Attempting Hügelkultur at Pumpjack & Piddlewick

When the going gets tough, the tough go gardening. And attempt Hügelkultur.

Since before Christmas, nay some time last summer, raised beds had been planned for our veg garden. 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. This means you Chewie!).

Initially our raised beds were going 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 wood and metal, the cutting of the wood and metal… None of which could happen because Pumpjack had to go to the UK suddenly to look after family.

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 our 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. Lots of options. Discussions of collecting ensued. And then… we went on lock down.

It took me a few days to get my head around no raised beds this year. Without being able to get materials during the 2 week shut down (let alone longer as it is obviously going to continue) means missing 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 prunings mound (one of 4 mounds to be dealt with in our top garden), 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.

Simplified, you dig a trench, lay old wood in it, then fill with, branches twigs, etc. 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 taken last year from the stone wall and 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. It 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 dog.

And the potatoes really need to be planted.

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