My Christmas gift to the backyard: a hugelkultur berm

I’ll admit it – I’d let the side hedge grow way too tall over the past years. But in its height, it gave such a feeling of seclusion to the yard, and such lovely nesting places for the songbirds…

So it was a shock to realize that we’d  all but need to coppice each bush this fall to bring the hedge back into line. Sure, it was November and they were well into dormancy…but it gave pause, nevertheless.

A permaculturist friend and his son contracted to help, and two afternoons’ work later, the side yard was dominated by a brush pile up to my chest. What on earth to do with it? We were clear on one thing: the cut wood needed to be returned to the soil somehow, to nourish and enrich its organic content. For the next weeks my friend and I were deep in fruitless conversations about renting a chipper. Not many places offered them; those that were available were pricey and unreliable. The conversations and research dragged on through the COP21 Paris talks and the beginning of an El Nino non-winter: daytime temperatures in the 70s with fog and rain, the sump pump running endlessly, while the backyard water table rose like the bilge in a sinking rowboat.

And that was when it hit me: I had a perfect solution to mitigate my stormwater issues while dealing with the brush pile: bury the brush in a hugelkultur bed that would capture the runoff before it flooded my house and vegetable garden. It was a perfect demonstration of permaculture principle #6: “Produce no waste – By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.”

Christmas weekend’s temps would reach the 50s on Saturday with steady rain, and rise to the 70s with skies clearing on Sunday. Perfect weather for watching the incoming water, digging the trench and filling it with the brush, leaves and new compost materials, and topping with the upside-down chunks of sod before the cold weather set in (if it ever would).

Another step in the evolution of this demo site…learning as I practice.

Intrepid helpers/co-learners are welcome!


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