Download the high-resolution image here:
Contour Gardening with Woody Beds

There has been a large interest in hugelkultur since Sepp Holzer brought the term to the Permaculture lexicon. Although it has been around for hundreds of years, hugelkultur is having a bit of a renaissance. If you are unfamiliar with the term, I have a brief article on Hugelkultur which you can read; however, it is basically a large garden bed with a wooden core. If you are familiar with the concept, then you will know that the original hugelkultur “bed” is sometimes over 6 feet (2 meters) tall! While this is a great element for a large plot of land, it is less practical for the average homeowner. Which is where today’s topic comes in to play. Americans have been scaling down hugelkultur for the last few years, so much so that maybe we need a new name… woody beds is one of the more popular alternate titles.

I’ll quote myself from another article of mine I will reference from Questions from Readers: What Trees to Use and Avoid in Hugelkultur Beds?:

The benefit of a hugelkultur bed is likely derived from numerous things. First, as the wood slowly breaks down, the rotting material acts like a sponge. This “sponge” holds on to water and slowly releases it over time. Any plants which are growing above it will be able to stay hydrated with deep roots during periods of little or no rainfall for much longer than other plants nearby. Great!

Second, as the tree rots, it will slowly be giving off nutrients, specifically nitrogen, which will act as a slow release fertilizer. Perfect!

Third, fungi are some of the key players in the rotting process. These organisms are also vital components to the underground network of soil life. When we place logs and branches underground (remember that they are already going to be inoculated with local fungus, and they will also welcome new fungi) we are jump-starting the intricate soil web of life. We are placing highways and tunnels all through the soil which will shoot these beneficial life forms under everything we grow. We are, in effect, helping to create an established forest soil in a matter of hours or days. Amazing!

There are likely many more benefits to hugelkultur and probably dozens of more things that are going on in wood and soil, but this is what we know for sure right now.

There is a growing amount written on hugelkultur that one can find if they desire, but the basics are outlined above. Now let’s get into actually using this in a practical Permaculture project!

First Step:
Download my illustration above, and use it to follow along with the videos and podcast below.

Second Step:
Watch these videos by Jack Spirko. Jack is a friend and business partner of mine, and he has been running The Survival Podcast for a number of years now. On top of that, he is really starting to become an established name in the Permaculture world. I think he has done a lot to introduce a whole new group of people to the amazing science of Permaculture. Earlier this year, he published these videos on creating woody beds for gardening. I am a very visual person, and I found these videos to be helpful. I think one day Jack will probably will get to the point where he is producing Geoff Lawton quality videos, but for now he using a small digital camera. I don’t really care… he is out there and teaching and spreading the word! With that said, I did feel this fantastic concept of contour gardening with woody beds could be better explained (and understood) if there was a good illustration. So I drew one.

Third Step:

Fourth Step:
Get outside and build your own Contour Garden with Woody Beds!


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Photo References: All photos/images in this article are mine. Please ask if you would like to use them for more than your own personal use!