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Hugulkultur Next to the Driveway

2012-02-22 10.31.10We’ve got lots of old, rotting firewood that’s cut too big for our fireplace stove. Personally, I STINK at splitting firewood and husband has said that if I were to acquire a chainsaw, he would render it inoperable in order to save me from myself.  In his own words, he doesn’t think that I would have trouble handling the equipment. He thinks that I would take on projects that were too big for one person, try to do them myself, and somehow damage our property or that of our neighbors. hmmm… does this guy know me or what?! Please note that my Love trusts my decision making abilities in many, if not all, other areas of our lives, but he can see the crazy behind my eyes when it comes to gardening. He’s probably got the right idea here.

That said, I found a site and some youtube videos talking about hugelkultur which is a style of permaculture that begins by creating raised beds by burying wood in various stages of decomposition. It’s a no-dig method where you start by piling old or new wood and covering it with soil and then let it rest for a year or two. The longer the bed rests, the more glorious the soil will become and the high level of organic matter will give it tremendous water retention so that it will not require outside irrigation. It’s a garden that you don’t have to water.

I’m going to try using hugulkultur to expand my driveway bed. The space that I’ll include is the area of my property that gets the best sun all day and is currently part of a super-wide path between the keyhole garden and the driveway. I’m creating a log border for the new perimeter and filling it in with branches, leaf litter and split logs. This process will result in a quick build of a high, probably messing looking bed at first. As the wood breaks down, it will rob nitrogen from it’s surroundings so I will cover the wood with manure/straw before I add a layer of soil on top. I don’t plan to plant the expansion this year, but we’ll see if I can resist. I may put some annuals in to see how they do.

Can You Dig It?!

Sure you can, but why do it if you don’t have to? haha!

Here’s the driveway bed expansion at the end of day 1.

2012-02-22 16.28.47

All in a day’s work. Ignore the ugly area rugs at the top of my driveway. As soon as I get the dollars to pave it, that will become smooth blacktop. The fresh dirt you see in the picture above is a layered bed that goes like this: untilled ground, split 4-5 year old logs, leaf and branch litter from this past fall, straw/manure I picked up a month ago, a thin layer of dirt from a freshly dug compost pit in my back yard. Whew! As soon as I get my hands on some wood chip mulch, I’ll mulch the whole bed and leave it to rest this season. I’ll update the status of this bed as it decomposes and I eventually plant it.

This was what the bed looked like when I first dug it, April 2010. The view is from the other end of the bed and it all looked so neat and cute. I had just planted seeds, so the little sticks were marking my place. The bed is twice the size now and the grass doesn’t look nearly as nice because my lousy landscapers had spread the lousy orange subsoil all over top of a bunch of landscaping rock to cover it up. No organic matter in the soil to speak of at all. The herbs in the bed didn’t mind, and I did mix in a lot of compost when I dug the bed, but I had to do it with a pick ax and I threw out my back because it was like CONCRETE, the ground was so hard. If this hugulkultur works, it will be an answer from God. I had the wood that was rotting, I had barely penetrable ground with little organic matter and the same area gets full sun all day. Put it all together and voila!