Work on the herb garden: fourth hugel bed

A couple of years ago, whilst digging a trench in the back garden, I found a crisp packet dating from when the house was built. Then on the allotment, also whilst digging, there was a plastic bag deep in the soil. It contained polystyrene.

Now, today, I’ve come across a third unpleasant plastic bag, this time in the subsoil where I’ve been building my fourth hugel bed.

I can’t fathom why it was there as it was filled with stones. Or is it petrified food? Eww!

Anyway, trying to get the bag (and contents) out of the subsoil took quite a bit of time out of my day. I didn’t want to leave it, however, as much as anything because I was curious. And the roots of the bay tree, which is planned for that spot, don’t need to get tangled in it.

Altogether is was quite an exhausting job. I moved a lot of soil to create the trench for wood, bokashi mix, newspaper and compost, before putting the soil back on top again.

The first hugel bed I build (last June) has already shrunk back to the level of the surrounding ground. Too little wood in it probably, so this time there is considerably more, which means the wood pile is almost gone. Just enough for one more hugel bed, I think.

Thankfully, that is two to three months away, when the next bokashi bin is ready to be emptied. My joints ache and I’m almost out of energy, but I did manage to sow some carrot seeds…  In the new hugel bed!

Yes, these are in the herb garden. I’m going to let the contents of the hugel bed rot down a bit before I plant the bay tree – and, if things go according to plan, some lavender. Ah, that thought soothes my aching bones šŸ™‚


About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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34 Responses to Work on the herb garden: fourth hugel bed

  1. Kalamain says:

    out of interest… How much, and what kind, of wood did you use to line the bottom…. Anything specific?
    Have you considered using wood chips instead of sticks? I have seen others do it and I am curious.

    • Helen says:

      I had a fence which blew down a couple of years ago as well as branches and twigs which have come over from the trees next door. Other things in the same line include the Christmas wreath.

      I am trying to create a closed loop system, whereby I use what I have rather than buying things in. This means that I am trying to avoid things like wood chip in the garden.

      The idea of a hugel bed is that the wood decomposes slowly so that it holds water. This in turn means that the bed shouldn’t need watering. Wood chip might work but I suspect it would rot down more quickly than I’d like.

      When I talk about this bed rotting down, I mean the bokashi mix and newspapers. The compost I used was from my finishing off bin, so hopefully shouldn’t need to rot down, though of course it surely will do some more šŸ˜‰

      Anyway, thanks for your enthusiasm. Hope my reply helps.

      • Kalamain says:

        Yep. I saw the woods chip idea in an allotment vid. It was almost 3″ of chips covered with soil. All I could think of was how hot it would get.
        with the branches I suppose I could use just any wood I find or when I prune bushes.

        • Helen says:

          Yes, prunings would be great. Plus, of course, any other wood you can find.

          I have actually got wood in the house which I picked up for free from B&Q – they had a trolley full of stuff which they were requesting customers to help themselves to. That will go in the ground next time round I think.

          • Kalamain says:

            B&Q were giving stuff away? Wow… Never seen that one before. Well done there!
            I have a load of scrap wood and often get old pallets dropped off. I dare-say I could use those.

          • Helen says:

            You most certainly could! Which reminds me: wood merchants give pallets away, don’t they?

          • Kalamain says:

            Not often. They sometimes render them for chipping. Also they are often taken for making sawdust for animals.

            But you could ask at your local trading estate.

          • Helen says:

            I know of a place in Burley which apparently gives them away but I’ve not tried to ask myself.

          • Kalamain says:

            Hmm. They may do. You will just have to ask… Or get someone else to ask on your behalf.
            I generally find it easier to all people that can already get them. At work we have a place that has a bunch. I will be having a word… See if a trade can be made. B-)

          • Helen says:

            I hope you can get them šŸ™‚

  2. mybrightlife says:

    Herb gardens make me happy too!!!


    I dug a raised bed right next to what was an old outhouse on my property. As I was digging I kept bringing up all these little plastic bags. I don’t want to think what was in those plastic bags! I presume after a while even humanure turns to compost, doesn’t it? Double ew!!!!

  4. gaiainaction says:

    You did a great bit of work there Helen, it is interesting too, I am wanting to do some Hugel Kulture in the back of my garden, and have plenty of sticks that I can use, soon it will be time to make a start with that. Hope your aches have eased! Thank you for all the info.

  5. I wonder if someone buried a small animal in that spot? Curious. Your bed looks wonderful, all neat and fluffy. I know you’re exhausted, but it’s a good kind of tired, isn’t it?

  6. Awesome update thank you for sharing garden looking good have a blessed day

  7. jeffpermie says:

    Hi Helen, older post, I know but out of interest, can you let me know if there is a preferred time of year (your own personal time) to build Hugels? and the main one is, Where do you get your greens from? Personally, I feel that my own best time of year is somewhere late summer / early Autumn so that any greens can be cut early (before they go brown) and this lets the plant (for example, Agapanthus) be able to photosynthesize and store energy for next year.
    My first hugel was a semi success in that my downside was not enriching it with enough greens or any nitrogen rich biomass. I remedied this with loads of, well … pee. The second one is doing great as I ensured a hell of alot more greens were added in before the topsoil level, the bed has now been engulfed with a native clover which I didn’t sow myself and I am definitely not going to remove .. by the way, I am currently experimenting and two of my Asparagus crowns are actually the best performing on my allotment when compared to the other 10 which are planted in the typical RHS regimented style system, so perhaps try set a small section on one of your beds for Asparagus?
    cheers, Jeff

    • Helen says:

      Hi Jeff, asparagus sounds a great idea. It would certainly be nice to have some of my own.

      Anyway, you ask when the best time to build a hugel bed is. So far, I wouldn’t say I have noticed a difference. Each one has had a different amount of wood and green matter, plus different things have been grown on them. However, if they are built in autumn there is some chance of them rotting down a little before annual crops are planted in them, especially if it rains well over the winter (my hunch more than anything).

      As for green matter, that comes from my bokashi and the compost heap. I think I have got the amount of carbon rich material right. Some of the hugel beds could have had more wood, though. So, I am going to build a new bed in an area where the wood already seems to have disappeared.

      In the bed featured in the post you are commenting on, the bay tree benefited from urine to give it a nitrogen boost. Whether that is because I put too little green material in or there was more rotting wood to deplete nitrogen, I don’t know.

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

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