Hugel bed

hugel bed

I keep reading about a permaculture practice called hugel culture. I thought it would be neat to try.  My garden is getting a little smaller next year since I’m getting old(er) and don’t have the energy to tend to so much space.  But then it hit me, I have the makings of a hugel bed right out back!

Hugel culture involves using rotting wood as a base in a bed to grow things.  Sometimes people dig a trench and put large logs down in it.  Then the wood, whatever form it’s in, is covered with ground.  Since it’s built up, it’s considered a raised bed, tho mine isn’t actually raised much. The wood gets used, and the plants that grow on it get the nutrients from the wood rotting; what a good and very old concept in gardening.

A few years ago I had to have a large silver maple cut down.  They cut it pretty close to the ground and now with the help of bugs and some different types of fungus, the stump is starting to rot up on one side.  Hugel bed!  I had saved a big chunk of the tree when it was removed, wasn’t sure what I wanted it for, but just wanted it.  So we put that big chunk down in the hole where the center of the tree was.  Then I used the ax and helped some of the rotting parts to get separated and put them down in there, along with some smaller pieces of dead wood I gathered in the yard and the woods behind the house. Half of the trunk is still holding up well, but that will also disintegrate eventually, and that’s ok.  In time the rest of the wood will just soften and go away, down into the hole, but until then, I can grow wildflowers on this hugel culture bed. As it sinks down in, even yet this winter with snow and ice, I’ll just add more ground.

So when I had as much stuff put down in there as I could get in the hole, I covered it all with ground.  Voila, hugel bed.


That quirky little planter seemed like a good idea when I bought it at the garden center years ago.  I wasn’t  considering that between its size and the stuff it’s made of, the ground dries out so quick that it needs watered 2x a day in the heat of the summer.  So I gave up planting anything in it years ago and just keep it cos it’s cute. It can sit on the sturdy remaining part of the trunk. I’ll put the bird bath somewhere else, since it was sitting on part of the trunk that was getting soft, and was in danger of falling over.

As sturdy as the hard part of the trunk is, this should work for several years.  And when it’s gone, it’s gone, but will have given me a place for flowers that are pretty as well as good for the bees and butterflies.

12 responses to “Hugel bed

      • Oh, I know, but rotten stumps are good for plants that like that sort of situation. Epiphytes do well in rotten stumps, and some ferns as well. The stump rots as fast as the soil settles and breaks down. As it sags, you can add media on top instead of stuffing from below (taking the plant out and putting media below it like other plants require).

    • If there were ground up, and you mean you have the mulch? I think there needs to be some real wood still involved as part of the process, not just mulch.

  1. Thank you for thinking about and taking care of the bees and butterflies. They definitely need our attention in this changing world…

    • They do Herman. Gardening to me is growing food for us, but I always have some flowers around for the bees and butterflies. Including flowers on a lot of my veggies too, all good.

  2. I had a Hugel bed and it was growing some great pumpkins out of it but it ended up being infested with slugs. Once i get rid of the problem (slugs) I lan to put a new one in. Thank you for your post.

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