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Using Hugelkulture Bed

 
Ej Hurst
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There are lots of instructions on how make a hugekulture bed but how do you use it? I get the idea of letting deep rooted plants grow on top to draw up nutrients from below but what do you do with them once they are grown? How do you prepare the bed for planting the next year if it no dig?
 
John Elliott
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It depends on your climate zone (how fast the biomass in the mound decomposes) and how arid it is.

I'm in Georgia (zone 8b/9a), so it needs to be built up a couple times a year with more biomass. In the fall when I am building it up, I plant winter vegetables by scattering cool weather seeds; this time of year, it's time to pull out the scraggly broccoli and collards and radishes that have gone to seed and put in hot weather crops: tomatoes, eggplant, peanuts, etc.

I don't dig into the hugelbed, but I do yank out unwanted plants (which become livestock feed) and then fill in the space with things I do want. Between the perennials and the annuals that will reseed themselves, there is not a whole lot of maintenance to do. If you are thinking of it as just a raised bed into which you plant crops, you are limiting yourself; let it be a work in progress where you are constantly adding new plants to see how they do. The benefit of treating it that way is that you will be getting a continual harvest throughout the year.
 
Ej Hurst
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Thanks John. That is really helpful. I just planted Kale and squash. We are in the Pacific Northwest so quite different to Georgia but the soil was already warm enough for squash. I will let the kale go to seed and see where we end up next year. Good to know about adding biomass. I have piled all the weeds from beside the bed on top.
 
James Johnstone
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Kale and squash are probably not the best thing to plant 1st season in a hugelkultur bed. Both require boatloads of nitrogen, which you are unlikely to get in a hugelbed in the first year. You ought to have planted something that is nitrogen-fixing. Over TIME the hugelbed will have plenty of N, but not in the first year.
 
John Elliott
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James Johnstone wrote: Both require boatloads of nitrogen, which you are unlikely to get in a hugelbed in the first year. You ought to have planted something that is nitrogen-fixing. Over TIME the hugelbed will have plenty of N, but not in the first year.


That's why the manure from the livestock also gets dumped on top of the hugelbed as mulch. Stuff rots so fast here in Georgia that I have not noticed heavy feeders having a problem in the first year. What I notice is that plants on the very top of the hugel seem stressed and undernourished, while the ones that are growing on the bottom 1/3 of the sloping side look like Miracle-Gro advertisements. Sometimes I think my hugelbeds need a comb-over.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Location: North-Central Idaho
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I like to use my hugel mounds for growing perennials like rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, currents, etc. For me the mounds haven't really panned out with annual production. I'm just going into my third season on some of them so that could be some of the issue, but the perennials have done really well in my mounds. The only real exception to that rule has been in my greenhouse/hugel combo. Annuals have done pretty well there. I've got a link in my signature line that goes to the write-up I did on the greenhouse.
 
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