Is hugelkultur in Scandinavia a good idea?
Hugelkultur is not something that is familiar to most people in Scandinavia, but that does not mean it isn’t a good idea, quite the opposite actually in my opinion.
The climate in Scandinavia is, at least near the coast, warmer than one would expect due to the Gulf Stream, but there are
USDA Hardiness Zone system
The USDA Hardiness Zone Map separates the USA into 11 different planting zones. We need a way to compare the climate where you live with the climate where a plant is known to grow well. That’s why climate zone maps were created. Zone maps are guidelines that show where various permanent landscape plants can most likely succeed growing as intended. , The plant must withstand the all year climate in your area, including lowest and highest temperatures and the amount and distribution of rainfall. Climate change and natural extreme conditions and very local conditions should be taken into account so that your annuals, perennials, and trees can survive and grow year after year
Many resources online
This site contains a lot of maps and information on quite a few places outside the US and
Raised hugelkultur bed heat up quick in spring
A huge advantage of a raised bed is that since it’s elevated it doesn’t take that long for the ground frost to let go and the decomposition will add extra heat from within. This will especially be so if you have added manure to the hugelkultur as you build it.
Some plants thrive extra when their roots are warm, like beans, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash.
Hugelkultur as moisture control
I had never thought I would need to water much where I live as rain is our default weather, but the summer of 2018 opened my and other’s eyes. I have never watered our fruit trees after the first year of planting them, but this previous summer I did it every day for weeks. It paid off, our trees gave us so much fruit. This work I hope to avoid in the future, so I will construct hugelkultur near or around them all.
Feeding the soil, not the plants
In parts of Scandinavia the soil is quite poor or a very thin layer of good soil, this is also the case many other places in the world. One could transport good soil from other places, but then those places will not have soil, so instead we should try to create good soil by relying on the processes that creates good soil.
Natural and healthy soil contains a universe of minute creatures eating and excreting. Bacteria, fungi, nematodes and worms all feed on each other and all of them pee and poop. Inside our
The part of them that are not consumed can become a vault of nutrients for plants, either directly or indirectly. Roots actually excrete substances that attract bacteria and fungus to gather where they are, so that they can take advantage of this game, too. Most plants have symbiotic relationship like this and Wikipedia describes it like this:
“A mycorrhiza is the symbiotic association between a green plant and a fungus. The plant captures the energy coming from the sun by means of its chlorophyll and supplies it to the fungus, and the fungus supplies water and mineral nutrients taken from the soil to the plant. Mycorrhizas are located in the roots of the plant.”Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhiza
Since some bacteria and fungus can directly feed plants in exchange for treats the plant provides we should work with the system and not fight it. Some plants even have
If we don’t make sure the local ecosystem in our soil is taken care of, by use of chemical fertilizers and poisons, the soil will not have the proper natural tools to make that happen and then our soil and
Safe…ish plants to grow in a Scandinavian hugelkultur
Some warn that the first year one might as well just let it rest, but in my view, unless you do it very late in the season, I don’t think this is a must. The yield will probably be higher the second season, but if you have access to some good soil and add that around the plants you most likely should get some growth at least. We planted broccoli and that is one thing I’ve seen a lot of people warn against as a first season crop, but boy was that a huge success. Never had such a success with them before, and they produced well into after the first few days of frost and snow.
Since Scandinavia covers a lot of different climatic zones it is important that you do a bit of research and perhaps keep track of your progress in a journal, like this one.
Apples, pear, plum and cherry trees are very common to plant and have in gardens in Scandinavia. These and other fruit trees one might find suitable can benefit from the environment hugelkultur beds will provide.
If one has a very large hugelkultur bed most people with experience with permaculture would most likely warn about planting trees in the middle of such a mound. Trees should be planted at the edge of hugelkultur beds to benefit from collected moisture and nutrients. The trees may also benefit from the wind breaking aspect the mounds might prove. This is something you won’t get if you attempt to plant trees on the top of the raised beds.
Edible bushes and shrubs
We also have berry bushes such as blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, currant shrubs, black currant bushes
Blueberry bushes, the American variant, and not the wild local Bilberry, are easy to grow in Scandinavia. A lot of people seem to prefer the bilberry over Blueberry for taste,
So far I’ve not planted blueberry in or near a hugelkultur myself, but I have this on my rather long todo-list. One of my blueberries have never done
Raspberries are easy to grow, so easy that they can spread like a weed from their roots, but if you have a raised
There are both summer and autumn-fruiting varieties. If you have a mix of them you’ll extend the harvesting season from midsummer until near winter. Raspberries thrive in moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil. They prefer fertile, slightly acidic soils, and weed free growing conditions, so they would seem to be perfect for a raised bed.
If you end up with more than what you can eat fresh, raspberries also freeze well. A good idea is to lay them out flat in a thin layer in your freezer on a tray and when they have frozen pour them into ziplock bags. This way it is very easy to handle them later on, if you want to decorate a cake during the winter or add a specific amount to your homemade cereal mix, as examples. They also make wonderful jams and sauces. They can easily be used frozen for these purposes, so no need to do all such work when you really should be harvesting and enjoying the summer or late fall.
Apart from what we eat fresh, we mainly use it as juice, either in a mix with other berries or fruit or as strawberry juice.
Currants & Gooseberry
Black & red currant and gooseberry are closely related so we’ll group them together here. One can easily
These fruits are excellent for the home gardener as they are relatively trouble-free and produce quite a large amount of highly nutritious fruit and why they are probably the most common berry to have in Norwegian gardens. Currants are divided into black, red and white types with many varieties to choose from. In general, blackcurrants tend to be cooked as they are quite tart raw, but red currants and white currants are more likely to be used fresh.
Currant bushes live easily 12 to 15 years, so one better
Currants grow well in sun or partial shade, the more sun they get the larger the harvest will be, but they do not like it too warm. Plants may drop their leaves when temperatures exceed 29°C (85°F ) for an extended period of time. Some areas in Scandinavia this might be an issue.
Currants can be planted slightly deeper than they grew in their nursery container, this is quite the opposite of what one would do with a tree. Space them 4 to 5 feet apart. Water rigorously after planting and apply a good layer of mulch of organic origin around the plants.
Mulching, as one normally should and would do in an organic garden, helps keep the soil moist and cool, and prevents competition from weeds. As always one should add fresh mulch every year to bring it up to the proper depth. This is something one of the few tasks one should do with hugelkultur environments. As for watering, it depends on the state your hugelkultur is, but in the first year of the bush I would water it regularly, but from the second year on I would just leave it alone unless it’s an unusually dry and warm period.
Pruning currant shrubs in very early spring by removing the oldest wood is helpful for the plant as well in both maintaining its form and lead to a bigger, healthier harvest.
These plants may easily suffer from lack of nitrogen, so having some sort of nitrogen fixation plants, like legumes (beans and peas) or goumi berry will help. As usual; don’t overdo it.
Something quite new: Goumi berry
In my refrigerator, I have some Goumi berry (Elaeagnus multiflora) seeds for cold stratification. I will attempt to grow these and plant them in our garden and also at my
More or all vegetables where one harvest above ground should work great in a hugelkultur bed. Some are generally recommended to avoid all toghether, like carrots, and others might work after a few years.
Potatoes are quite often on lists of things to not plant, but there are others who disagree, but often under specific conditions. If you don’t mind a small harvest of potatoes, and mainly look on them as means to improve the soil and you just harvest what you can spot and just leave the potatoes that might have spouted inaccessable between roots and branches far below, then sure go ahead plant potatoes. This idea appeals to me.
Another vegetable I’ve seen on “do not plant first year” lists is broccoli. My jaw dropped as we did this year, and I have never seen or tasted better broccoli than the ones we planted in our first year hugelkultur bed. The reason why our broccoli did so well the first year might be because we had access to some prime compost, that we generously poured into the mound.
My daughter wanted to test physalis, and they grew really tall and impressive, but winter frost came before the berries were ripe, so they all died. That was a bit sad as I really had hoped for some ice cream decorated with them.
These are just a few
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