Right after New Year's, I came across 'hugelkultur' in my readings and decided that I should give it a try. Hugelkultur is a German word for a type of raised bed gardening where lots and lots of wood is piled up under the garden bed and the decomposition of the wood acts as compost to provide nutrients from below. So for the last four months I have been carefully digging out trenches, carting in decaying logs and leaves, and topping them with soil. Now that spring is here, the seeds are sprouting and I am starting this blog to keep a journal of my successes (or not so successful experiments) in the garden.
These mounds are about 3 feet wide, 32 feet long, and a little over a foot above grade. In the foreground, I have a "Three Sisters" planting planned, with corn already emerged and beans and squash waiting for a good rain to help them germinate. The wire cage in the middle will act as a trellis for some Korean melons, and the far end will be for a tri-culture of peanuts, eggplant, and okra.
The green between the mounds are volunteer grasses and forbs (not weeds!) that will be harvested and fed to the chickens at some point. I've decided, after much study, that there really is no such thing as a weed, only plants volunteering to become mulch or chicken feed.
With the cool spring we have been having, these plantings are off to a slow start, but soon the beans and squash will be up and in no time there will be no more bare dirt showing and the canopy over the mounds will have closed in.
In future updates, I will be blogging about my take on sustainability, food security and climate change, things that I have picked up and ideas that I discarded. In this synthesis, I have cobbled together many ideas, some old, many new, which have not been brought together in a comprehensive body of knowledge. For example, when you go to Google Scholar and search on 'hugelkultur', there is very little in the way of scholarly study. But if you look for biochar or intercropping or other more limited studies, there is a wealth of information. What hasn't been done is to bring all these topics together into a new method of gardening, that can be used to adapt to the changing climate in store for us. And that's what I hope to accomplish.