Saturday, 26 October 2013

Back in the garden we are trying Hugelkultur beds

With the sheds finished (apart from the doors). We are cracking on with attempting to make a courtyard garden behind the house, while the weather is still so good.

As the garden at the back of the house narrows off towards the back of the property, it means that none of the walls are straight and it is a peculiar shape. Behind the new sheds David has been busy building the base for a concrete outdoor sofa. Behind that is a raised bed which tapers to square off the garden and will further our privacy along the fence adjoining the neighbouring property, by enabling us to grow climbers and shrubs in it. We have a big problem in the back garden with flooding in the wet season, so all of the beds there will be raised.

Whilst David has been carrying on with the building side of things, I have started the herculean task of levelling the site and filling the raised beds behind the sofa. I am utilising the mountain of earth we moved when laying the foundations for the sheds and from other areas of the garden. As I do it I am having to remove all the stones and boulders. The smaller stones I am tipping into the base of the sofa and the larger stones are being kept for making the walls of more raised beds. After three days of doing this I have aching muscles that I didn't even know that I had!

From the large mound of earth .............

............... the small stones are filling the outdoor sofa base ..................

............... the large stones are being heaped up ready to build walls ...............

........ then the soil goes in the raised beds
In an attempt to improve our very heavy clay soil I have decided to adopt the Hugelkultur method of building these raised beds. Hugelkultur (mound culture) is the system of building beds by including rotten wood, branches, leaves and twigs together with kitchen waste and manure. This method has apparently been used in Eastern Europe and Germany for centuries.

The idea behind this system is that it improves the soil and drainage, aids water retention and of course uses up all the autumn woody debris from pruned branches and fallen leaves.

I have slightly adapted the system to suit the materials I have to hand. You should start off with large pieces of rotten wood - logs and trunks etc. I am afraid mine are all earmarked for keeping me warm in the winter by going on the wood burner and I'm too mean to share it. So I started with some dead branches from trees off the mountain beside us which we had collected and used as pea sticks earlier in the year, then twigs which I collected. I then filled in the gaps with horse manure and wood chips, followed by kitchen waste, finished vegetable plants from the garden and the top off our compost heap. Then finally a layer of soil. Ideally the beds should then be left for a few months i.e. from autumn until the spring.

............ next the branches and twigs ..........

............ then the wood chips, manure, kitchen waste and finished vegetable plants .......

............ followed by material from the top of our compost heap - then more soil
These beds are around 4 feet tall and around 15 feet long, and trust me that is a lot of buckets full of soil, compost and branches. First I had to put in a bed of soil to raise it to a height where I could add the branches. The branches I have dragged in from the hillside, the soil I have de stoned and then tipped in a bucket full at a time and the compost I have carted from outside the gate and across the width of the garden  a box at a time. I have now reached the point where I have started to top up with soil so am now back to de stoning the large heap. This has all been incredibly hard work, so lets hope it was worth it. We'll see next year if the plants do well and it reduces the need for watering.

When the weather deteriorates and we are stuck inside, I shall make the cushions for the sofa. Hopefully next summer I shall be laying on it with an Efes in hand and enjoying the beautiful view, because that's what it's all about.


  1. What a great idea. I'm now looking around my garden to see where I could do something like this. Have no idea where to get horse manure though.

  2. Yes we are looking forward to getting it finished. You can use compost, kitchen waste, fallen leaves etc. Doesn't have to be manure. We're lucky that someone in the village keeps horses. But we have been known to go out with a bucket and shovel to collect donkey manure from the villager's donkeys in an effort to improve our soil!