Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: Update on the Hugelkultur Experiment

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENLast fall we decided to convert part of a garden bed into a low hugelkultur bed to see how it would work for us. (A quick-and-dirty explanation of hugelkultur: You pile up twigs, branches, rotting wood, and even small trees to create a raised bed then cover it with soil; read more about the method here.)

hugelTo compare, we prepared a traditional bed using a rototiller right next to the experimental one. In both beds, we used the same mix of soil amendments and we planted the exact same varieties in the same configuration. They are also hooked up to the same water line. So, other than one being a hugel and the other being tilled, they are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same. The season is still fairly early, but I’m already seeing some differences.

tomatoesThe tomatoes are slightly larger in the hugel bed compared to the tilled.

peppersSame with the peppers—especially the habanero, which is notorious for being a slow-growing variety.

eggplantsThe eggplants are doing equally well.

watermelonWatermelon germination was the biggest difference. I had much faster and better germination rates in the tilled bed compared to the hugel.

squashOf the squash plants that germinated around the same time, the ones in the tilled bed are bigger and more vigorous.

bedsThe biggest difference, though, is a substantially smaller amount of weeds in the hugelkultur bed.

The season has just begun, and production hasn’t even started yet. That will be the real test to determine which bed works best. Stay tuned!

Rachel-Dog-Island-FarmMy friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with my husband, I run Dog Island Farm, in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard, I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

ALL PHOTOS: COURTESY OF RACHEL

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