A new approach – Hugelkultur
John W. Wilkinson and Peter Hill, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Reviewed by Steve Head
A form of permaculture, Hugelkultur is a German word meaning “mound culture”. Put simply, it means creating is a large pile of wood buried under layers of soil and humus, and seeks to mimic the decay and nutrient recycling mechanisms of an undisturbed forest floor. The idea of Hugel heaps is rather new to the UK, and offers a number of benefits to growing plants and provides habitat for a host of wildlife.
Hugel mounds can be superficial, with wood and soil on top of damp ground, or more commonly based on wood piled into a trench, which is then covered by smaller pieces of wood, leaves, even old clothes, and topped with soil into which you can plant vegetables or flowers.
For the plants, the buried wood provides a reservoir of moisture and an ongoing supply of slow release nutrients stored in the wood and made available by fungi and other microorganisms during the decomposition process. Hugle heaps also provide:
• self-tilling soil. As the roots and logs decay they move, aerating the soil
• a greater growing space for the area used. The piles are best made tall, and the
angled sides of the heap increase the growing area
• a south side for light loving plants, with the added benefit of the sun-facing
slope increasing warming, and a north side for shade loving plants or edible fungi
• warmer soil, and therefore a longer growing season due to the heat given off