I know some people suggest the width at the bottom be at least 2 or 3 times wider than the height of the bed. Now, does this mean that people who make them like this are stepping on their beds? I like the principle of not stepping on a bed, so not making it wider than you can comfortably pick from either side of the bed. With such a wide base, there’s no way to pick at the top without stepping on it somewhere. Or is there? Keeping to my principle, I can only keep my beds short, unless I put up walls or something to keep the soil up. But then a large part of the attraction of a hugel is lost.
Do some people with wide bases plant plants that crawl all over the bed so that being able to pick without standing on the bed is possible? Seems like a waste of great soil.
I've made two short ones and would love to make a tall one, but can't imagine how you do it.
I'm interested in the answer to this question as well. Paul recomends 8ft high beds and if is is 2-3x wider, we're talking 16-24 ft.
A few thoughts: nothing wrong with borders. They dont have to shore up the entire bed, but perhaps 3 ft tall borders wold help with errosion, soil falling off the top, and just keeping everything at a convenient harvesting level. If you just cant sleep at night knowing you've sacrificed the extra growing space to put in a border, then perhaps you could grow something that doesn't mind being stepped on towards the bottom of the bed. I'm also thinking that keeping the bed heavily mulched will distribute your body weight more evenly and help prevent compaction of the soil when you walk on it. Some people use 2X4 boards over their no till beds to avoid compacting it with their feet and i see no reason you could not do the same. I have also once entertained the idea of wearing snow shoes to walk across super wide hugel beds without compacting the soil. To think, my neighbors ALREADY think im eccentric. If only they knew!
I once read some pretty solid advice to plant beneficial plants, that are not meant to be harvested, at the very top of the hugelbeet where they can't be easily reached. Beneficial insect attractors and nitrogen fixers are great candidates for this particular real estate. The stuff that will be harvested by hand can be planted a little closer to the edge.
We're working on converting a field into hugel mounds. Here's a picture of ours (newly built one in front and one that's been planted, probably a few months older, behind). We now have a 3rd one also built.
I'm guessing the beds with the stepping logs aren't yet producing. I'll be interested to know how they work, and if picking from them is convenient. Looks like a person could stand on one of them yet not be very steady on it. Looks like picking would be sort of awkward. I'm curious. Plus, with wood sticking out like that, are you not inviting termites, and are those stepping logs taking water from the bed?
When I built the bed, I hadn't actually intended the stepping logs to be surrounded by the mound. They were supposed to be at the edge, but my bed ended up being wider than I intended. As for their stability, they're great. I did not dig down for this bed, and these are placed upright on solid ground. You could even bury them slightly for added stability. I've gotten up on them multiple times, even walking from one to another. They really do help me access the top, and they're great for standing on when watering the bed, too.
As for the wood wicking moisture, I'm told that they do, which is why I only inserted a few. As for termites, I haven't seen any on my older, three year old bed...but then, I have ducks that eat termites...
I really wanted/needed these stepping logs, though. Three years ago we made the hugel next to my new one (you can see it in the picture below).
Even though the smaller, older hugel is only about 2 1/2 feet tall, I have a really hard time reaching over to the top to pick blueberries as well as to pull weeds and pick strawberries, especially if I try to avoid compacting the soil. In a few places around that old hugel, though, I have some of the upright logs, and they have been invaluable in letting me stand and reach up further. Looking back, I really wish I had put more upright logs around it, which is why I did that with this mound.
Thanks Nicole. I actually saw the thread you started and laughed out loud when I saw the image in your initial post I've been reading a lot of the posts in this forum because I might start a bed with others, as part of my uni research. But if the people who participate in my research choose to not make a hugel ... I won't use much of what I'm learning in these posts right away, but someday hopefully. I've recently made a couple myself and am watching carefully to see how well they do. Rainy season (in South Thailand) is just around the corner so if we're gonna do one of these guys, I wanna start soon. I haven't yet defended my proposal yet so don't yet have permission to carry out this research.
I've been searching for a direct answer to the ratio of width and height for the best hugel. I really don't have the time to read 30 pages from Paul's thread ( https://permies.com/t/40/17/Paul-Wheaton-hugelkultur-article-thread ) to find the answer. So is this thread the answer? 2-3 times wider at base than height? a 3 foot wide base would be 6-9 feet tall? Is 3 feet of base enough? And if I'm correct, this actually increases the square footage of gardening space without taking up the same amount on flat ground?
I'm not sure there is a perfect direct answer but 2-3 times wider seems a good place to start. As an experiment I followed the BB specs exactly with Humphrey the hugelhump.. It's crazy steep & I think it would take a lot of work to keep it that tall. Yes, it definitely increases the square footage per given footprint.
Argue for your limitations and they are yours forever.
I made a 5 foot hugel bed years back (it's in my signature). I think I managed to get it 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall...but now it's a lot wider at the base and shorter. It's maybe 2 feet tall now. I'll see if I can dredge up before/after pictures..
Sepp Holzer recommends making it as steep and tall as possible for its width. It will naturally get shorter and wider, but starting steep makes for less compaction, and easier working of the bed, as the top is in arm's reach, if big enough maybe you'll need to lean over one knee. This has worked for me, but just keep the inevitable slumping in mind in you pathway design and bed spacing. I underestimated this and made some areas inaccessible with my double-wheeled barrow (which, by the way, is vastly better at moving heavy stuff 99% of the time).
This is all just my opinion based on a flawed memory