Hugelkultur Test Project in Phoenix, AZ

Hugelkultur raised garden beds are a time tested method of using organic waste to build a thriving garden that boasts of features such as convenience, low cost, increased growing season and space, less work (after the 1st year) and water conservation just to name the top five. As a tree care service and tree removal company that prides itself on being a good steward to mother Earth, Treelation is always looking for ways to help regenerate the planet as well as to rejuvenate people's lives. That is why we are working on six test sites in order to prove how essential Hugelkultur raised bed gardening is to growing a bountiful supply of the most nutritious local produce that anyone can get their hands on in the middle of the desert. 

Check out this video that shows how far along we are now and then read the rest of the blog to see the step by step process we executed.

Here is the step by step process we used while building our first of six Hugelkultur tests sites in Phoenix, AZ.
The first step was to find the best area to build a Hugelkultur bed. We chose the West side of the house near a Western blocking wall to help add shade in the harsh summer afternoon. The wall will also be a pillar for the shade screen that will be added later. This area also collects a lot of run-off water from the property and can have standing water for days after a good rain. We figure that the Hugel will act like a sponge and soak up all the excess water and give it off as plants create a demand during the drier season. 

Next we do a bit of minor excavating. Because the earth here is so dense and clay like, we decided to dig up an area to place the logs. If standing water gets under the garden bed, the logs could lift and shift, so we made a 6" ditch that was 3'X13' so it could hold the logs in place.

Next we added the big logs. We removed a dangerous sumac tree from another property before it did any more damage to the structure it was encroaching on at the other location. This was a good sized tree (35' tall with a 30' spread) and we were able to fit the entire trunk and major limbs into the medium sized gardening area that we dug out by hand with shovels.

We also placed 3 small Palo Verde tree trunks and limbs from another removal where the trees were growing into some powerlines.

Here is one more shot of the wood we installed, looking at it from another angle.

After the wood, we shoveled the dirt we gathered from the excavation process and used it to fill in all of the holes that were exposed from packing the wood together. There are a lot of crevices and we made sure to fill and pack every inch in hopes to keep rats and other rodents from making a home. This part of the process is very important if you don't want these annoying pests ruining your hard work! You may want to use lots of water to get it to run down inside the spaces between the logs and branches.

Now we add some mulch and sawdust from the stump grinding we did on those other tree removals.

We know that the bacterial breakdown of wood can cause a lot of nitrogen uptake so as a precaution we are adding green leaves from the sumac tree in order to fix the soil as the logs break down and till the pile together over the years.

Almost done, we went around to all of the planters that had old soil in them and dumped them into the wheel barrow and piled it on our new mound.

We packed the soil down over the whole bed and now all we need is a few cubic feet of good topsoil and some seeds.

 About 3 weeks later soil was delivered and spread about 3 inches deep across the entire miniature Hugelkultur mound. You can see that some of the concrete wall that was removed has been used as a divider and has some Marigold and Green Onions growing to help make a barrier against insects and other pests. There will be a shade screen installed and we are now ready for planting! 
.. stay logged in for the finishing of the Hugelkultur bed in Tempe AZ!

Special thanks to Scotty Litle for all the help!

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