Ever heard of a hugelkultur? They really are the "ultimate raised gardens"!
This is a great time of year to start building your hugelkultur beds...and once you see how they're built, you'll understand why!
A hugelkultur allows gardeners and farmers to mimic the nutrient cycling found in a natural woodland to realize several benefits. Woody debris that falls to the ground can readily become sponge like, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into the surrounding soil, thus making this moisture available to nearby plants. So gather up any of the debris from fallen trees, or pruning you have laying around in your yard, or ask some of your neighbors for theirs! Most likely they'll be thrilled to have you come take it off their hands. (Try to avoid cedar and walnut)
Applicable on a variety of sites, a hugelkultur bed is particularly well suited for areas that present a challenge to gardeners. Urban lots with compacted soils, areas with poor drainage, limited moisture, etc., can be significantly improved using a hugelkultur technique, as hugelkultur beds are, essentially, large, layered compost piles covered with a growing medium into which a garden is planted.
Start by selecting your site, and then you'll want to do some layering. First with large logs or fallen tree branches. From there, we suggest filling in the gaps and holes with mulched leaves or other compost material. Feel free to dump those kitchen scraps in there at this point.
The hugelkulter bed will benefit from “curing” a bit, so it is best to prepare the bed several months prior to planting time. Get it up and running before May hits so your hugelkultur bed can benefit from all of those "May showers". As it begins to soak in water, it will shrink to almost half of what it began as, so don't be afraid to make your mound as tall as 6 or 7 feet tall.
Continue layering woody type debris, compost and nutrient rich soil until you get the height you're looking for. Now, remember, it's going to shrink over time. In a few months you'll be ready to plant seeds or transplants into the hugelkulter bed as you would any other garden bed.
We suggest pumpkins or melons, but you can plant just about anything into your hugelkultur!
One of the most important reasons why you should build a hugelkultur bed is because they are essentially, something you'll never have to water ever again once it becomes established. The rotting wood beneath the layers of top soil and compost are basically acting as sponges that will help water your plants for years to come.