I have discussed the permaculture concept of swales, hugelkulture beds, building rich soil, and square foot gardens. Today I combine the concepts into one for building a garden bed.
Large swale systems and hugelkultur beds are not really feasible for the back-yard, suburban gardener, so we continue preparing a garden bed with all of the methods, but on a smaller scale. We may not be able to retain an entire underground lake, like with the swales, or soak up an entire pond of water like in a full sized hugel bed, but we can reduce the size of all of these. If we use companion planting with it, we can add and control nutrient content of the soil.
First I plan on finding the contour of the yard and I will do this by using an A-Frame level, which I will have a video on building a simple one soon. Simply put, I will find the level lines of the yard to enhance water catchment.
Then I plan to dig a small trench down almost twice the width of the planned garden bed. Half of this will be your micro-swale and the other half of it will be your hybrid hugel.
Fill half of the trench with wood, almost level with the ground. If you want more wood that what the logs and sticks can provide, the we can place some woodchips to fill the spaces.
On top of the wood that we have placed down we place grass and organic humus or compost. to keep the nitrogen up. If we have time, we could place beans or a nice white clover in the area the season before and cut them down to the ground before we dig. Then with the roots and greenery, we will add a ton of nitrogen to the soil to make up for the wood decomposition.
Then we cover with a dirt and humus mix, or maybe 30% humus (just a guess).
Then we sow our seeds into the mound that we have made. At this point, half of the trench that I dug should be still below ground and the other half should be above the ground. The raised portion is downslope from the ditch. I will sow based on the square foot gardening method.
Then we add a small layer of humus on top of the mound.
Last step is to place a thick 2-3 inch layer of plain wood mulch on the bed and ditch, maybe a little less on the ditch. Mulch is the best friend of the no-till gardener. It will help retain water and at the same time it will keep all those pesky weeds out.
That’s about all there is to the plan. I am hoping to be able to video several parts of the build, so you guys can reproduce it.
Below is a very simple drawing of my plans.
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