Mother’s Day Raised Hugelkultur Bed!

I had a fantastic Mother’s Day!

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My boys and my husband made me a cake!

The best part of the weekend? I got another hugelkultur inspired raised bed! Don’t know Hugelkultur? Learn more here: http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

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This is the second year I’ve gotten a raised bed on Mother’s Day and I am super excited! The first one we built is here on my post: “Hugelkultur, Keyhole Gardens: Bridging Ideas”. We did this one a bit differently, but kept the main ideas we used on the original  Hugelkultur inspired bed.

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This is a cinder block bed. The inner dimensions are 6 by 10 feet. We lined it with cardboard.

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You need to wet this as you go. Cardboard and paper take a ton of water. It works well to step on it as you water. That will squeeze the air out and help your dry materials absorb the liquid.

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There’s a layer of packing paper. This is a great use of all the stuff you end up with after a move! We chose to add the wood chips again. These wood chips will eventually absorb water and act like a giant sponge. Through each new addition to the bed make sure you wet it well. It will be impossible to wet it thouroughly later on.

Expect to have the giant grubs if you are in Texas. You can see my solution on my post “When Life Gives You Grubs, Serve Them Nematode Tea!” I’ve seen a lot of queries about giant grubs on search engines from people down here so I know I’m not the only one!

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We used about 5 bags of mulch in this bed. I just bought the cheapest mulch I could find which ended up being pine bark mulch. The larger the chips: the longer the chips will last. Remember to wet as you go!

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The next layer is compost. I don’t buy anything I haven’t touched. I won’t buy anything that feels like there’s a ton of sand in it. We went to a local rock yard and were disappointed as usual. I’ve always done price comparisons between hardware stores and rock yards and have chosen hardware store bagged soil every time, but this rock yard had really poor quality soil as well. Bagged soil at Lowe’s was about a dollar less a yard and much, much better quality. I haven’t found good soil at Walmart or Home Depot locally, but you can certainly check whatever is near you and see if you have better luck. I skipped the hay in this bed. Since we’re in a severe drought: hay is not a cost effective option right now.

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Your access to brands of bagged soil will depend on your location. If you see this stuff at Lowe’s, it is what I choose for amending. It’s a good price and a great quality soil. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need something that has a certain “type” of soil listed on the bag. Touch it and judge the soil by what you feel. This bag says “compost”, I call it: great soil. The only thing you need to stay away from (as far as it being too rich) would be manure (composted or not). Watch your added Nitrogen levels with manure. It will burn your plants if you add too much and will be full of the salts they add as supplements to animals in feed lots.

Please refer to my post “Making Sense Of Old Sayings” to help you learn the importance of building great soil and how to recognize good bagged soil.

Don’t know if you are dealing with hot or cold manure? Read up on adding valuable natural fertilizers to your soil here: http://www.garden.org/ediblelandscaping/?page=201104-animal-manures and here: http://www.moongrow.com/organic_gardening_guide/fertilizers/manure.html

Here’s a site that explains why our rabbit is my favorite source of fertilizer: http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/8156/rabbit-manure-in-the-garden

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We added a bale of peat humus to lower the pH and help hold water. Everything down here (including the water from the tap) is basic. The water has such a high pH it will kill acid loving plants even if they are potted in low pH soil. I make my coffee in a coffee press. When I’m done I pour more water in, let it sit in the old grounds and then go water my gardenias with the water. Be careful with the grounds themselves. You can easily kill a plant with coffee grounds…even acid loving ones. This is the voice of experience.

In the last bed I used another concept called Keyhole Gardening. There is a beautiful how to video from Africa on this concept and it makes the idea really easy to understand: http://youtu.be/ykCXfjzfaco . I tried this with the last bed I built. Over the year that it’s been installed: the feeder areas that I made with chicken wire have collapsed. This year I am going to use different, more permanent materials (three large pvc pipes with holes drilled in it for drainage instead of chicken wire) and add another aspect to it: worms! I got the idea from this blog: http://milkwood.net/2010/10/12/how-to-make-a-worm-tower/

So, I’m creating 1-3 permanent worm bins inside the bed. I may put one in and see how I like it and add others later. The site above calls it a “worm tower”. This is the basic idea of the keyhole garden which is set up to feed and water the beds, but with updated materials…and some red wigglers, which will do fine as a permanent outdoor worm bin in our climate. I love the new addition to the theme because: I have no interest in keeping up with feeding and emptying independent worm bins. I also was wondering how I was going to keep critters out of an outdoor bin full of wonderful kitchen scraps and yummy worms. We’ve already got armadillos in the yard tearing up areas looking for grubs. So far, they have stayed out of the raised bed.

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Last year’s melons. I had a bumper crop but had problems with a family of opossums helping themselves to the ripe ones!

On the to do list: My husband is going to enclose the garden with fencing. I had trouble with opossums in my melons last year so I will probably end up using electric fence in conjunction with the fence my husband wants to put in.

This bed is cheap to construct, permanent, easy to maintain and I don’t have to deal with our crummy natural soil. I will be planting it this weekend.

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Instead of lining this with plastic tarp like we used on the last one I have discovered that filling the holes in the blocks with soil does about the same thing. We will then cap them with concrete block pavers. I am soo ready to get out and plant this!!!!

Watch for next weeks post! I will teach you a great way to water your raised beds and keep it from losing water to evaporation. Down here in the summer we have days over 100 degrees for weeks at a time on top of water restrictions. They have promised an El Nino year which will hopefully end our drought but will bring torrential rains. Either way, this bed is going to provide us with a great area to grow veggies this year, and for years to come!

Want more information?  The “Gardening Basics” tab at the top of this page will walk you through everything you need to know to start you on the path towards a successful gardening experience. The information is free and I’m genuinely interested in helping you succeed. Let me know if you would like more information on specific topics for future posts. I’m here to help. Good luck and go out and get your hands dirty!

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39 responses to “Mother’s Day Raised Hugelkultur Bed!

  1. That’s an amazing idea. I just told my husband I want some of those and he said NO!. Bummer.

    • For us the time invested and the price were the lowest of all of the options we compared. The blocks are $1.32 each and there are flat cap stones to place over the tops of these that are about $1.38 a piece. They make the block more attractive. The cinder blocks won’t rot like landscape timbers and won’t leach creosote like railroad ties will. Good luck with whatever you end up using. The hugelkultur and other ideas for the center of the bed will still be usable no matter the product you use to contain the bed. Thanks for coming by! I appreciate the visit!

      • I have already decided to use this method instead. It just make take some saving up. Thanks for responding. I had forgotten about the creosote and that is a good point. I think I would rather do the cinder blocks.

  2. Lol…just want to clarify. The cinder blocks are too expensive right now. He did come back and say maybe we can do this with railroad ties or gardening timbers.

  3. Sooooo cool! Not something I can do on my apartment balcony, but I’m definitely passing it along to friends.

    • Keep watching my blog! I’ve got a post on how to green your apartment coming soon. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it!

      • Cool! So far I’ve got some morning glories started and a bunch of chives in a big filled-in tupperware tote with some holes drilled into it for drainage. I’m interested both in ways to do big things well and ways to get a really thriving window-box.

  4. I just interviewed a landscaping gardening business and I thought I would be bored hearing about mulch, but the guy was so passionate about it that now I’m fascinated! I have a black thumb you see, every plant I touch seems to die (this is an embarrassment as a spring baby :/) I have always admired those who can take the time to set everything up and create such natural works of art. I can’t wait to see what you plant and consider me a new follower. I want to learn all about gardening now and hopefully, like a mood ring, the color of my thumb can change. 😉

    • It just takes patience, practice and a few good tips! I’m glad you’re on board! I hope we can change your views on the color of your thumbs. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate the comment!

  5. Yay a hugel! I made one for my mother last year for her birthday–they work really well here, too. We get swampy in winter, and the bottom layers suck up all that water and keep it for the plants. If I could, I would put them all over our property. Great post–very informative.

  6. Interesting and informative post. I do a lot of container gardening and the Wet As You Go tip is very important. You are right, it is impossible to wet thoroughly from the top.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Raised beds are basically just huge containers. The care between pots and raised beds are very similar. Thank you for coming by. I appreciate it!

  7. I have my garden growing in a Western facing window, with pots of mint, garlic chives, onion chives, pea shoots, lettuce and a mystery thing I forgot to label growing up out of one pot. I have a tendency to take the root ends of my fresh veggies from the grocery or Farmer’s Market and stick them in potting soil just to see if they will sprout. I don’t get vegetables, but do get some interesting chives and greens. I do miss my farm with the garden and the raised herb beds.

    • It’s hard to downsize when you have had a large garden. We had to rent for a while when we first got to Texas. I had an elaborate container garden to help me get through it! I’m glad you have made space to continue to tinker with plants. I think gardening becomes an addiction to nurturing any and all potential plants that we come across. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for coming by.

      • It really is hard when you’ve lived on a farm all your life and suddenly hit a turn in the road and have to be closer to the neighbors and potential help in emergency situations. Even last year I had a share in a garden on the other side of the county, but broke my shoulder during the winter and haven’t built up enough strength to handle all the produce this summer. Next year though….

      • Definitely! I was in a wheelchair last year for mother’s day with MS like symptoms. It’s been a long row to hoe to get my strength and motivation back. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. Life sends us experiences and sometimes all we have control over is how we choose to react to the new rules. Good luck!

  8. I found a dill weed today to add to my window garden. It’s not very healthy, but I hope some tender loving care and the western sunshine will lead it back to health.

  9. Just came across your post. I would to have the room for something like this.
    Have you considered planting inside the spaces in the cinder blocks too, rather than cover them over?
    I was thinking a bit like this: http://followpics.co/cinder-block-raised-beds/

    • It would be very hard to keep them watered down here. The cinder blocks wick moisture which is why we put a tarp on the interior of the first one we made. South Texas heat is unique and you might be able to plant the holes in an area with cooler summers and more rain. If you do I would still recommend using something drought tolerant like wildflowers to attract bees to your bed or annual herbs. I’d let them go ahead and bolt because flowering herbs have attracted the most bees for me down here (especially basil). If you find the holes won’t support any plants they will still help insulate the bed as far as wicking moisture. Good luck! Thanks for coming by.

  10. I like your project but please, please don’t share your idea with my wife. Thanking you in advance.

    Regards and good will blogging.

  11. OMG… I am a big fan of Hugelkultur! Put in a raised H. bed last fall. Wanted to do another this spring, but I messed up my knee and am (sob, sob) out of gardening for the next couple months.

    Thank for visiting my blog. I’m looking forward to getting to know you, and I like your site. I also have a tri-color Australian Shepherd (named Sylvester, after the black and white cat). He’s a senior now so he’s got a lot of gray in his face. I loved seeing the pic and reading about Christmas. Oh yeah, I have a house rabbit too! Funny, huh?

  12. Hi crazy green thumb’s blog. Thanks for checking my Reclaiming a Beauty 53 blog. I love your hugelkultur bed blog and the photo aided details. My students at an elementary school in BC Canada have used garden boxes, but I love the extra ideas of cardboard as a base with the compost worm homes which I want to try! I look forward to reading back through your blog history and into the future. – Carol

    • Thank you so much for the compliment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I really liked your one minute gratitude photo. I strive to achieve the same goals. Thanks for coming by. I appreciate the visit!

  13. What a fabulous Mother’s Day gift! You’ve raised your sons well to have them so involved in family gardening 😉 Best wishes, WG

  14. What a cute cake. You certainly have some special men in your life

  15. This is one of the best tutorials for a raised garden bed. Thank you so much! Now I have to scour the neighborhood for cement blocks 😉 I just have to make a raised garden bed this season!

  16. Pingback: Hugelkultur, Keyhole Gardens: Bridging Ideas | Crazy Green Thumbs

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  18. Carole Besharah

    Thank you SO much for posting these instructions! We need to build a 2ft X 16 ft raised flower bed next month (beside our new deck!) Instead of wood, I think we will use this method instead. Woo-hoo!

  19. Pingback: Beginner Gardeners: Walking You Through What You Need To Know | Crazy Green Thumbs

  20. Pingback: Beginning Gardener: Class 4-Walking You Through What You Need To Know | Crazy Green Thumbs

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