Hugelkultur and its possibilities

by Leigh Adams and Shawn Maestretti

As landscape professionals in the age of climate change, we have access to ways we can impact the vitality of our surroundings. Prioritizing water, biodiversity and carbon will make it so a significant planetary shift can occur. Here is a centuries-old practice to consider if it’s feasible in your project(s):

Hugelkultur (noun - German - translates to "mound culture") is a horticultural technique where mounds constructed of woody material and other compostable biomass are used as raised planting beds. Practiced in Germany and Eastern European societies for hundreds of years, this technique is being revitalized as an important sustainable solution in modern regenerative gardens. It is essentially a replication of natural processes in a forested area.

Regenerative Benefits of Hugelkultur:

  • Sequesters carbon on site by burying debris and woody material in the ground

  • Retains moisture on site through rainwater capture and thermal mass

  • Improves soil health due to an increase of nutrients from the decaying wood and the subsequent increase of mycorrhizal fungi and other organisms in the soil food web

  • Landforming not only helps to slow and allow water to infiltrate, but creates an opportunity for natural screening and orchestrating experiences in the garden.

  • And so much more…. 

The following timelapse video (of my very own front yard!) shows the step by step process of constructing a hugelkultur berm. 

 
 

Hugelkultur at The Crescent Farm at the LA County Arboretum. Photo courtesy of Shawn Maestretti.

Be sure to visit the amazing Leigh Adams on Tuesdays at the Los Angeles County Arboretum to experience the magic of hugelkultur in the Crescent Farm.

The Crescent Farm at the LA County Arboretum is a demonstration garden presenting a myriad of regenerative techniques. Visitors can witness a 5-year-old display of hugelkultur, water harvesting and optimization through various types of swales, contouring and infiltration techniques. Highlights of the garden include a perennial meadow and the creative use of biomass, multiple substitutes for water-hungry lawns, pollinator habitats, and a unique expression of community contribution. More info about the Crescent Farm can be found at https://www.arboretum.org/crescentfarm/about/ .

Leigh is the winner of the United Nations Global Citizen Award, City of Los Angeles Angel Award, and LA County’s Outstanding Citizen Award. She loves trees, plants, dogs, and kids, identifies as an educator, artist, and activist, and is a personal hero of mine!