Monday, March 12, 2012

Waste Wood and Hugelkultur

Wood in bed before soil
So this year we are trying something a little different. The co-gardeners have been researching hugelkultur. You may ask yourself “What is hugelkultur?” and that is a valid question. And, I'm not really sure, at least about the German word part of it. But basically you take a well dug garden bed and bury wood in it down at the bottom, and it waters your garden. Eventually anyhow. The decaying wood soaks up and holds lots of moisture that the plant roots can suck up.

At first I was skeptical, but after looking around on-line, seems like there is plenty of proof out there. And part of the convincing is our own experience. Last year we got compost from the city. People take there branches, sawdust, grass clippings and leaves and dump them around the back of the animal shelter. The city eventually gets an industrial chipper machine that grinds all the wood up. A big front end loader mixes and turns it and it becomes this dark substance with big wood chunks. And when I say chunky I mean huge chunks. We sifted it before we put it into the garden, and it still had fist-sized chunks of partially decayed and dried out wood in the compost, lots of it. We used the chunks we sifted out to mulch the garden pathways.

Pumpkins on F150
Don't know about this hugelkultur stuff with sawdust. There may be a problem, not sure yet. According to Mother Earth News sawdust does makes a good mulch (on the soil surface, not mixed in) if you add a little extra nitrogen along with it. I think the chunks of wood don't have as much surface exposed as sawdust so the nitrogen levels (that the plant needs to be green and fruit) are okay. For whatever reason, our garden did well, especially considering the summer temperatures we had to deal with last year. There was no sign of nitrogen deficiency and lots of growth. Maybe we compensated because we added plenty of horse manure from the neighbor's stable (Thank You Marielle K.).

It will be a fun test, and a chance to use up some wood we didn't have any good use for at the moment. If you want to read more about hugelkultur and square foot gardening check out one of the co-gardeners blogs-

Deck possum waiting on the steps
I am still smelling chicken litter from my gardening today. Our newly acquired piles of litter are next to the garden and the husband threw some onto the wood in the bed. There is water still standing in that bed and the aroma of the wet litter is stuck in my sinuses. Or maybe that is also what's stuck on the bottom of my my grungy garden sneakers sitting next to me and the computer. On my way to shower and bed I think I will leave the shoes out on the deck. I bet the possum will be impressed.


  1. opossums...nice. so sweet of you to think of him so often ;)

  2. "Hugelkultur" sounds like it would be phonetically similar to "agriculture". Just a thought. Side note...maybe it is time to name that opossum? =)

  3. I finally found the meaning- hugelkulture = "hill culture". Often the wood is piled up and soil put on it thus making hills or mounds.

  4. Anybody want to suggest a name for the possum?

  5. I will definitely try this one day . . . waste wood we have in abundance!

  6. the possum could be called jethro, like on that hillbilly show :)