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Is Hugelkultur Sustainable?

leavs in hugelkultur beds

We recently incorporated several large hugelkultur beds into our market garden. For those who have not yet heard about hugelkultur, you can learn more about the how and why of this gardening practice in my original hugelkultur post. In short, hugelkultur is a German term that roughly translates to “mound culture”. The hugelkultur gardening method has been used in Eastern Europe for centuries and is essentially a sheet-composting method that involves burying woody debris (logs, branches, sticks) and other organic matter under a mound of earth to add nutrients to the soil and retain moisture.

Hugelkultur boasts some pretty audacious benefits: Dramatically increased soil aeration, increased soil fertility, creative use of what would otherwise be ‘waste’ (the brush/burn pile) and biggest of all – little/no watering.

No watering? Hard to believe, right? As I did my initial research into hugelkultur, this claim caught my attention most. I read all about the benefits of hugelkultur, the science behind it, the how-to instructions for making it happen and the first hand experience of those who’ve given it a whirl. Everyone had great things to say and claimed that these audacious benefits were legit.

Digging for Disses

I was convinced that hugelkultur raised beds were the way to go for expanding our garden… well, almost convinced. As I concluded my research I decided to search for one final thing: Naysayers. I purposely searched terms like “hugelkultur fail” or “hugelkultur myth” or “hugelkultur doesn’t work”. After quite a bit of digging, the only thing I found was a handful of articles about people who doubted the process would work and were amazed at the results; converts. From all my reading, it appeared that hugelkultur has a whole slew of fans and no foes. In fact, through all my digging I only found one diss, and it has to do with sustainability.

Any Naysayers?

The one negative commentary I could find on hugelkultur was the purported idea that hugelkultur is not sustainable. Why? Click here to read on about what we found and our answer to the question "Is hugelkultur sustainable?"

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Comments:

I think that the best definition of what is sustainable has to do with whether you can sustain the best case scenario, or whether it breaks down, rendering the idea un-sustainable.
Using large machinery to institute a generally more eco-friendly system that is not impossible to maintain would seem to be to be very sustainable.
Love what you are doing, will keep reading to see how it goes. Thanks! JJ

Posted by JJ on January 02, 2013 at 01:20 PM EST #

We have friends who made their front yard into a bed a few years ago. It has done so well that they put beds into the back yard also.

We put one in last fall, about 12 X 40 in an area which gets some natural drainage as we are in a low humidity area of the country. We will be moving our squash and melons to this bed this year to see what we get.

Thanks for the great article.

Donna

Posted by Donna on January 02, 2013 at 10:02 PM EST #

Thanks to both of you! I'm so excited to see the results as we put these beds to use in the Spring. Donna, when the time comes, please let me know how your squash and melons fare!

Happy New Year!

Posted by Farmer Katie on January 07, 2013 at 12:58 PM EST #

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