Hugelkultur - Bamboo
What is Hugelkutur
According to Wikipedia "Hugelkultur is a composting process employing raised beds constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. The process helps to improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants grown on or near such mounds."
You now have a clear and concise definition of what hugelkultur is. It is important to note that you can use any compostable material in this process as long as you can achieve the goals of water retention and fertility. Hugelkultur is a part of Permaculture. Permaculture is a system of agriculture that mimics patterns found in natural ecosystems. You can also think of permaculture as natural farming. If you are interested in a simpler form of growing and gardening I would highly recommend that you read "The One-Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka. It is not a how-to book, rather it is a wonderful manifesto on using natural farming practices.
A core principle in what we are trying to achieve is sustainability. Using our land in a way that eliminates or at least minimizes the need to import materials and resources from external sources. When you live on a small 1/4 acre plot this can be quite the challenge. It certainly makes you think about how to use what you have.
As I really wanted to start practicing hugelkultur on our property I found myself one day doing extensive research on the internet for how to get logs or wood waste on my property. What I found was that there are plenty of services to get yard waste off your property but I could not find a SINGLE source to bring such items to your property.
Using Bamboo as the Base
We have bamboo that crows on the back corner of our lot. Bamboo can be a very invasive specie. Our has been contained with very little effort to a 10x10 foot areas in our backyard. Each year it grows like a weed then dies. For years we have pulled it up and put it into our yard waste bin to recycle.
This year I pulled it up and mounded it up in another part of my yard creating the foundation for a hugelkultur bed.
Speculating on Using Bamboo
The reason I am speculating is that there is not much in the public domain using bamboo as a base. Unfortunately I do not have the experience of others to review.
Wood obviously would create a much longer term base for a raised bed. How long does it take for a tree stump or think branches to break down? A very long time! Long as in decades. I suspect that the bamboo will only last a few years before totally decomposing. If my theory is correct this means that my beds will last only a few years at the heights they will be constucted. But, I do not want to get too far ahead of myself for now.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time and energy tearing out parts of my yards to re-landscape. Building my big raised bed took a great deal of time. I am taking a different approach to things now. If you look at the picture you will notice that the bed is being placed in an area that is already established and somewhat rugged and natural looking.
My intent is to plant shade loving flowers and vegetables in this newly created enclave. It is my belief in taking this approach that I am creating added biodiversity into an existing area. I am hoping to see a reduction in pests that normally would invade the vegetables I plan on growing and an increase in beneficial insects. Time and experimentation will tell the tail of this chapter.
Layering the Bed
Throwing a bunch of bamboo on the ground only creates the base. The bamboo base represents a huge footprint for carbon. I also need to create layers of good biomass. My intent is to layer loose straw, alfalfa/timothy grasses, and soil and compost into this area to build the bed up.
Is this really hugelkultur?
In the sense of using a woody mass for the base of the bed it is hugelkultur. I can also make the case for what we are doing as permaculture, natural farming, and all the other labels we place on things. In order to communicate with one another we certainly need to use labels and commonly agreed upon terminology.
In the final analysis what we are trying to achieve is a system of agriculture that is natural and works for the property we are on. As such you are going to find numerous techniques introduced.
Another place of interest is my page on making these raised beds