One issue with building a nice tall hugelkultur bed or berm is that the mulch on the top often slides down the steep slopes of the structure. Plus, if your wild homestead has a lot of birds (especially robins!) then they will do what they can to help the mulch slide downhill. Since the top of a berm or hugelkultur bed is already the driest part this can make it difficult to get plants established.
So what can you do?
Well one option is to just add more mulch and eventually the plants lower down on the slopes will help keep the mulch from sliding down. But this is more work then I want to do...
You can also plant drought resistant plants that can take the dry habitat on the top. In many ways this sounds great but the lack of mulch will still mean less soil life and potentially more erosion of the soil. Not good... Plus, even drought resistant plants will grow faster if they have a bit more moisture.
If you are trying to grow a living fence (hedgerow) like I am then you want your plants to get established quickly.
The best option in my opinion is to build little mini-terraces around your plants. I like to use pieces of woody debris such as logs but rocks could work too.
These little mini-terraces create flat areas that will hold the mulch much better. But they are small enough to still "fit" with the berm or hugelkultur bed. These logs or rocks also create great habitat for soil life to hangout!
I just went through one of my hugelkultur hedgerows and planted drought resistant shrubs in a few areas where I was struggling to get plants established. These also happened to be areas with very little mulch--despite the fact that I had added a bunch just last fall... sometimes I don't like robins...
But now that I have added more woody debris to create mini-terraces the tops of my hugelkultur hedgerows should keep the mulch and the plants should grow much better.
Ready to start your own hugelkultur bed or hedgerow? Here are 2 blog posts to help you get started!
Thank you and please leave a comment--have you struggled to get plants established on the top of large hugelkultur beds or berms? I would love to hear from you!
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