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Vermont Garden Journal: What Is Hugelkultur?

Jon Roberts
Wikimedia Commons
Hugelkulter is a permaculture technique that can be as simple as burying a log in soil.

Hugelkultur is permaculture technique originally used in Germany and Eastern Europe but has recently gained popularity worldwide. The German word, roughly translated, means “mound bed” and the technique can be as simple as burying a log in soil to create a mound.

The first year of your hugelkultur, you grow nitrogen fixing crops, such as clover and beans. You can also try potatoes and other veggies that don't require lots of nitrogen. After the first year, any crop works fine. You may need to add more soil as the bed settles and water more the first year. In subsequent years, little watering or fertilizing is needed.

Some other considerations:

Wood will eventually rot so woods that rot slowly, such as cedar, or ones that exude natural growth inhibiting chemicals, such as black walnut, shouldn't be used. Apple, oak, alder, poplar, and birch are recommended. Cut evergreens, such as fir or spruce, are often allowed to age a few years before being used.

Layering in hay, straw and other organic materials works well. Over time as the wood decays it aerates the soil allowing water and air to move easily. It also retains more moisture reducing watering and releases nutrients to feed plants growing on the mound.

For this week's tip: It’s time to start brassica seeds, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, indoors. Grow these for six to eight weeks then transplant outdoors in early May. Keep lights close to the tops of the newly emerged seedlings to prevent them from becoming leggy.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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