I have done hugel and sheet mulched beds before with very great success. However I allowed ample time for rotting of materials before planting anything into the bed in the past. Now on my new homestead I'm about to finish up a couple hugel style beds freshly done. Do y'all just go planting into them straight away before much rotting occurs? I'd figure it's OK but wanted to hear what others do.
I made three hugels last year and I planted them all right away.
One I seeded with wildflowers and onions, the wildflowers exploded, and the onions were dug up by the dogs, going after a gopher.
The second was a keyhole hugel where I dumped a bunch of flower seeds that should come up this spring I planted various herbs, tomatoes, and flowers. This hugel did ok but it's in an area surrounded by spruce and pine so not a lot of sun. The third hugel I planted bush beans, mustard, and squash. The third hugel exploded with growth.
All of these mounds were dug two to three feet down, filled and covered with the dirt from the hole, and a bit of cow manure. If I did this again I would plant clover and interplant the stuff I wanted. I don't think you will get the same quality growth as a hugel that has been rotting a couple of years but it's worth getting some veg. I put the hugels to bed this fall with a lot of wood chips.
I'm just about done with my biggest bed. Yesterday my son and I stacked a ton of green twigs and leaves on then covered with a layer of dirt from the digging of the hole. Then many bags of sweet gum tree leaves and chicken coop rakings. Then another solid covering layer of dirt which is where I'm at now. To finish up I'm gonna mulch it over with beech wood shavings then it'll be ready to plant! Want not to wait to see plants going crazy from the bed! I've saw what various types of compostgardening produces and it truly can be epic.
Single time sheet mulch beds seem to do great the first round more or less but then are spent if another thick layer(of multiple layers) isn't readded before the next planting. However piles or holes filled with a pile of compostables might last a few rounds with added materials between plantings.
The last hugelbeet I built was dug three feet down, 18 feet long, and rose three feet from ground level (six feet of height in total).
It contained the corpses of two middling Manitoba Maples, which are invasive in our area, a Christmas tree, and as much more woody debris as I could fit in while maintaining a sufficient soil thickness around the wood. To this I added cow manure, two years accumulated compost in a range of levels of completion, the topsoil, some mineral soil, and the soil from a 3-foot trench around the bed, which I filled with woodchips after. I mulched the top and sides with three inches of wood chips.
As soon as I was happy with the structure of my hugelbeet, I started planting potatoes. I did most of the whole thing with potatoes, garlic, and horseradish, and I hilled up the potatoes as they grew with more wood chips. Along the north side, where there was a fence for support, I planted cucumbers, beans, and beets.
The potatoes and horseradish exploded. The garlic did very well. I didn't really get any cukes, though I found lots of chewed ends (I hate squirrels). The beans thrived, and the beets were huge, and I found a butternut squash volunteer from the compost addition that grew several butternuts longer than my forearm (and they were delicious).
So in my opinion, if you are going heavy on the manures, you are safe to do heavy-feeders like beets or squash, but potatoes can thrive in areas of disturbed soil, even with large clods, in ways that others just don't, which make them particularly well-suited to a new hugelbeet.
I would suggest you start with a potato guild complete with supportive plants that are also crops in themselves(horseradish increases potato disease resistance, peas have been shown to decrease Colorado potato beetle populations, garlic and most other alliums do well to create soil conditions unfavourable for certain types of detrimental soil life, and marigold and thyme both deter pest insects).
Perhaps the next planting could be the three sisters, or some variant thereupon, using squash as living mulch and a nitrogen-fixing bacteria host like beans to feed it, and some kind of structural crop like corn.
Some more info would get you better advice. Whatever you do, have fun. Keep us posted, and good luck.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Totally want to grow potatoes in it especially those blue/purple ones. Sweet potato too! Have a horseradish plant I could plant on it and also comfrey, everglades tomato, various squash and beans. Will figure something out. Had two loose edible taro bulbs I put in but that's it so far. Have malanga bulbs too I could add.
Sweet potato and squash did very well for me in compost gardens in the past.
I second the potato success in new hugels, as would Sepp Holzer who fills in gaps with potatoes. Green onions are doing great on a first year hugel alongside the potatoes, with nasturtiums as an edible living mulch. I’ve also seen squash do well in a first season, but I do mulch with coffee grounds and composted bird litter.
This is all just my opinion based on a flawed memory