We’ve got a massive surplus of slightly rotten willow branches and trunks after felling a couple of large trees near the farm house. Willow isn’t much good as a fuel – too wet and light, so we decided to use up some of the wood by creating a Hugelkultur bed. The basic construction plan was to strip the top soil off, pile on lots of the rotting wood and add layers of straw and the removed top soil. The end result should be a raised bed that has loads of nutrients available from the decomposing wood and yet, due to the wood, retains moisture better than a standard raised bed.
The kids got really into the construction of this, enjoying building up the layers of wood and shovelling soil about. We built our hugelkultur bed in the play area as it will end up a perfect height for the kids to plant and weed. For the layers above the wood we used a mixture of feathers (high nitrogen content to offset the effects of nitrogen depletion caused by decaying wood) and rape straw that we cut last autumn.
We finished off by shovelling the top soil we’d removed at the beginningback over the top of the whole structure. Jenny then had a great idea – to transplant the excess runners from our main strawberry beds that were escaping all over the paths into the sides of the hugelkultur bed. Over the following few weeks we planted a quick crop of lettuce seedlings around the top edge and have now just planted in a few pumpkin plants that should benefit from the rich and water retentive conditions.