelkultur at Earthwalk Eco Education Centre on Saturday June 26th at 9:30 am we will be showing the hole process of creating a Sepp Holzer version of a Hugelkultur bed. Bring a lunch if you like. Admission if free donations are appreciated. call 905-355-3000 for more information.

If you walk through a natural woodland, you will see many fallen logs and branches on the ground. The older these logs are, the more life they sustain. A log that has rested on the forest floor for five or ten years will be covered in moss, mushrooms, wildflowers and even young trees. Poke at it a little and you will notice that the decaying wood is damp in all but the most vicious of droughts.

Hugelkultur is designed to take advantage of the natural fertility and moisture-conserving qualities of rotting wood, while speeding the process of decomposition up. The heat produced by decomposition also helps protect cold-sensitive plants. Effective micro climates can be establhished among hugelbeds that produce amazing results.
How to Build a Hugelkultur Bed

1. Gather woody waste materials such as dead logs, extra firewood, pruned or clipped branches, and more. The wood can be either rotting or fresh, although already rotting wood decomposes fastest.
2. Lay the wood in a mound about 1-2 feet high and stomp on it a bit to break it up. You can dig a trench to lay the wood in, if you wish.
3. Cover the wood with other compost materials such as autumn leaves, grass clippings, garden wastes, and manure. (This stage is optional if you aren’t planning to plant the bed immediately.)
4. Cover the wood and compost with a few inches of dirt and/or prepared compost.

You can either let the bed sit for awhile to rot, or plant it immediately. Among the plants known to do well in hugelkultur beds are potatoes, squash, melons, and a number of different species of berries. Other gardeners plant the bed with cover crops for the first year to improve the fertility even more before adding vegetables or other plants.

Earthworks Ecovillage <> <>

About Mare Cromwell

Referred to as “The Voice of Earth Mother” by a gifted Shoshone elder, Mare Cromwell is a multi-award-winning author, Medicine woman/Lightworker and healer. She has also been told by another gifted elder that her work with Earth Mother is in the prophecies. Her books include: "The Great Mother Bible"; "Messages from Mother.... Earth Mother"; and "If I gave you God’s phone number.... Searching for Spirituality in America". She has studied with Native American teachers for twenty-two years and sat on the World Council for Wisdom Gatherings for three years. Mare leads workshops on our Sacred Planet-Earth Mother, Womb Wisdom and Sacred Silliness and more. She is the visionary and producer of the 1000 Goddesses Gathering in Washington DC. Mare loves to be involved in Ceremony. She is also a former worm herder. She calls Western Maryland home.
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9 Responses to Soil Carbon + “How to Build a Hugelkultur Bed”

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  7. Broke says:

    I hope you have a great day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

  8. Pingback: 2010 in review – My Blog gets a physical and is deemed “healthy”. ;~) « For the Earth Blog

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