I have been doing some experimenting with different types of no dig garden beds lately. I had an area in my orchard which has been driving me crazy with kikuyu growth and not really suitable to plant more trees there. I am trying a new garden in this spot. I am yet to be convinced that I will be able to keep the kikuyu out of the bed but it is worth a try. The bed is also in full sun which gets very hot in summer and will quickly dry plants out.
So this new method of bed making is a German idea called Hugelkultur. My mother tells me hugel means mound or hill in German. I admit I just like saying the word Hugelkultur :). The method uses unwanted branches, logs and green waste from your garden. These are things that are usually too awkward to place on your compost heap.
You basically pile all your sticks and logs up in a mound and cover with soil and mulch to make your garden bed. As woody material takes a long time to break down the bed holds a lot of moisture. The mound provides air pockets for plant roots, good drainage and plenty of rich organic matter. Vegetables will thrive on the decomposing material. The beds can be very big if that is what you wish, the sides are usually at a 45 degree angle which is believed to reduce soil compaction. Not only are you placing waste material out of site you are also saving money as Hugelkultur is cheap to build.
My bed is only small but its going really well. Little lizards seem to love it and I have also seen a solitary stingless native bee fly into the wood area so I am hoping it has a nest in there.
How to build a Hugelkultur garden bed.
You will need:
Newspaper or cardboard
Sticks and logs
Dry grass or straw
Soil and or potting mix
1. Level a site for your bed. Space and materials are your restrictions as you can build the bed as large as you like. If you have the methods to do this you can dig down 20cm in the shape of your bed. With larger beds gardeners use Tractors and excavators (my bed is no dig).
2. Place newspaper and or cardboard over the site ensuring that the paper covers a larger area than your bed to stop weed growth.
3. I had some unwanted alpaca and sheep wool that I placed on top of the newspaper. This step is optional, remember I am dealing with invasive kikuyu.
4. Start placing the sticks and logs in a pile on top of the newspaper or in my case wool. Until the bed is at your choice of height.
5. Cover the sticks with dried grass and or straw.
6. Cover the mulch with garden soil and or potting mix.
7. Start planting.
8. You can also mulch around each individual plant.
9. Water in well.
10. Watch your bed grow and regularly water until your bed is established.
Enjoy the art of Hugelkultur!