DTS Network Update: Dave’s Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

by Todd Walker

The cornerstone of our Doing the Stuff Network is trading theory for ACTION! 

DTS Network Project: A Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

As you may recall, we challenged each of you to learn at least one new skill in 4014 that builds self-reliance. Just pick a skill you’ve always wanted to learn or improve, set a time frame for completion, and share your progress with our community.

With his permission, we are spot lighting Dave DeWitt, a fellow DTS Networker, who has built an amazing hugelcultur raised bed this year. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, hugelcultur is an old form of raised bed gardening that requires no tilling and little to no irrigation. This style of growing food has been used for years and is very popular with permiculture practitioners.

Hugelcultur beds have many benefits:

  • Grow food in inhospitable climates (drought) and terrain (rocky and hard clay)
  • Self watering – decaying wood acts like a sponge to hold and release moisture plants need
  • Decomposing wood releases heat to extend growing season in cold climates
  • Decaying wood prevents nutrients from being washed away into ground water
  • Air pockets are created in the raised bed to keep soil from becoming compacted
  • Creates a microbe rich environment for mycelium
  • Releases nitrogen which plants love
  • Makes good use of fallen trees and branches from storms that don’t make it into your supply of firewood
  • Works in deserts and backyards

Dave planted three typical raised beds last year and was inspired by his friend at Schooner Farms (Facebook page) to give hugelcultur a try. He converted one of his raised beds to a hugelcultur bed this year.

Here’s his photo tutorial of the stuff he’s doing…

One DTS Networker's Hugelkultur Bed ExperimentOne DTS Networker's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Removing one traditional raised bed

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Adding wood to the bed

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Wood chips topping the logs

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

More organic material added… wet leaves from last fall

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Moldy straw left out over the winter was added next

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Cinder blocks and sticks were added to help maintain form – then another layer of old straw

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

He added a few inches of 2-3 year old horse manure next

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

Essential minerals, granite dust, calcium (saved our egg shells, dried in oven and ran through a coffee grinder), etc

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

More decomposing wood chips added

DTS Network Update: Dave's Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

The final layer – 3 inches of top soil from the previous raised bed

The dimensions of Dave’s hugelcultur bed are 8′ x 24′ with a 34″ block wall. He wouldn’t recommend making beds this tall. He stands 6′-2″ and can barely reach the middle of the bed. Plan accordingly. Also, the cinder blocks were filled with top soil and compost for added growing space. This addition grows his garden from to just under 200 square feet of garden space.

With all the materials on hand, this could be a weekend project. Dave has about 14 hours in this project. Seems like a lot of work, but the upfront investment will pay off with less maintenance and time in the growing season in Ohio.

Nothing inspires like seeing people busy Doing the Stuff! This network of everyday people are not just talking theory, they are testing and experimenting with stuff in the many categories of self-reliance and self-sufficiency skills.

Your turn

If you’ve ever used hugelcultur beds, successfully or not, we’d like your feedback. Leave your thoughts in the comment section – or join the discussion on the Doing the Stuff Network and keep with all the updates from our members!

We want to thank Dave for his value-adding tutorial and inspiration!

Keep Doing the Stuff, friends!


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over on the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

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Thanks for sharing the stuff!

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Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gardening, Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “DTS Network Update: Dave’s Hugelkultur Bed Experiment

  1. Pingback: Top 13 Uses for Pine Trees in Woodcraft and Self-Reliance | Survival Sherpa

  2. wakeonupnow

    I really like this idea…


  3. I made one this fall. No idea if it will work out, but I’ll come back and provide an update at some point next year!


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