• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
stewards:
  • Mike Jay
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
garden masters:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • James Freyr
  • Greg Martin
  • Dave Burton
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Dan Boone

How to find the type of hugelkultur bed that’s right for you

 
gardener
Posts: 1717
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
670
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


*Some links listed in this thread may be affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase through the link helps me create free content.

So Many Types of Hugelkultur Beds!

This week's blog post - 5 Hugelkultur Variations and What You Need to Know is the second in a 3 part series all about hugelkultur beds. This second post is all about the different types of hugelkultur beds and the pros and cons of each. The first post was an introduction to hugelkultur beds and the 3rd will focus on how to build them.

So let's dive into all the types of hugelkultur beds!

If you do a google search for hugelkultur beds you will find a ton of examples. While they all are similar (wood buried in soil) there is actually a wide range of sizes and styles. It can be confusing to know how which type is going to work.

For this week's post I organized all these various hugelkultur beds into 5 hugelkultur variations. For each variation I give a quick description and then cover the pros and cons. Each variation has its place and can work great but no one variation is right in all situations. This week's blog post will help you figure out which type is right for you and your project.

Here are the 5 hugelkultur variations covered in this post:

1. Slash Pile Covered with Soil
2. Buried Beds (Fully or Partially)
3. Small-to-Medium Beds Above Ground
4. Large Beds Above Ground
5. Formal Raised Beds

I have built 4 out of these 5 types of hugelkultur beds on my homestead resulting in over 300 feet of hugelkultur beds. I took the time to figure out which type was best for the specific project and moved forward from there.

What about you? What type of hugelkultur beds have you built?



The Slash Pile Hugelkultur Variation



This type of hugelkultur bed is one of the easiest to build but also the easiest to get frustrated with. It really is just wood covered with soil and can even just be wood and leaves. Basically, just make a slash pile, add some soil/manure on top and call it good.

I used to be fairly skeptical of this variation and I still think people build this one by mistake and then have problems growing in it. I think some of the criticism of hugelkultur beds come from this situation.

But as Edible Acres explains in the video, this method can be a great way if you are not in a rush. If you are willing to wait several years before trying to plant and then plant pioneering species and only plant vegetables 6 or so years in then this method works great.

Seeing what they are doing with their land made me re-think this method. But before you dive into this method make sure you are okay with waiting potentially years to plant. But if you are then this method could be a great and easy option.

Here are the pros and cons of this method taken from the blog post.

- Pros: Simple to build; Does not need large pieces of wood; Great way to use up yard waste; Can build a large amount of soil.
- Cons: Prone to drying out in the short run; Rodent issues; Large amount of settling over time; Takes a very long time to become productive; Needs soil from a different location in order to cover it.

What do you think? Have you built this type of hugelkultur bed?

Pick the Right Type of Hugelkultur Bed for You


*My newest hugelkultur beds--much more formal than my others but that is best for this specific project. This is my in-progress kitchen garden and gathering area.

Make sure to visit the blog post to get more information on the other 4 hugelkultur variations not covered in this thread.

I think too often hugelkultur beds are discussed in one size fits all terms. My view is that just like we use variations for many other things on our homesteads it is important to tailor your hugelkultur beds to your specific situation. Don't try to recreate what someone else has made on their homestead if their situation is dramatically different than yours.

If you are new to hugelkultur beds then make sure you check out part 1 of this series to get a full introduction into hugelkultur beds. This week's blog post will make a lot more sense if you are already familiar with the basics of hugelkultur beds.

Another great resource is the micro-documentary offered here on permies all about hugelkultur beds. You can buy the micro-doc for just $3 or just 1 piece of pie.

The micro-doc is part of Paul's World Domination Gardening series which you can also find on permies.

And don't forget that building a large hugelkultur bed (Paul's favorite hugelkultur variation) is also part of the gardening aspect of permie's new PEP program!

I would love to hear what you think! If you are one of the first to leave a comment on this thread there will likely be apples waiting for you. Plus, if you go to the blog post and are the first from permies to leave a "good" comment on the actual blog post I got a piece of pie for you! Just make sure to comment here too so I can give you your pie (if you use 2 separate names please tell me!).

Thank you!

Hugelkultur Beds Series

- Hugelkultur Beds: The Best Raised Beds for Your Garden
- 5 Hugelkultur Variations and What You Need to Know
 
garden master
Posts: 867
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
236
forest garden fish fungi trees foraging earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I really enjoyed making the really small hugelkulter shown in the link below, and it was super fast and easy, and I love that it is able to be built around existing fruit trees and berry bushes.

https://permies.com/t/101324/Mini-Hugel-Drip-Irrigation

I want to build some bigger ones soon. I just cut down a few poplar trees, so I might be using them for that soon.
 
master steward
Posts: 9455
Location: Pacific Northwest
3580
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11208
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
679
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My entire kitchen garden is buried wood beds.  https://permies.com/t/52077/Buried-Wood-Beds

I swear by them!  



 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1717
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
670
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Steve – That is great and thanks for sharing! I like your small hugelkultur beds and I think those are great. I imagine those would be a great way to inoculate an area with beneficial fungi… I’m thinking of some new design options for food forests…

Nicole – Those are great beds and I really like that you used some of the wood for the walls/borders. I have been doing that more and more on my property and I just love the way it looks! 😊

Tyler – Awesome! I had seen your post before, and I really like how you are setting everything up. The comparison you make between the 2 garden beds (one with buried wood and one without) in the summer is great and really helps show the benefits. Thanks for sharing!
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1717
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
670
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Also, just to add no one has taken me up on my offer of free pie for leaving a "good" comment over on my blog post. The pie is looking very yummy--don't miss out! Only the first person to comment gets the pie slice.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1717
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
670
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Daron Williams wrote:Also, just to add no one has taken me up on my offer of free pie for leaving a "good" comment over on my blog post. The pie is looking very yummy--don't miss out! Only the first person to comment gets the pie slice.



I have gotten a couple comments on the blog post. Anyone here leave one of them? You need to make a post here too so I can give you the pie slice! Otherwise... the slice of pie is still waiting!
 
Posts: 499
Location: Rural Unincorporated Los Angeles County Zone 10b
32
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just for fun, my wife built a baby Tater Hugie. ;  )





 
gardener
Posts: 373
111
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My little, partially buried hugel happens to also be a burial plot.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1717
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
670
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like it! Thanks for sharing Greg!

Carla -- I'm curious about that... do you mind sharing a bit more about it?
 
gardener
Posts: 1285
Location: mountains of Tennessee
392
cattle chicken bee homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is my current hugelish project. It began last year as a hole inside of a larger depression. Perhaps a big lumpy divot is a better description. It was roughly 4 feet deep. It is more or less flush with the surrounding hillside now. Gradually filled with whatever was available. Logs, sticks, leaves, cow pies, & used chicken straw along with layers of soil. It's name is the hugelhole. Destined to be an asparagus patch in another year or two. Grew a few watermelons & some comfrey in there last year. Will plant over 200 sweet potatoes there in about a month. Full of baby peas now.



The humble beginnings.



Present day.



The berms are on contour made with rotten logs, sticks, leaves, composted barn manure, & soil. They each have a small swale. This one is for tomatoes, peppers, & chard this year. As well as onions, herbs, & flowers. Hoping the elderberries take over a large portion by next year. A smaller unseen portion is planted with okra & black eyed peas. Another small part is still being built for tomatillos & other random veggies.



That upper one is for squashes & melons this year. Currently full of baby peas. Flowers too. Anything that looks like lawn is for grains & peanuts this spring & ultimately for fruit trees.



This is a 120 foot maplehugel waiting to happen. Fell down in a storm a few days ago. Some of it is earmarked for a picnic table & firewood. Anything larger than my chainsaw can handle might eventually become a hugel.
 
Posts: 21
Location: Southern Ontario
2
forest garden trees chicken
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Con of Formal Raised Hugelbeds: Many Permies--probably including Daron--know this, but there are potential downsides to raised edged hugelbeds that I've noticed first hand. Much of the attraction of raised kitchen hugelbeds is to create a more formal bed. Usually whatever the edging material, in time the edges of the bed will accrue weeds or grass along the top and bottom of the edging that can be really tough to eliminate if you're really trying for a (perhaps overly) neat effect. Assuming the edging material is wood and you live in a humid climate, it may harbour excess slugs (which may simply indicate a "duck deficiency" on your part:). If the edges are formed with stacked timbers, the gaps between them can shelter weeds and rodents to a degree. The bed top will slump into gaps over time as debris accumulates between the logs and spill out. If you're a real neat freak, grass trimming around the middles and bottoms of these is not easy. You can line the insides with moisture and/or weed barrier, but this is fussy and not permyesque. We don't have any ducks on staff yet, and we've moved away from these edged hugelbeds to either veg beds on the flat or just slightly raised without logs but with wood-chipped paths. We've started bigger hugel beds for less formal areas where we don't care about any of the above-mentioned concerns or where we want to build soil.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 294
Location: Penticton, Canada
53
building woodworking rocket stoves
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Daron Williams wrote:

Daron Williams wrote:Also, just to add no one has taken me up on my offer of free pie for leaving a "good" comment over on my blog post. The pie is looking very yummy--don't miss out! Only the first person to comment gets the pie slice.



I have gotten a couple comments on the blog post. Anyone here leave one of them? You need to make a post here too so I can give you the pie slice! Otherwise... the slice of pie is still waiting!



Hi Daron,   Thank you for the wonderful descriptions of what Hugelkultur is and can be. As serendipity would have it, tomorrow we're doing our annual spring burn of wood debris and fallen trees in our campground but before that happens, I'm gonna to quickly remove some of the debris and make a few test beds. Perhaps next year it won't be an annual burn but rather an annual hugel bed party!
Staff note (Daron Williams):

Thanks for making a comment on the blog Gerry! Here is your pie slice! Each week there will be another chance for someone to get a slice of pie!

 
Carla Burke
gardener
Posts: 373
111
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Daron Williams wrote:
Carla -- I'm curious about that... do you mind sharing a bit more about it?


Here you go, Daron:
https://permies.com/t/109684/critters/Lola
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1717
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
670
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mike – Your projects look great! Thank you for sharing! I always like the look of beds on contour.

Peter – All good points and thanks for pointing those out. You are right that there are downsides to the more formal style of raised beds. For mine I’m mulching all around the beds to eliminate the grass that is currently there.

I expect some weeds like dandelions to show up which is fine and I’m hoping I get some volunteer vegetables showing up too! Just some extra harvests for me 😊 I want my kitchen garden to be semi-formal but I won’t worry about keeping everything down.

Slugs could be an issue but for mine I’m also making habitat for the critters that eat the slugs. Hopefully a balance will be found.

Thank you for sharing and it is good for people to know the pros and cons of each type of hugel or garden bed before making a decision on which is right for them.

Gerry – Thank you for the comment here and on the blog post! I got you your pie slice and there will be another chance for pie each week!

Carla – So sorry for your loss, I did not realize it was recent. I think you gave Lola a good final resting place.
 
Posts: 4
Location: North Eastern Ontario, Canada Zone 3B
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I shared this below on your blog as well, but think the topic may have use here too.

Great article! Thank you.
Can you comment on wood types? I had read, and took it as fact, that utilizing large amounts of conifers in one hugelkulture would be a bad idea for soil acidity. Plus, avoid including rot resistant species like Cedar and Tamarack. For us, given we are homesteading in the Boreal Forest, both concepts are a hardship. We’ve built 3 hugelkultures, with minimal conifers included and love them, but their value as a garden would increase greatly if I could increase the ratio of conifers, since that is readily available and a good use for a lot of deadfall I will otherwise need to deal with.

As an aside too, to reduce the anxious waiting for slash pile hugelkultures to be useful, we planted our squash patch on one immediately and let it go wild. We barely watered it through a 4 week drought in July. Had the chickens not found the garden first, we would have had a wonderful harvest in year one already.
 
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
29
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Conifers have added acidity, but most allelopathic compounds breakdown quickly in rotting wood.
I think Stamets found the same when growing fungi on eucalypts, I find that camphor laurel can grow fungi even when using relatively fresh branches.
As long as there's sufficient moisture to keep up the decay.
 
software bot
Posts: 168575
736
cooking pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Last vote in apple poll was on June 10, 2019
 
Not so fast naughty spawn! I want you to know about
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!