***Update July 2014! The ugly box to this beautiful hugelkultur planter! The soil has sunken about 18″. I plan to add my summer compost, a layer of soil and then top with straw for the winter. I also have to reinforce the sides. I get about five huge cucumbers a week from these 3 plants and there really are strawberry plants in there also (peeking out the slats.) I trim the leaves about once a week but the growth is insane. ALL ORGANIC, NO PESTICIDES OF ANY KIND, not even ‘organically approved’ pest repellants. There are red ants that I have to fight with on one corner and a few chewed leaves, but nothing that has affected production.
one of the many cucumbers
Cucumbers with strawberries
The minute I read about hugelkultur gardening, I knew that I had the perfect location ready and waiting to be developed.
When we moved to our home last year we decided to get as close to zero waste as possible. The first step was finding out the recycling rules for our county and not setting up regular garbage pickup, thus forcing us to get back into the strong habit of analyzing every bit of product packaging coming into our home.
‘recycled’ garbage can bin with the first hugelkultur layers
For us, this meant that the ready-built garbage can bin no longer had a job. We took the plastic trash cans and placed them in our sunroom with liners to collect plastic and cardboard recycling, leaving the outside bin empty and a bit of an eyesore.
But, being ever the gardener, I hoped to find a way grow vines around it without it collapsing in, and although most often in an open mound, the hugelkultur became the perfect solution. And with spring looming, I had to get on the job so that the mound will have the requisite two months to settle before planting.
6 easy steps
step 1, a layer of logs and fallen branches topped with leaves
step 2, shredded newspaper added to rough compost (an easy way to double compost)
step 3, bin to barrow
step 4, compost layer with an extra layer of flat newspaper to disparage the raccoons
step 5, final leaf layer
step 6, adding a soil layer (straw can be added to help hold the soil on open mounds)
While the steps can vary, I chose to use my winter kitchen scraps as compost and leaves from last fall that had already begun breaking down. Another option is manure with–or instead of–compost or soil, whatever is readily available to you.
The key is to place larger items like logs on the bottom with smaller, plantable soil on top and after relatively little work, you are composting without the need to flip and turn and worry about temperatures. Mother Nature will do all the work for you, and you get to grow crops during the process!
Promises to update with pictures at planting time! Maybe clematis and strawberries?
Now, where am I going to put the asparagus …