Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Hugelkultur

From Balloon Juice rescue angel and general favorite Satby:

On a previous garden thread someone mentioned making a hugelkultur raised bed. The idea interested me, so I decided to try a small version of one in the front if my house where I had overgrown evergreens removed. It’s a mini-hugelkultur bed, because I don’t want a huge mound blocking the porch, but it’s doing the job so far.

Tree limbs and stick base of the bed.

The next layer of mulch, grass clippings, and leaves.

Following that a deep layer of garden soil, roughly about 200lbs and 10 cf. I probably should put more, but it was just enough to get the plants in the ground.

The anchor shrubs (2 vanilla strawberry hydrangeas and a Rose of Sharon in the middle).

Top picture is the finished bed without the top mulch of cedar chips. I finished off the bed with summer bulbs and Lewisia ground cover. The canna bulbs are in the buried peat pots so that I can find them to lift in the fall. There’s also dahlias in there, but those were too huge for the peat pots.

If it all grows I’ll send a follow-up later, hopefully with flowers 😆

[I put in the hugelkultur link; if anyone’s got other recommendations, leave a comment!]

I’m sulking, just a bit. Last Monday, the one flower bed by the front door that I’ve rescued / revived this year looked amazing. Back in late April, after I removed two trashbins full of oak leaves and winter detritus, there were four gnarly, severely pruned rose stumps, and a few sad little clumps of green where the daffodils were dying and the daylilies & columbines were just re-emerging. I put down a giant bag of dehydrated manure and another of mulch, before shifting the old (not very) ornamental trellis/screen and putting in a prettier one. Then came half a dozen dianthus, some fancy old-fashioned violets, sweet peas, and some more columbines, plus sweet alyssum, blue-white-purple pansies, and dark-blue lobelia in the white planters along the front edge…

By the start of the week, the Zepherine Drouhan roses were lush and blooming pink, and the Don Juans dark red. The columbines (Nora Barlow, Songbird Blue Jay, Winkie blue) were blooming, the mini-roses in the big pots had reemerged, and cranesbill flowers in shades of magenta were nodding over rich mounds of crenelated leaves. The achemilla had grown from a fist-sized lump to a three-foot-tall near-shrub (completely hiding the sweet peas, but that’s gardening). The alpine strawberries in their big doorstep-side pot were blossoming, and because it’s been so damp this spring, even the pansies were still adding their color accents to the mix.

So I went to take some pictures… and, of course, the quick-pic idiot-proof camera had disappeared. Much later that night, the Spousal Unit unearthed the never-very-adequate second-best backup camera. The next day it rained heavily; the day after that was taken up by (another) health scare with the 17-year-old rescue dog; and the following two days were alternately cloudy and raining.

But Saturday was another lovely day! So I got out the camera… replaced the batteries, again… and took one fuzzy practice shot before it announced OUT OF MEMORY.

I decided I’d at least take some aide-memoir shots with my cellphone (we’ve never been able to transfer pics off my phone to my extremely homebrewed laptop, for reasons). Of course, two-thirds of the rose blooms had wilted, and the plants that really ‘popped’ in every shot I framed were the various weeds and woody invasives that had taken advantage of my inattention to re-emerge.

Good thing for the blog that I have you guys sending me pictures, because I think I’ve officially given up on visual documentation.

63 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone 😄 😄😄

  2. 2
    rikyrah says:


    Veronica McDonald🗣 (@Purify_toast17) Tweeted:
    MEDIA (before 2008): Bill Clinton/Al Gore/Etc are so smart, so wonky, like OMG they are so smart!!

    MEDIA (2008-2017): Obama is too smart, too wonky, he can’t connect with the people with his academic demeanor.

    MEDIA (2019—) Elizabeth & Mayor Peter are so smart, so wonky! OMG!

  3. 3
    rikyrah says:

    David Frum (@davidfrum) Tweeted:
    The US military is not briefing the US president on major cyber warfare operations against a hostile foreign power because they do not trust the president not to betray those operations to that hostile foreign power.

  4. 4
    Anne Laurie says:

    @rikyrah: Funny thing — I just finished a post about that Peter Beinart article, which is scheduled for later this morning!

    (The article is smarter than its title, fortunately. The Media Village Idiots… are not.)

  5. 5
    eclare says:

    Satby, good morning!

  6. 6
    JPL says:

    Satby, I hope that you will continue to send in pictures as your garden matures.

  7. 7
    tobie says:

    @rikyrah: Saw this and thought of you:

    Maddie Pavek 🌻

    Follow Follow @maddiepavek
    Number of detailed policy proposals officially released by top 2020 candidates, alphabetically:
    Joe Biden: 2
    Cory Booker: 5
    Pete Buttigieg: 0
    Julián Castro: 4
    Kirsten Gillibrand: 5
    Kamala Harris: 4
    Amy Klobuchar: 2
    Beto O’Rourke: 6
    Bernie Sanders: 3
    Elizabeth Warren: 19

    The author immediately noted she made a mistake and Kamala has actually issued 7 policy statements, so in terms of detailed serious proposals the ranking is Warren, Harris, O’Rourke. I’m so sick of the pissing contest of who is the smartest. This has got to stop. It’s nothing short of nauseating.

  8. 8
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Interesting, had not heard of hugelkultur before. I’d seen variations of the same concepts but nothing quite like that.

  9. 9
    Raven says:

    That soil!

  10. 10
    satby says:

    @rikyrah: Good morning 🙋
    And to you all!
    @OzarkHillbilly: I have two old sugar maples out front that send down old limbs regularly. They were preseasoned firewood, so I saved it for my firepit, which I finally gave to some neighbors last year because I didn’t use it any more. I still had those limbs and sticks, so that’s what I used.
    @Raven: 20 bags of Miracle Grow garden soil. Mine is very sandy, and I assumed the neglected evergreens removed from the bed had depleted the soil there. So I’m hoping that this works and replaces some nutrients.

  11. 11
    Baud says:


    Good morning.

  12. 12
    satby says:

    One thing I hadn’t counted on was the trip line from the roof of the porch. I’ve had to backfill that line twice after big rainstorms because I want to put Preen or something down on the rest of the soil before I mulch it. So today I’m doing a run for that, and then one more bag of soil down the front, then wood mulch on the whole thing. It’s been about two weeks, and the shrubs are doing well. Some of the dahlias are sprouting, but it’s still too cool over night for the cannas. The lewisia is doing well except for on that dripline, so I’m going to move those two. That’s a new plant for me, but I have high hopes it spreads.

  13. 13
    Baud says:


    This is America, satby. Garden American.

  14. 14
    Baud says:


    I wish that story had stayed secret.

  15. 15
    satby says:

    AL, your front bed did sound wonderful, sorry you weren’t able to get a picture. Maybe later!
    When I can’t transfer pictures from my phone directly, I just email them to myself. Have you ever tried that?

  16. 16
    satby says:

    @eclare: Good morning 😊
    @JPL: here’s hoping it all blooms!
    @Baud: 😆😘

  17. 17
    satby says:

    @satby:@Raven: oh, and I used the Miracle Grow soil because it was on sale (!) and has fertilizer included. The first year hugelkultur beds need extra nitrogen because the buried wood sucks it up to begin decomposing. The grass clipping layer should add nitrogen too.

  18. 18
    Mary G says:

    @satby That is a lot of work. The plants look like they appreciate it! Hope you're going to send photos of their progress.

  19. 19
    SFAW says:

    I know it’s not gardening –hugelkultur? Who knew? Thanks for the tip! — but Happy Father’s Day to all you other muthers out there.

  20. 20
    rikyrah says:

    Happy Father’s Day to those holding it down 👏👏👏

  21. 21
    Gvg says:

    @rikyrah: umm, the media gave Obama extra hate, but honestly I don’t remember them liking Clinton at ALL, in fact some of them notably hated him, Gore lost at least partially because they didn’t like him for being smarter than them, and I haven’t seen much nice said about Warren compared to the amount of disdain. The media is pretty anti Democrat, and too much of America is anti smart people. Anti smart sure seems like the way to cause the decline of our country.
    Don’t underestimate the disadvantages of the democrats.
    The racism has sure come into the open too though. I hate McConnel especially. He is a traitor.

  22. 22
    CCL says:

    Looking over the bulb catalogs and getting my fall planting order in. Since a couple of folks here were interested in the crown imperial bulbs I plant amongst the tulips to keep the deer and voles away, I thought I would include a link to a cell phone snap of them this year. The crown imperials can be identified by their little green – gosh, umm, er I can’t really think of a better word – crowns. Daffodils are left over from previous unsuccessful attempts to discourage deer from chomping.

    Crown imperials hiding in the tulips

  23. 23
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @SFAW: @rikyrah: Blech.

  24. 24
    Kay says:


    I watched some of Klobachur’s speech at a Dem event in Virginia (on CSPAN) and she’s making a specific appeal for unity. She leads with voting rights, campaign finance reform and redistricting – which are areas of agreement among Democrats. It’s smart to lead with voting rights. That’s such a clear-cut contrast, Democrats v Republicans and there is universal agreement on the D side. They can come together around that.
    I just thought it was interesting she’s taking that role, as the unity candidate. I think there’s a constituency for “unity”- that’s part of Biden’s appeal.

  25. 25
    SFAW says:



    Oh, you old softie. How sweet!

  26. 26
    Baud says:


    Makes sense. The Midwest especially would be a completely different environment if it weren’t for gerrymandering.

  27. 27
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Rain rain go away
    come again next fuckin’ month.

    I should have skipped the maters and peppers and just planted water lilies in the garden.

  28. 28
    rikyrah says:

    Awe 😍😍

    New picture of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor

  29. 29
    debbie says:


    The 10-day forecast here has rain and/or thunderstorms every single day. It’s beyond blech.

  30. 30
    debbie says:


    So sweet!

  31. 31
    Immanentize says:

    Good morning all! We had a loverly day here in the Boston area yesterday. But rainy now. The cat and I are enjoying a cuppa while the fewer-toothed Immp/chipmunk sleeps in.

    My veggie garden area is covered in black plastic solarizing fallow for this year. So I have been working in the flower/weed beds. I’m particularly focussing on my hosta and fern area. Put in two huechera — a dark purple and a chartreuse — around a blue hosta. Looks great. Hope it lasts!

  32. 32
    tobie says:

    @Kay: Klobuchar could well pick up support if Biden slides. Whatever candidate one is supporting, expanding the electorate is key for Democrats if we want to get anything done. Stacey Abrams was on the money on that point. I’m abroad right now but when I come back, voter registration in states where Republicans control the state legislature is what I want to put my energy and financial resources into.

  33. 33
    Immanentize says:

    Little Archie’s fingernails need some attention. Those things can shred!

  34. 34
    satby says:

    Don’t normally read Current Affairs, but this article caught my eye:

    Apologies for the naked link, on my phone right now.

  35. 35
    debbie says:


    So the surgery went well?

  36. 36
    satby says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @debbie: yep, more rain here too. For days. Lots of fields will be fallow this year, still semi flooded and too late to plant now.

  37. 37
    debbie says:


    What color will the cannas be? I’ve become a real fan of them.

  38. 38
    Lapassionara says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I hear you. I have a truck half full of soggy mulch, and I cannot foresee getting it into the garden this next week.

    Good morning, everyone.

  39. 39
    Immanentize says:

    It went great. They only needed to break up one of the impacted teeth, so he hasn’t gotten any slivers yet. The Immp was so funny — so stoned when I picked him up. He was talking so loud and cracking himself up that I finally got him to calm down by suggesting he take some selfies to send to his friends. He really was too messed up to manage that task, but he kept trying! He was desperate for a burger yesterday and managed one. I think he is fine now….

  40. 40
    Immanentize says:

    @satby: I’ve seen soggy Junes before and they often seem to be followed by drought Julys. So hard on the plants….

  41. 41
    rikyrah says:

    Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) Tweeted:
    Heads up: Black women prosecutors elected in response to the demand for progressive prosecutors are facing ugly attacks that are unprecedented and alarming.
    The St. Louis Prosecutor Went After the Establishment. Now the Tables Are Turned.

  42. 42
    rikyrah says:

    Glad to hear that Little Imma is doing well 🤗

  43. 43
    oldgold says:

    Now that the Snail War has oozed to a close, peace and tranquility have returned to my wooded hollow by the lake and its weedy crown jewel – West of Eden.

    The first harbinger of this new irenic order, is that the neighborhood’s ubiquitous Mormon Missionaries have removed their camo flack jackets and have resumed pounding on my door dressed in white dress shirts and thin black ties. I had hoped the unused snail poison, a case of Lime Natty Light, left conspicuously on the front porch might keep them at bay.

  44. 44
  45. 45
    opiejeanne says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: We would like some of your rain over on the Left Coast, please.

    Satby, I hope we get to see pictures of this garden when it’s grown up. Lewisia is a gorgeous little gem of a plant, and I just can’t make them happy for more than a year. I hope you have much better luck with yours.

  46. 46
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @satby: They finally got the fields in the valley below us planted the week before last (corn I think, they’ve just emerged in the last couple days), just when I had begun to think they were gonna let them go fallow this year. Not being a farmer I have no idea what the chances are of a decent crop planted so late.

    My own peppers are running behind. I usually plant them about 2 weeks after the maters but this year they were a full month later because of the rain. I was worried the soil was going to get too warm for good bean germination before I sowed but we got a drier week before that could be a problem and all but one runner type came up well. Still waiting for my first head of broccoli but the plants are all doing well. I have a few maters on the vine and all the plants look strong. If we get a dry day this week I’ll hit them with the Serenade again. Cuke and melon plants all look good with plenty of blooms already. My eggplants are looking very ragged from the flea beetles but so far appear strong enough. I’m gonna order some more Pyrethrin for them today as I think my present bottle has aged out.

    In flower gardens, things are progressing fairly well. The flutterby plot has plenty of things for them to feed on growing. They seem especially fond of the catmint. we had some volunteer larkspur take up residence there last year and it is spreading quite nicely and gets lots of visitors. Plenty of blazing star. callendula, gaillardia, and zinnia in their future, 3 or 4 yarrows too. I am working on a lavender plot for the smell but until they fill in, the blank spaces will grow cosmos and zinnias. I have a 2nd flutterby bed outside our kitchen window which is doing well with the exception of the Mexican sunflowers which again have had problems surviving. I am tempted to say too much water but I don’t really know.

    Something decided to decapitate one of the creeping phloxes I have in the Zen garden. No idea what it was that did it or why. Maybe it just didn’t like it’s looks. Stuck an extra coleus I grew in it’s place.

  47. 47
    opiejeanne says:

    @Immanentize:Sounds like he’s doing well and I hope it continues.
    I had mine out a couple of years ago and it turned out to not be as much of a big deal as I had worried about, but none of mine needed to be broken up. I hope his recovery is as easy as mine was.

  48. 48
    MomSense says:

    Satby, that is awesome! This gives me some ideas for my berm.

    I did a ton of weeding and spreading compost on the perennial beds yesterday. Then I finally figured out what to do with the space next to the deck and right behind the house. There’s a spigot there I need to access it and it’s a tough spot for plants. I made a sort of artistic rock formation there. I bought a few bags of pond stones but the rest are found stones and rocks of various sizes The path to the deck runs next to it and the big Hosta leaves from the bed behind the house drape over some of the stones. It’s pretty cool.

    I wanted to finish the beds behind the deck and garage but I woke up this morning puking. If this passes, I’ll see what I feel up to doing.

  49. 49
    opiejeanne says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: What is Serenade?

  50. 50
    jeffreyw says:

    @opiejeanne: Not sure, but context hints that it’s a song sung not well. Deliberately out of key, perhaps.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    I just found out that WISEGUY is on Amazon Prime. I’m about to spend the day going down that Vinnie Teranova rabbit hole.🤗

  52. 52
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @opiejeanne: Unfortunately, our weather all comes out of the SW and heads up the Ohio valley from here.

  53. 53
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    It’s pretty cool.

    Pictures or it didn’t happen.

  54. 54
    rikyrah says:

    Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) Tweeted:
    It’s stunning the extent to which Baby Boomers thrived under the American Dream—college, social safety net, housing, pensions, climate, etc.—then consciously decided to not pay it forward, leaving future generations screwed.

  55. 55
  56. 56
    MomSense says:


    Ha! I took a couple pics but I want to fix my peeling deck stain before I share them. I’m so annoyed by the deck staining saga. First semi transparent stain peeled off even though I followed directions. The dude at the store said that I needed to use a solid color stain and that peeled even worse. I don’t even like the look of the solid stain. So this will be the third summer of removing stain which is no fun at all.

    Should I try oil?

  57. 57
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MomSense: I’m not an expert on finishes, neither are hardware store clerks. I would suggest going to an honest to dog paint store.

  58. 58
    MomSense says:


    Yeah, I’ll have to figure out where to go. It gets hot sun in summer but lots of snow and ice in winter.

  59. 59
  60. 60
  61. 61
    J R in WV says:

    We used a transparent stain on out deck at first. Handyman was told to procure same stuff, given an old can for specific reference. But paint was cheaper, so he bought solid stain/paint and covered the whole deck one day while I was at work. Lasted way too well.

    Tried one kind of paint remover after another, avoiding the really toxic methyl-death whatever that would be rinsed off into the little creek. Finally found a soy-based version, non toxic, worked well. Then used transparent grey Thompsons, which penetrates well, is kind of a oil, seems to work OK.

    Didn’t like the look of the solid stain, which was more like paint than stain. It didn’t peel, however. Even when paint remover was applied!

  62. 62
    Michael J Allen says:

    @satby: Me too with the emailing. Doesn’t the bloggingperson have a smartphone? I have a couple year old free Android and the photos, while probably having 100X fewer pixels than with a new $700 iPhone are perfectly good for most purposes.

  63. 63
    Michael J Allen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Everyone: the possessive form of “it” is “its”. “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”.

    And “It’s It” is an awesome best thing ever chocolate dipped ice cream sandwich invented in 1928 at Playland-at-the-Beach in San Francisco. Often imitated, never equaled or even close.

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