What to plant in a hügelkultur bed is a good question because there are plants not applicable to plant in a hügelkultur bed, but, of course, there are also plants and some vegetables that are appropriate.
In a hügelkultur bed, plant: root based veggies, i,e, yam, sweet potato, and potato; edible plant stems i,e. asparagus and celery; marrow veggies, i.e. zucchini, pumpkin, and cucumber; cruciferous veggies, i.e. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts; allium veggies, i.e. shallot, garlic, and onion.
What vegetable to plant in a hügelkultur bed can be a complicated affair to consider due to the things that we need to consider before knowing what vegetables we can plant in a hügelkultur bed?
The answer would be perennials + vegetables that can be harvested above the soil. Vegetables can be divided in few ways.
• The types of plant, the years they’ll grow
• Climate they’ll grow
• Their companion plants
• The difficulty in growing them
• Pests that creates an issue where you live
• And, if you like the vegetables.
You may be wondering why the liking part of vegetables is included in the category, but think of this, are you going to plant vegetables that you didn’t like to eat? – Of course not.
The veggies you like are the ones that you’re going to plant. But before drawing up a list of veggies best suited to growing in a hügelkultur bed; we must first discuss problems we might encounter in the center part of the hügelkultur mound.
At the center of the hügelkultur mound, its soil will shrink over time. This doesn’t bother the annuals, but it could be a problem for the perennials – specifically for most trees.
Trees don’t like the air pockets that would build up underneath them if you are going to plant a tree on top of your mound.
The asparagus tree might also be a problem because as they grow for many years, they might suffer or barely endure if the soil underneath it vanishes.
Before discussing the main types of vegetables that are good in the hügelkultur bed, let’s first debate about what are annuals, biennials, and perennials?
The Annuals, Biennials, and Perennials in a Hügelkultur Bed
An annual plant its living capacity does not live beyond one year from being planted as a seed to their death. (Such seed-to seed cycle).
The seed will sprout, blossom, and die within 12 months. This doesn’t mean within a calendar year, instead 12 months at max. And the best example is corn.
The Biennial plant requires two years to complete its life cycle. It eventually sprouts and grows, live through one winter, while in the second year, it will wonderfully grow more and blossom but die.
Biennials are among the least common of the different life cycle types of plants. The best example that is not commonly known is carrots. Carrots are ready to invest in its first year, but their seed will come second.
Also, the perennials plants live beyond two years. This definition concludes that tress is perennial; even the term is commonly used for herbaceous plants. And the best example is asparagus.
The Types of Vegetables Suitable for Hügelkultur Bed
• Root based veggies, i.e., yam, sweet potato, and potato
• An edible plant stem, i.e., asparagus and celery
• Marrow veggies, i.e., zucchini, pumpkin, and cucumber
• Cruciferous veggies, i.e., broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts
• Allium veggies, i.e., shallot, garlic, and onion.
It’s recommended to place your perennials in a location where there is not enough space or movement in the soil; this is because of the compost processes and movement of the logs, the branches, and any other organic material that is placed inside the mound.
Root Vegetable in Hügelkultur System
It might be a good idea to avoid root veggies in a hügelkultur; at least during the first few seasons. This won’t let you harvest the crops in them if they get stuck inside the branches or anywhere else.
A potato plant is easy to grow if provided with the right shade and correctly cultivated soil.
How about Allium Plants in a Hügelkultur Bed?
Allium plants, like garlic and onions, are simple to be planted all over hügelkultur. They can be useful in protecting other plants because:
• Onion: It drives back rabbits, the small white butterfly, and cabbage looper,
thus, very helpful in repelling potential animals and pests that might ruin the
• Leek: It prevents carrot fly
• Garlic: repels cabbage looper, root maggots, a bean beetle Mexican, and
borer that is a peach tree
A Marrow Vegetable in a Hügelkultur Bed
The best location for marrow vegetables in a hügelkultur bed is near where the most heat is generated in the composting process beneath the soil.
As these thrive very well in the area where there is extra heat, except if you live is in a place where the temperature is hot.
How about Leafy Green Vegetables and Cruciferous Plants in a Hügelkultur Bed?
An area with good light and is easy to reach is a place where leafy greens and cruciferous plants can easily be planted. Consider various varieties of lettuce that are harvestable over some time.
Be reminded that leaves that are starting to die off should be removed from your plants and placed into your compost.
Leaves that soon die off should not be left to rot next to the vegetables as they carry a high risk of detrimental factors that attract slugs and critters that would harm your vegetables.
Giving Care of your Hügelkultur Perennials
It would help if you did not neglect perennials in assuring that you have provided it with care for you to ensure that it will last for years. Perennials are popular in their capacity to offer repeated harvest from multiple seasons.
Moreover, having perennials in your hügelkultur garden is easy to maintain. They don’t need too much attention, good quality of soil is enough, adequate water and enough sunshine will do.
You should also be aware that they are an ideal target for insects and diseases since they don’t often die after one or two seasons.
Preventive Measures to Bear in Mind
It would help if you bought the healthiest plans that you can find. It would help if you avoided those plants that you can see signs of disease, the presence of insects, and fungus.
A healthy plant is a wise choice you can offer to cope with any issues that might arise in your plants, but if the plant you buy is healthy, a greater chance of a healthy growing plant is acquired.
You can also look for a disease-resistant perennial plant; this kind of plant is bred for resistance to disease and insects.
This is because perennial breeders meticulously select breeding and work hard to ensure the plants will survive in any circumstance.
Avoid a single plant in your garden of a certain perennial. What if a plaque spreads and hits your garden, and you only planted the apple trees gene?
It will take away all your apple trees, and there won’t be any left for you. That’s why this monoculture should be avoided in your garden.
The most crucial stage in having perennials is the first season because this stage requires adaptation of conditions, and this is true if you are going to transplant. Check it regularly, if possible, to spot any signs of trouble.
Watering your Perennials
Since we’re going to place our plants near the hügelkultur bed, watering them is not required, but if you’re going to water them, make sure you don’t overwater them.
The amount of water you will put in might cause disease to the plants, so moderation is highly required. Don’t water the plants from above; you should water them on the roots.
Watering in the roots prevents water from pooling up on the leaves and their flowers, preventing mold or bacteria from occurring.
How To Build A Hügelkultur Bed
1. First, select a sunny spot that’s roughly 8×4 feet. (A bed built parallel to a slope is a good idea, as it will catch water.)
2. If there is grass or the site is weedy, you’ll need to clear it down to bare soil. Just mow and cover the area with cardboard or wood chips to suppress growth.
3. Now dig out shallow pits, retaining the turf or topsoil for the top of your mounds. Make the pit or trench 12 to 18 inches deep, keeping the same depth the full length of the bed.
Beds need to be narrow enough that you can reach the center; we’d suggest no more than 4 feet across.
4. Next, lay the woody material into the dug-out area, starting with large logs or downed trees. Add a layer of branches and twigs. A mix of hard and softwoods is recommended.
Avoid using woods that are slow to rot such as locust, cedar, or redwood, or any that release toxins that inhibit plant growth such as black walnut.
5. Like building a lasagne garden on top of the wood, top it with grass and grass clippings—nearly any kind of organic material—and pack firmly. If you have excavated turf, place it root side up on the wood.
6. Continue to arrange the wood longitudinally and as tightly as possible. The pile can be as long and high as you like but I suggest a 2- to 3-foot-high bed as it’s easier to work with (and can last without water for two or three weeks).
Some folks build them tall, up to 5 or 6 feet high but I would need heavy equipment to achieve that.
7. Then, water the layers well. “When it sprouts mushrooms, you know it’s wet,” says Tim Murphy, a gardener in Kingston, New York. Fill in any cracks or spaces with grass, leaf litter, and manure. “The tighter the better,” he adds.
8. Finally, top off the bed with 2 to 3 inches of topsoil and a layer of mulch.
When and Where to Plant in the Hugel bed
If you build this in the fall, let the whole thing settle over the winter and it will be ready for planting next spring.
In the first year, the pile will need watering as the wood breaks down. The rotting wood will also be using up nitrogen that would otherwise be going to your plants.
It is recommended that you plant legumes in the first year since they produce their own nitrogen.
Note that the greater the mass, the greater the water retention.
Experienced hügel gardeners have found that if the beds are high enough, they don’t require irrigation at all after the second year.
Steep beds also mean more surface area for planting; plus, their height makes harvesting easier.
Eventually, the rotting wood will hold water like a sponge, making the bed drought resistant.
The top of the bed will be naturally drier than the base so you can plant things that need more water nearer the bottom.
Those that like it drier should be planted near the top. You can plant in the sides as well as top and bottom increasing yields in a small garden.
More Useful Facts About Hügelkultur
Hügelkultur was brought to the rest of the world from Eastern Europe and Germany, where it’s been used for centuries, often as part of a broader permaculture system.
To explain this better, hügelkultur is a gardening tradition handed down through the centuries. It’s a traditional way of building a garden bed from rotted wood and plant debris.
By marking out an area for a raised bed, one would clear the land and then heap up woody material (partially rotted) and make mound shapes. The mounds were marked out in advance.
Then we would finish by clearing the land, and then heaping up woody material (ideally partially rotted) topped with compost and soil.
Downed trees, fallen branches headed for the brush pile, and rough lumber can all be used.
You are essentially taking rotting wood and allowing it to compost in place for a super fertile, moisture-retaining garden bed.
These mounds can be 5 to 6 feet high—massive heaps of logs, branches, leaves, straw, cardboard, grass clippings, and manure or compost mounded to be wider at the bottom than at the top.
As the wood shrinks and breaks down, a hügelbed sinks; one that is 6 feet high, for example, will ultimately sink to about 2 feet.
Do we wonder how many of you will be sufficiently inspired to build a hügelbed?
Some of us have worked on one and have seen the benefits.
If you haven’t, then read this comprehensive article and you’ll then have enough information to decide to have one or not.
We love our veggies and wish you the happiest and most successful of experiences with your hugelbed!