I recently joined the forum and thought I'd share a Hugulkultur that I just finished - literally today!
Some backstory - when we moved into our new house in Studio City, CA there was a ton of rotting wood neatly piled up in a corner in the back yard. It's an eyesore and it's bugged me ever since. Furthermore, there was a ton of mid century-style cinder blocks strewn around the property, which is a 1950s California Ranch. Instead of paying to have it all removed, I decided to build a Hugulkultur on a slope in the back of the yard.
The idea was that whenever it rains (we're all praying for the powerful effects of an El Nino this year in SoCal!), the water would trickle down the hill, into the Hugul, which would hold the bulk of it and feed any vegetables planted in the bed. Also, due to the cinder blocks having this floral pattern, excess water could drain out if that ever became an issue (I doubt it!)
From the pictures you can see what I've done. Basically three cinder blocks tall (around 3 feet), with the big rotting logs placed on the bottom, then various layers on top. The layers are as follows:
1) Big logs (base layer)
3) Medium logs
5) Small logs
6) Dry leaves
7) Bigger pieces of compost (black in pictures)
Fertile soil (from side of house)
9) Final layer of finer compost
The logs and the leaves should create plenty of air pockets, so those roots should have no problem burrowing down and reaching the soaked logs. In a way this a little like sheet mulching too, though I resisted the urge to throw in a bunch of old clothes!
Now the question is: what do I plant? From the pictures you can see that this is a shaded area (I have a 60 foot tree hulking over!) so I need plants/vegetables that don't require full sunshine. I've read that beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes are good first year crops for a Hugul, so I may give those a shot, but I'm curious as to what other people would plant with this setup?
I think you should have saved the dry leaves for mulch. Must be pretty dry there now.
It will take a while for the bed to charge up with water but I always do clover under mulch to hold things together. If you like radishes they work too. Lightly broadcast seed over all.
Summer squash (winter too) have huge leaves that do a good job of soaking up weaker sunshine.
Up here we don't plant much of anything now, it's another month before the days cool off a bit.
posted 4 years ago
Thanks for the advice!
The layer of dried leaves is minimal so I'm not concerned about that. However, I like your idea of using some of those leaves (I have another 6 feet of them!) over that fine compost to keep in the moisture. I was planning on converting two sprinklers - currently firing into no man's land - into drip irrigation and running two lines along that area.
I'll definitely plant squash (both types) and I was thinking pumpkins as well. Should be fun.
Location: S. Ontario Canada
posted 4 years ago
I find the best thing with leaves is to shred them with the mower and keep a 2 inch layer over all bare soil (unless they're something like walnut leaves) or whatever depth it takes in your climate to have moist soil underneath. They'll decompose fairly fast so just keep topping it up.
Seeds have a tougher time poking through leaves that aren't shredded but once the plants are established whole leaves last a lot longer. Go ahead and put in some flowers too, keeps the good bugs coming in to pollinate.
Experiment and see what works best in your climate - we have snow sports weather with a few months of gardening squeezed in.
Looks pretty good! I would plant some stuff in the mint family as an understory/groundcover, then something like currantts and gooseberries as a mid layer/canopy. Those plants should really grove on that moist, rich soil and dappled shade. You won't ever have to plant again and can propogating them like crazy! No reason to plant those annuals to establish the bed you can go straight to perennials if you want to, just keep building up the soil with mulch and compost and it should be fine.