An Experiment in Permaculture

2 minute read

So in my travels through the internet and gardening websites and forums, I stumbled across Permies. From there, I learned about Hugelkultur which is a way to build raised beds using old wood that eventually rots away all forest-like into what is supposedly an extremely drought tolerant garden bed. Those words “drought tolerant” caught my eye and as with most things gardening, I was interested in giving it a try.

However, I didn’t have access to any old wood right off hand and also since this was an experiment, I went a slightly different direction. Haven’t built no-dig gardens before with layers of straw and alfalfa, I thought bales of alfalfa might be a good substitute for the wood of a traditional hugelkultur bed. Now it may turn out that alfalfa provides entirely too much nitrogen as it decomposes but we’ll see.

I would put a picture of my bed right here but for some reason WordPress doesn’t like the photo I keep trying to upload. So suffice it to say, it’s 20 feet long and 4 feet wide with two alfalfa bales right in the middle. We covered that up with 2000 pounds of dirt from Home Depot (yes, really, 2000 pounds. 2000 pounds in 40lb bags makes for a lot of lifting and pouring. We’re stronger than we were last Friday.)

Into this bed went 10 tomatoes and then 6 pepper plants. However, knowing what little I do about permaculture now, I know that open soil is the worst thing that can happen to a garden bed. So tonight, I went through and randomly planted seeds of spaghetti squash, 8 ball squash, radishes, lima beans and marigolds. If I had any green beans, I would have added them along with the kitchen sink. Hopefully after we get rain tonight, things will start to sprout into a crazy cacophony of veggies and flowers. Or it all may wash away if it really rains.

The potatoes are really starting to take off now after 2 months in the ground. I planted them in the keyhole garden this year which is 3 feet tall and really allows me to pile dirt up around them as they grow. I haven’t ever had a lot of luck with potatoes but I think this may be the year for success.

We’re harvesting some cool weather veggies like green onions, broccoli (which always seems to go to seed far too fast in my garden) and collards. Soon the sugar snap peas will be ready and will go nicely with the marjoram growing in the herb garden. I’ll probably build a cucumber trellis Friday night and put pickling and slicing cucumbers in the ground. In another month, it will be time for okra, eggplant, southern peas and sweet potatoes. I was hoping to plant pumpkins this year but the only available spot is the same bed that ALWAYS has squash bugs so will probably skip it this year. If the permaculture bed doesn’t work out, it may become a pumpkin bed next year.