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How to Build a Hugelkultur Garden Bed

What is Hugelkultur? Hügelkultur is a centuries-old traditional way of building a garden bed from rotten logs and debris, and it is often utilized within a larger permaculture system.

person planting seedlings in a garden bed with their hands

Hügelkultur has been practiced all over the world for hundreds of years and has endured over time because it is so effective, regenerative, and produces some of the happiest plants you’ll ever encounter!

Let’s Break It Down

Hügelkultur literally translates to “mound culture” or “hill culture” because this type of garden bed is essentially a giant, layered mound of wood, bark, organic matter, and earth in which plants and crops can grow.

"Hugelkultur is regenerative at its core. You're taking old, rotting wood and turning it into something beautiful and new." - Sam Kalk, Founder & CEO

While there’s a correct way to structure and build a Hügelkultur bed, it’s not something that has to be exactly precise. As long as you have 32 square feet of space to build your bed, you’re good.

Permaculture practices like Hügelkultur are all about using what you already have to maximize your space while creating optimal growing conditions for a variety of crops and plants – without hurting the environment!

Building a Hügelkultur bed involves layering rotting wood, lumber, and other organic matter (that would probably be thrown away otherwise) into a big pile and then letting science do its thing - break it all down.

stack of cut wood logs

This process creates a super fertile, moisture-retaining sponge-like garden bed that's a perfect growing environment for vegetables, herbs, flowers, and a variety of other crops and plants.

As the decomposing wood breaks down, it releases crucial nutrients and water into the soil, all of which help to aerate the soil.

As the rotting wood, organic matter, and other layers decompose into each other, this also creates an atmosphere teeming with a healthy web of fungi, insects, and microbes.

Drought Resistant Garden Bed? Yes, please!

Hügelkultur beds conserve water, which is so important when living in the drought-stricken Inland Northwest and trying to be responsible about your water usage.

As the bed’s layers decompose, the rotting wood in the base layer of the bed will begin to hold water like a sponge, making the bed drought-resistant.

Your plants grown in your Hügelkultur bed will not require as frequent watering as plants that are planted directly into the soil or into a raised garden bed.

HUgelkultur is all about the LAYERING

TOP LAYER: a mix of compost, topsoil, mulch, spray-free straw, hay, or other mulch alternatives

3RD LAYER: a mix of twigs, leaves, and organic garden debris/clippings.