Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful, in Athens, Ala., is building hugelkultur gardens, which start with a hole a foot or two deep and then get filled with tree trunks, logs and branches. Once the holes were dug, KALB volunteers filled them up with leaf mulch provided by the City of Athens from its fall leaf pickup, and horse and cow manure from grass-fed animals. The garden beds will then be covered with topsoil, creating the raised garden bed. The raised bed will be left to settle over the winter and planting will begin on the mounds in the spring. The tree trunks and limbs become spongy as they begin to decompose and absorb rain water, which are fed back to the plants. All of the organic material works together to create an environment conducive to the growth of organisms important to creating great soil.
“This type of gardening was unknown to me until some of our garden committee members who run a completely organic farm shared it with us,” said Lynne Hart, executive coordinator of KALB. “We looked it up — there is tons of information and videos online — and decided this would be a great way to create a portion of our new community garden using natural materials that are available at no cost. And, it mimics what happens right in Mother Nature’s forests! How much better can it get?”