Gathering materials is one of the most time-consuming aspects of preparing to prepare the garden. We decided to take the quickest route to completing the resource collection by purchasing ten 40lb bags of topsoil and a block of peat moss. While we were at the store, I couldn’t pass up the tantalizing display of 75% off bulbs – never mind that the bulbs aren’t necessarily native, edible, or even site appropriate. Sometimes, we just need a flash and a pop in the garden to give us the confidence and motivation to keep going through the seasons. Instant gratification. We also purchased a discounted wheel barrow, an axe, and a bag of lime for a total of $125. Ideally, I would have preferred to procure the topsoil and peat moss by other means, though scraping the forest floor for the few inches of nutritive soil that it may yield, would have taken considerable time.
Gathering wood for the hugelkultur was the next order of business. Scrounging the hood with Old Rusty, we gathered fallen logs on the side of the road – primarily pine and oak. Since we don’t have the luxury of waiting six months for the logs to decay and sweeten, we chose semi-rotten wood loaded with yellowish fungi, centipedes, and little mushrooms.
Once everything was on site, we assembled the hugelkultur beds. Working in one quadrant of the garden, the swales were dug first, followed by sheet mulching with cardboard.
Our swales will be shallow and filled with pine straw. Their primary purpose will be to catch and hold moisture for the garden beds. The ground is devoid of nutrients, organic matter, and texture, except of course for the thin mat of dormant grass covering the sand. Building soil is crucial.
On top of the layer of wet cardboard went the semi-rotten logs. The larger pieces lined the perimeter and smaller chunks were used to fill the center. This was topped with a bucketful of kitchen scraps and a few scoops of garden lime.
Remember the deciduous leaves? These were piled on about 8-12″ high. Wet newspaper was layered on the leaves and this was topped with a mixture of topsoil, mushroom compost, peat moss, and sand. Over the next few days, I’ll cover the garden bed with a layer of detritus from the nearby woods and broadcast some seeds for a groundcover.
1/8 of the garden was completed and following is a list of materials and quantities. This will be helpful in completing the rest of the garden.
Materials List for approx. 80 sq. ft.
- 24″ h. stack of cardboard
- 1/2 truck load of rotten wood
- 5 gal. kitchen scraps
- couple scoops of lime
- (2) 50 gallons bags of leaves
- 12″ h. stack of newspaper
- (5) 40 lb. bags of topsoil
- 1/2 cu. yard of mushroom compost
- 1/4 cube of peat moss
- 1/2 wheelbarrow full of sand