For those who haven’t come across them before, Hugelkultur beds are basically a pile of wood or branches, covered with soil to form a raised bed. It is a great way to use up material that might otherwise get burned off. The idea is that the pile rots slowly, giving whatever is planted in the soil above plenty of nutrients, as well as space for roots to grow. It should also retain moisture well. Birch is an excellent wood to use, as it rots so quickly in these conditions.
We began by marking out where we wanted the bed to be – in this case we had mulched it with plastic some months ago to kill off the grass. We then dug out 8-10 inches of topsoil and heaped that where the path would be to one side of the bed.
The next step was to fill this with woody material – in this case the piles of birch trimmings, bits of hedge and old wood that have been sitting over in our woodland, and which were left over from making our birch fence.
We also added a load of woody material from our rough compost heap for good measure, and topped that with a bit of chicken manure.
Lastly we heaped the soil back on top, and dug out the path alongside, adding the soil from this to the (now quite high) raised bed. The result is a lovely big raised bed that will drain well in winter, retain some moisture in summer, and allow us to plant in 3 rows – one along each side and one on top. All in a day’s work.