Hugelkultur Bed and Winding Paths

A little less grass in our yard and a little more space for planting! We decided to use all the biomass from the trees we recently trimmed to make a hugelkultur bed in our garden. We also created a winding path along the outside of where our annual garden will be to help keep out the grass.  All of the materials were free!  I love creating abundance and beauty from surplus, scrap materials.  Yes indeed, waste=food xoxo


The hugelkultur has multiple functions. It allows one to build a garden bed out of organic materials that are too big to go in the compost. Over time, as the materials in the bed decompose, they provide a slow release of nutrients for the plants. The decomposition also produces some heat, which some plants appreciate.

From observing the spring thaw this year, we noticed that the middle of the grass outside the kitchen window was the wettest; it also seemed that water seeping into our basement was coming in from this side of the foundation. This area of the yard is highly compacted, as it was previously used as a second driveway. It is also one of the two main places through which the wind passes and where there is visibility from the street and neighbours. In Dave Jacke's forest garden pattern language, the site repair pattern reminds us to focus our work on the places that are the most degraded and that require the most regeneration. This area the entire length of our house will become the site for a mini food forest: multiple layers of vegetation will help reduce the wind and give us more privacy; more vegetation and more soil will help retain water and hopefully prevent excess water from seeping into the basement; and all of this will bring more health and fertility to this part of the land. The first step is to build more soil.

We agreed to start building soil in the spot in the middle of the grass outside the kitchen window.

The hugelkultur allows us to build soil with the surplus materials we have on site: branches and clippings from trees and bushes (maple, cedars, stalks from the perennial beds and more); six big bags of leaves we found a couple blocks away from home and which the resident gladly donated to our cause; a collection of cardboard boxes (from moving, groceries and from living in a house?); a pile of newspaper from living in a town where we receive two free newspapers a week; and a pile of topsoil left by the previous residents.

Similar to the sheet mulch, we started with a thick layer of newspaper, this time watering regularly to keep the paper from blowing around.

This was followed by a layer of cardboard (packing tape removed).

Next, we put all the cedar and other tree clippings, and maple branches; I carefully walked and bounced on this layer to help compact it.

Next, we put all the leaves and walked again on this layer.

This was followed by a layer of topsoil 2 to 3 inches thick.  Around the edge of the bed, we put the larger pieces of wood and branches to make a border.

In the bed, we put in stepping "stones" - wood pieces actually, from the old barn, which allow us to walk in the bed without stepping on the soil. We topped the bed off with a light layer of straw mulch.

So there we have it, a new mound ready to plant! Along the bottom on one side, we've transplanted strawberries, which we found beside the old barn, and a mullein plant, which we found in the bed in front of the house (left side of mound in photo). On another side, we've sown radishes, and on yet another side we've sown beetberry (right side of mound in photo). When the weather gets warmer, we'll eat the radishes and sow squash on the top of the mound. In a year or two, we'll plant some more permanent edible perennials. What a joy, the start of our food gardens at home!


In preparation for the annual beds which Sebastien will prepare in the coming weeks, we decided to put in a winding path along the edge, to help keep out the grass. 

Again, a similar recipe: we started with cardboard, topped with a layer of wood chips 2 to 3 inches thick.

So now we have a cute winding path that leads from the hoop house, around the garden, to the neighbour's fence. Yes, to the fence.

We decided for now not to extend the path to the compost pile or to the hugelkultur. There is still a fair bit of grass to attend to this year - which over time will become garden beds! - and in the meantime we decided agreed that it would be less work to mow open areas of grass instead of little triangular wedges.

Today I walked the path multiple times to help set it in place and to enjoy the meandering view of the sheet mulch, the mini hoop, the hugelkultur and the annual garden that will be coming along shortly :)

Read about the sheet mulch, edible guild and mini hoop we put in last weekend!


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