Is a giant cultural loft bed right for you? It should definitely be done if done well. Filling raised beds with this method can be a major benefit, especially if you want to focus your finances on the highest quality growing media to outdo them.
But what exactly is megaculture and why is it good for raised garden beds? Is this technique more valuable in its original hill form, or does it perform better when enclosed in a raised garden? Could it really steal nitrogen from your soil and start plant problems?
Let's explore the huge cultural ways in more detail. We'll discuss what materials should be in your giant culture bed, what you should definitely not include, and why these things are important. We'll also cover the mixes you should put on your bed. When we're done, you'll have everything you need ready to make your raised bed a success!
What is Hugelk Culture?
This funny-sounding word (pronounced hoo-gell-culture or hoo-gull culture, depending on who you ask) is actually German for "hill." In its original form, a shallow pit would be dug and filled with rotting wood, gradually forming a long, narrow mound. On top of the logs, the dirt will be piled up to create a long, tall structure with more room for planting than a flat garden bed.
Initially, logs will add bulk to the bed. As they gradually decompose, the hills gradually sink, and the rotting logs inside hold the extra moisture. As long as it is fully planted, there is very little erosion of the soil layer and it becomes its own little ecosystem.
In raised garden beds, this is not the most common process. Of course, you can create a long, narrow bed, fill the center with logs, and pile dirt on top of them to create a more traditional hill structure. But for most people who grow in raised beds, they just want to have enough potting mix to make a nice horizontal bed.
The Hugok Culture loft bed offers the best of both worlds. When you build a giant culture bed, you are using wood to make up less than half the material to fill your raised bed. Other materials, such as grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, etc., can be used to fill around the wood to speed up its decomposition process. On top of all of this, you'll add your favorite planting mix.
This method allows you to take advantage of permaculture techniques to reduce the amount of material needed to fill an extra-large bed. At the same time, you can reduce the amount of branches, logs, and other woody materials. Done right, the huge cultural part of your bed should be free and will save you some money.
There are a lot of different benefits online that have been attributed to the huge cultural bed. Let's list some of the most common:
reduce watering frequency
Can use up waste wood or prevent it from needing to burn in a burner
Increase the surface area of your garden bed
Heat may be generated when wood decomposes
is an inexpensive way to create tall garden beds
All these things sound incredible, don't they? But, as with most things you'll find online, there are good and bad sides to all of this.
Of course, huge culture beds may be able to reduce watering. However, most of its water retention benefits will be useless until the wood really starts to rot to the point where it is spongy and can share water with the surrounding growing medium. If you start with a huge log, it can take years.
Unless you plant a lot of trees, live in a forest, or live near an orchard, you probably won't be able to get a lot of waste wood. This means you may have to source the wood yourself. While there are options for finding large logs, they may be larger than you want, and you'll have to get a log splitter to shrink them to the desired size. Many people choose to buy a firewood line and use it to build their beds, but if you're trying to build cheaply, that's probably not ideal.
A mound built with traditional giant cultivation methods will increase the surface space on the bed. But what if you don't want to build mounds higher than raised bed walls? You won't have the same increase in surface space, in fact, there may be no increase in space at all.
Most raised beds are already warmed up earlier in the spring than ground beds, so the warming aspect is not necessarily required. But wood is also carbon-dense, and doesn't usually release much heat when it decomposes. It is a nitrogen-dense material that provides warmth as it decomposes.
In my experience, the real benefits of giant cultural loft beds are as follows:
A great way to use up twigs, small logs, sawdust, scrap wood, and pretty much any other woody material you have
will act as a reservoir under the bed in time
Can be created very cost-effectively
Add rich organic matter to soil
Definitely reduces the amount of soil you need to start your bed
Reduced compaction and shrinkage of loft beds
This is a more realistic depiction of the gigantic culture applied in a loft bed setting. It won't work miracles, especially when it's brand new...but over time, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
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