Hugelkultur or hugelbeet — German words meaning “mound culture” and “mound bed” are basically slowly composting raised beds. We build them by mounding topsoil and sod over organic debris, leaves, twigs, cardboard, compost– basically anything on hand that will turn into organic matter. Typically they are made with larger logs in their core, that will break down over time, sponge up water, and eventually turn into rich humus. This is a valuable short cut to building soil structure, increasing fugal/mycorrhizal activity, cutting back on watering, and capturing carbon (in logs/organic debris). The larger the mound the more water it can retain over the season, so bigger is better up to a point. But, even in smaller urban and suburban spaces, there is much lawn waste and woody material that can be put back into the ground– instead of importing soil– and the advantages of these mounds are worth it.
We prepare the bed by digging down to clay;
Being careful to separate finer and chunkier soil;
Logs are set in place with rough debris, lawn waste, and compost over them.
Then chunkier soil goes back on top of the rougher material, followed by finer soil. The final mounded bed is up top, ringed with stone for heat absorption, moisture retention, and ornamental qualities.