So I came home from our visit resolved to build a brand new fruit cage for our soft fruit and to start a hugelkultur bed experiment. I was originally planning to use the field by the PV array as a standard allotment, but because nothing can be simple in my life I have decided instead to try out a couple of hugelkultur beds. But what are these?
Well as far as I can ascertain from my limited reading (mainly, but not only Wikipedia!) they are a permaculture practice originating from Germany. You dig a trench, fill it with wood, cover it with turf, straw, compost, twigs, leaves etc and then top it with soil. As everything decomposes it releases nutrients into the soil and helps retain moisture – this is my simple version – I am sure it is more complicated than that.
I decided to build two 60 foot by 4 foot beds. Far too much work for us so we called in a digger to help
The day before the digger came, Henry laid out all the wood by the marked trenches and James and I brought over lots of compost, alpaca poo and straw.I wanted to include lots of poo to help deal with a potential nitrogen deficiency when the logs begin to decompose – once they get going they will release nitrogen (I think).
First a trench was dug and the turf and soil put to one side. Then Henry and me put lots of wood in it (wood James cut down when we cleared the copse earlier this year – see here – if I had known about hugelkultur then I would have used the branches in it too – oh well).
The digger then pushed all the soil and turf onto the logs