Are you tired of watering your plants constantly or spending too much money on your irrigation bill? If so, Hugelkulture might be the answer for you.

Hugelkulture (“hoogle culture” or mound culture) is a technique that uses woody debris such as branches, logs, twigs, leaves, etc. stacked in piles or rows and covered with soil to create planting beds. As the debris breaks down it retains moisture by soaking up water like a sponge and saving it for plants, air pockets improve drainage on poor sites and create room for root growth, it breaks down over time into nutrient rich composted soil replicating the woodland floor.

Most often done by making piles on top of existing ground, burying the material below existing grade will give the same results with a more traditional look. At a recent installation in Beverly Farms MA, we created sub grade Hugelkulture beds along the back foundation of a client’s house. A pile of old rotting cut logs found on site was a perfect resource ready for recycling. Large trenches were dug, the material put down and planting soil placed back on top. Planted on top is a hedge of edible Blueberry shrubs (berries), Ostrich Fern (fiddleheads) and Geranium rozanne (not edible but a constant blooming perennial for all season interest). This new woodland edible planting will thrive for years to come becoming non dependant on labor and cost intensive irrigation systems.

Hugelkulture beds can be as intricate or simple as you want them to be. Used on poor soil or even on pavement, creating these raised beds will give you some of the most nutrient rich, organic soil you can imagine. So I say, go ahead and pile up your yard waste, maybe even your neighbors and give it a try. Shut off those irrigation systems and save yourself a couple bucks, what do you have to lose. Just a tip however, fresh material will take much longer to break down and start the process than already rotting material.

-Joe Shafner