Step by step photos of new hugelkultur bed

Thank goodness Solstice is here so our days start getting longer again. So happy we’ll be getting more light, both for the additional outside-work hours and for the sunshine itself!

This month we replaced our classic raised beds with a hugelkultur bed – reusing the rotting wood planks inside the new bed. Hugelkultur is the fancy way of saying “giant sloped-sided raised bed with a woody debris core that rarely needs summer watering”. It’s sure to get you weird looks at holiday cocktail parties, even among the gardening crowd.

The primary problem I was solving for was a massive multi-year infestation of perennial Morning Glory called Convolvulus Arvensis (bindweed). This stuff sucks. I’ve battled it for years after inadvertently planting it myself on the nearby rock walls from a seed packet of wildflower seeds. The most effective treatment I’ve found over the years is not pulling, but spraying the leaves with a salt-white vinegar mixture. But it’s still a losing battle. So the new solution is a 6′ wide, 2′ deep trench dug between the bindweed’s primary home (the wall of boulders) and the new raised bed. We’ll see if this helps.

After we transplanted the permanent (asparagus) and cold hardy veggies (kale, etc) to another nearby hugelkultur bed, we removed the infested topsoil down to 2′ and dug in the 6′ wide trench, which we filled with wood chips. Next step was to haul in two years of woody debris I’ve been saving from fallen trees, annual trimmings, fall leaves, and the (untreated) wood planks from previous raised beds to form the triangle shaped core. We then stuffed all the holes with straw so the soil would stay in place. With the help of a borrowed tractor, we then topped off with a fish compost mixture of soil to form the completed 6′ high raised bed.

Given that I thought this project would take two weekends (it took five) to complete this new woody-debris bed, my initial cover crop will not likely germinate in time for the winter. Will likely just re-seed early spring (covered with with Agribon paper) and hope I don’t lose too much structure/soil this winter.