Hugel Beds

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Well, Mike & Harriet Schofield, our first pilgrims (and wwoofers) have been hard at work creating Hugel beds, a system of plant beds created by Sepp Holzer. Not in the traditional style of high embankments, but converting our existing raised beds.

The system works by creating a well-drained bed that will at the same time supply years of nutrients to the plant roots above through slow decomposition. Drainage is a critical issue for us with shallow soils on heavy clay and a very wet Solway climate. The addition of manure is to aid nitrogen enrichment in the initial stages when the faster-rotting brash might place a higher nitrogen demand on the soil above.

The first stage is to scrape off the existing soil that has spent the winter under black plastic mulch.

Black plastic mulch protecting the bed

Black plastic mulch protecting the bed

The bare soil exposed

The bare soil exposed

Mike shifting the topsoil onto the plastic

Soil removed and laid on the plastic

Soil removed and laid on the plastic

Not far below the top 4-6 inches of soil was the heavy clay subsoil. Good for potters, not good for growers.

Next stage is to start laying the thick woody branches.

Thick woody stuff that will take years to rot down.

Thick woody stuff that will take years to rot down.

This was originally going to be firewood, but at least it will last longer as a nutrient source. Then comes the lighter brash.

Brash on top of the heavy wood.

Brash on top of the heavy wood.

Next comes the hay we found left here when we arrived, and which the animals found rather unappetising as it was so old.

Hay on top of brash on top of wood on top of clay.

Hay on top of brash on top of wood on top of clay.

After trampling the hay onto the brash, a barrow-load of well-rotted manure was spread over the hay.

One barrow-load of manure spread onto the hay.

One barrow-load of manure spread onto the hay.

Next, the soil is layered back on.

Mike layers the soil back onto the bed

Mike layers the soil back onto the bed

Finally a barrow load of compost is raked onto the bed.

Compost raked over the lot.

Compost raked over the lot.

Et voila, as the English say. One finished Hugel bed. Took Mike about 2.5 hours. With help, of course, from his beautiful wife, Harriet.

Harriet having just brought the logs, brash, hay, manure, and compost, and now in need of a well-earned break.

Harriet having just brought the logs, brash, hay, manure, and compost, and now in need of a well-earned break!

Actually, Mike needed a break as well. This was his sixth bed. Huge(l) thanks to them both.

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