What is HugelKultur?

If you’ve been following the site for a while, you will seen a couple of references to HugelKultur so I though I would dedicate an entire to page explaining it in more detail. There is also a bibliography at the end for you to refer to for future reading.

You pronounce the word like it sounds, Hu-Gul-Culture I even recorded a little snippet for you to help you:

How to Pronounce HugelKultur:

What is HugelKultur?

HugelKultur is the planting on raised beds that don’t require any digging, fertilizing, or watering, it is also known as hill culture. Hugelkultur offers significantly more space for growing crops than other cultures because of its distinctive structure.

It is essentially a piece of wood buried in soil that will decompose over time and work as a sponge, acting as a great source of nutrients and water. Depending on the required size, hills can be made with or without machinery in small gardens as well as large farms.

Due to the high number of nutrients available, bigger designs can forego irrigation for years with five times better quality than smaller designs. The approach to Hugelkultur architecture is as straightforward as using cardboard as the first layer, after which comes a second layer of logs, wood, twigs, soil, and then straw, as illustrated in Figure 1 (Wayne et al., 2015).

Figure 1: Hugelkultur Design (Wayne et al., 2015).

A Brief History of HugelKultur and HugelKultur Gardening

“Hugelkultur” is a term that comes from the German language, where “hugel” refers to a mound or hill and “kultur” to culture or cultivating.

This sustainable gardening and farming method entails building raised beds and filling them with organic materials like logs, branches, leaves, and other biodegradable items.

These substances degrade gradually, creating an atmosphere for plant development that is full of nutrients and moisture-retentive. Although the idea of “Hugelkultur” has been more well-known recently, its origins can be found in several conventional and aboriginal agricultural methods. Similar methods have been utilized for millennia by people throughout the world, especially in Eastern Europe, Germany, and Eastern Asia.

To increase the soil’s fertility and retain moisture, these techniques comprised dumping organic waste and timber. The permaculture actions, which stress environmentally friendly and generative methods for agriculture and gardening, have brought the modern idea of hugelkultur back into the spotlight.

The hugelkultur technique attracted more attention since it adheres to sustainability, reducing waste, and resource efficiency concepts (Laffoon, 2016). Since we are all about saving the planet and reducing waste on this site, it seems like a great place for us to start building.

In Hügelkultur, layers of organic matter that will eventually degrade are placed over each other, switching between carbon and nitrogen supplies. The hugelkultur technique is known as lasagna gardening or sheet composting. Any scale can be used to construct a hügelkultur.

Based on the site and the resources that are accessible, the garden’s dimensions should be determined.

Following the requirements, hugelkultur sides might have a sharper or a more gentle slope.

Depending on how steep the slopes are, it could be more challenging to Sow seeds with no risk of loss. Hugelkultur can be constructed on top or below ground. Additional runoff can be captured by digging deeper, but it might take additional supplies to build the appropriate height.

For example on how to build your own hugelkultur, look below:

Furthermore, digging may need extra tools or machines based on the soil and height. A hill may additionally feature or not have base boundaries. The shape can be stabilized and the uppermost layer can be kept from draining away with the help of a boundary at the base of the hill.

Stone, brick, or wood are some border material choices (Luo et al., 2020; Steed et al., 2021).

How often did hunter-gatherers eat?

Related to HugelKultur, it is important to understand what the alternatives to HugelKultur were back in the day, and how revolutionary a technique this was. When compared to contemporary agricultural communities, hunter-gatherers often had higher- frequency feeding habits. Instead of three substantial meals, they frequently ate several smaller ones across the day.

Wild plants, fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, and small wildlife were just a few of the many different types of food that they consumed. Depending on the area and the time of year, different foods might have been more or less accessible. Hunter-gatherers depended on both animal hunting and plant-based sustenance acquisition.

As a result, their nutritional intake was more varied, and they were better able to adjust to changing environmental circumstances.

Hunter- gatherers did not adhere to a set meal pattern since they had to rely on the erratic nature of their environment to get food. They consumed food as they came across it, which could change from day to day (Milton, 2000).

Benefits of Hugelkultur

If properly set up in a site where it may catch runoff from the ground, hugelkultur functions as a self-irrigated landscape and requires little more water.

The organic matter in the hugelkultur serves as an absorbent substance for absorbing the water as it seeps into the hill from the environment and wicks it upward to the roots of the vegetation (Laffoon et al., 2015).

Due to its drought-resistant characteristics, hugelKultur needs little upkeep. The hugelkultur will still require weeding, just like any garden.

The mound serves as an irrigation retention feature, acting as a “raised rain garden”. Since the formation of a mound reduces the flow of water and provides a space for water to soak and return to the soil underneath, it is a beneficial stormwater management strategy (Laffoon, 2016).

Hugelkultur is among one of the most self-sustaining agricultural techniques in planting crops on raised beds. Expanding the implementation of hügelkultur for farming and gardens can be an effective method to boost food yields and lower hunger (Miles, 2010).

The soil is improved using hügelkultur. Within the mound, the naturally occurring soil components carry out an unpredictable self-composting mechanism gradually.

Hugelkultur uses landscape trash that could have been burned or dumped in a landfill and is also a form of carbon sequestration technology. Hugelkultur is Permaculture.

It is a useful habit for landowners, kids, consumers, and gardeners. Hugelkultur is simple and inexpensive. In overall, it is affordable and readily adaptable to various site conditions, materials, and environmental factors (Luo et al., 2020; Miles, 2010).

Problems with Hugelkultur

The hugelkultur concept also has some drawbacks, such as a laborious construction process that may even necessitate the use of large machinery to move the lumber and embed it in the soil.

Additionally, it uses a lot of wood, which presents a challenge in some regions where there isn’t plenty of wasted wood (Wayne et al., 2015).


  • Laffoon, M. (2016). A quantitative analysis of hugelkultur and its potential application on karst rocky desertified areas in China.
  • Laffoon, M., Meier, A., & Groves, C. (2015). Potential Application of Hugelkultur to Increase Water Holding Capacity of Karst Rocky Desertified Land.
  • Luo, Q. L., Hentges, C., & Wright, C. (2020). Sustainable landscapes: Creating a hugelkultur for gardening with stormwater management benefits. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Miles, M. (2010). The Art and Science of Making a Hugelkultur Bed–Transforming Woody Debris Into a Garden Resource. Online] Permaculture News. Available at: Https://Www. Permaculturenews. Org/2010/08/03/the-Art-and-Science-of-Making-a-Hugelkultur- Bedtransforming-Woody-Debris-into-a-Garden-Resource/[Accessed September 28 2020].
  • Milton, K. (2000). Hunter-gatherer diets—A different perspective. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(3), 665–667.
  • Steed, G., Ramirez, D. C., Hannah, M. A., & Webb, A. A. (2021). Chronoculture, harnessing the circadian clock to improve crop yield and sustainability. Science, 372(6541), eabc9141.
  • Wayne, S., Pothukuchi, D. K., Govind, J., Elhaj, H., Saif, Y., Khan, S., Patel, B., & Harmon, L. (2015). Experimental Garden Designs for Seed Wayne.

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