The concept of Hugelkultur (Hugel Mound Growing) can basically be described as a self-composting bed or planting area (in the case of this article, in large pots). The gardener digs a shallow trench or pit and places logs, branches, sticks, twigs, brown leaves, nitrogen rich greens and or fresh manure, then tops these materials with the dug out earth and finally a decent layer of compost.

A good Hugel with large thick logs can be self-composting for anything up to 10 years. Read previous articles on traditional Hugels here Article 1 and Article 2.

Just the other day I realised that I can re-create the Hugel system but in large plastic planter pots, this will give you the benefit of Hugelkulturs without having to strain your back doing loads of digging!

Anyone taking on an uncultivated or fallow piece of land such as a disused Allotment Plot can always Sheet / Lasagna mulch a section, cover the result with thick impermeable black plastic sheet to kill off the perennial weeds and simply place Hugel Pots on top to ensure the land is still productive. Once you need to remove the sheet after a year and start using the ground space for planting, you can simply knock over the pots and empty the goodness to build up the humus / top layer!

Hugel Pots.jpg

Hugelkultur Mound in Planter Pots

The general rule in terms of what can be grown on the Hugel Mound in year 1, are shallow rooted crops / plants such as various lettuces. Thereafter you can grow plants that require more nutrients and moisture and then finally on year 3  you can pretty much grow anything from Tomatoes to Pumpkins.

In the terms of the Hugel in a large pot, you can start the bottom layer either with composted or semi-composted wood chips (skip them and use soil if you have Slug / Snail problems), place a decent layer of soil (especially soil you wish to amend) on top of the latter with the Branch, Sticks, Twigs and cardboard / leaves as the carbon layer.

Follow on top with vegetables, fruit scraps, cut grass or fresh manure and then go on to adding the thick layer of soil / compost for growing in

(refer to image for general idea on layers, there are no specific rules but rather guidelines to follow) such as:

  1. Wood and wood chip need Nitrogen to break down, the plants you intend to grow need nitrogen too, the wood will suck this out of the soil and this is why we add manure or nitrogen rich fresh greens like veggie scraps and grass clippings / garden prunings, therefore, try to add as much green / manure / nitrogen rich material the more wood you have – greens decompose much quicker so stuff a lot in there.
  2. Compose the larger wood at the bottom and build up with smaller pieces until you reach brown leaves and cardboard this should ensure nice air spaces between are protected from being filled in by settling materials, these air spaces are important to ensure that the process does not become anaerobic – you could even start the logs on top of a 3-5cm thick layer of fresh grass clippings although this is not imperative.
  3. Intending on using this pot every year for the same purpose and do not intend on emptying it for a few years? then this is the time that you can use much thicker logs and branches in the bottom, if you want to empty the contents regularly (every 1 – 2 seasons) then it would be more beneficial to use thinner branches and sticks instead.
  4. Shallow rooted crops are mostly recommended in the first year however, you could easily use root crops such as carrots and parsnips provided you have a deeper layer of top soil / compost, remember that carrots and parsnips need nicely sieved compost / soil to prevent roots from ”forking”
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Comments
  1. Helen says:

    Good luck with your hugel pots!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeffpermie says:

      Cheers Helen! I am lucky enough to have scored about 5-6 very large pots from a Landscaper friend who planted some trees a few years ago, they have been used for stashing and storing woodchip at the back and sides of the allotment shed and were ignored for a while (which was great as now I have very well composted woodchip which probably will not suck nitrogen out of the soil if I used it somewhere. I jst realised the other day that I love carrots but hardly every grow them due to the carrot fly so the bigger pots got me thinking of a higher bed what only need filling and placement.

      PS: An experiment I did starting early last year turned out quite successful and perhaps you could try implement it in a section of your garden to see if there are any results; I dug about 1 – 1.5 spade blade depth and dumped in some semi-composted woodchip (as a soil amendment), the dug soil was then roughly thrown back in and w’chip was then again dumped on top (remember, i have heavy clay so the soil that was placed over the chip was basically thick chunks that were hard to break up). This section was supposed to be used to house pots for potatoes and other veggies but I ended up building a herb spiral on one part and then meandering beds with a thick woodchip path in between the beds with only a few pots here and there. So the veggies didn’t do too well in the beds the last season and that is because I knew that there would be heavy nitrogen lock coupled with the fact that the w’chip was also probably quite acidic (a lot of Llandii gets mixed into our free w’chip deliveries). upon digging the same depth to see what the results were, I pulled out black fluffy soil / chip mix and quite a few worms around too,I feel that this could bring you quicker results and better moisture / nutrient retention than hugels albeit for a shorter period (think about it though, you don’t really need 6-10 years of self composting if you intend to continue soil building, the woodchip being dug-in is just a quick solution and as long as you keep at it with your green manures and top mulching with compost then all should be good 🙂

      Like

  2. Great post and really good idea to use pots – much more manageable for the Mencap garden, and much more practical for our home garden too. Better to have hugel pots in place than my perpetually pending plans of hugel beds.

    Liked by 1 person

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