Attempting Hügelkultur at Pumpjack & Piddlewick

When the going gets tough, the tough go gardening. And this should definitely include Hügelkultur.

But let me digress a little. Raised beds are always on my veg garden agenda. Part save the knees and back, part stop the animals ‘playing’ amongst the veg (more the latter really, but we don’t like to lay blame).

Originally my raised beds were planned to be made of corrugated metal sheets and wood. They look pretty. Then as January headed towards February there was a realisation that buying the metal sheets, would also mean cutting metal sheets, which would necessitate buying metal cutting scissors. And then there was the buying of the wood, the transporting of both long pieces of wood and large pieces of metal, the cutting of the wood and metal… . And well, it became a more daunting task and time was not on my side.

Then my beloved pallets popped back into my head. I had used pallets before for a raised bed. Effective, but not exactly pretty. But those were full height pallets. As my garden slopes downward and the raised beds will go horizontally across, they will create shade. Too much shade if using full sized pallets.

Okay, halve the pallets. Cutting above the second brace. Knee height raised beds. Then use the remaining vertical pieces to fill in the gaps so soil doesn’t leak out. You with me so far? Top off the top with wood (if not this year, next year), making a sort of seating edge so I can lean and plant. Or weed, harvest, and simply sit. Perfect!

The plans were solidified. I started looking for (free) pallets. Except, I think everyone had the same idea as me this year. There were the odd pallets, but I needed, ideally, quite a few, and generally of the same size. As soon as I contacted someone, I was told they were no longer available. Sigh.

It took me a few days to get my head around raised beds would have to be a next year project.Particularly if I did not wish to miss the window of opportunity to plant potatoes. Earmarked for at least one raised bed. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but when you have plans it is never nice to have to scuttle them.

From variation comes inspiration.

In burning through the winter prunings mound (those I didn’t re-use for wattling), I ‘uncovered’ some old rotting logs. Hmmm. My mind flicked back to a YouTube video on Hügelkultur (or Huegle culture if you are not German inclined). A quick search and review and I am once again inspired.

Plan C.

I came across a ‘how to build a raised bed using Hügelkultur’ video I particularly liked. Both for its concept, eg. raised bed without building a frame, and for its clarity of ‘how to’.

But what is this Hügelkultur you keep mentioning, I hear you ask? Essentially it is the reusing of natural matter; old trees, branches and twigs to lay a foundation. Rather like what happens naturally in the forest. Trees fall (making a sound or not?), then slowly rot and become part of the forest floor, nurturing new plants.

In terms of a garden; you dig a trench, lay old wood in it, then fill with, branches twigs, etc. Really any garden matter that will decay. You make a good pile, mounding it up, giving it height (a sudo raised bed). Then top with mulch and compost. Then top with soil. Et voilà.

Win, win for me as I am using up so many areas of my garden that were from last year’s restoration gardening activities. The rotted wood, as mentioned. The compost bin, which has been more a collection of twigs, ivy and other cuttings not quite knowing what to do with as they are not really compost. And the lavoir (Big Dig 2) for the top soil.

Raised beds first came on the agenda when our lavoir was discovered/uncovered. A lavoir is an old washing area. Sort of like a small stone swimming pool, but for washing clothes. Ours had filled with such gorgeous, rich mulch soil from the trees overhead, it seemed a shame to waste it. But there is so much of it, more ‘space’ would be needed in the garden. And the concept of the raised beds created that space. As well as solving the aforementioned problems of knees and animals.

And the potatoes really need to be planted.

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