Garden series speaker discusses benefits of hügelkultur

By Rob Vogt
Hügelkultur, the use of raised beds, was one of the topics at the first night of a gardening information series at the Claresholm Social Centre Monday night.
A total of 14 people attended the May 6 event, which featured a presentation by Steve Redmond, an agricultural consultant.
He grew up on a farm in Ontario, and earned a degree in agriculture from Guelph University. He then spent his career working in various aspects of agriculture including manure management, seeds and soil health.
He focuses on increasing nutrients on soil, and came upon the concept of hügelkultur.
Hügelkultur is a German word that means mound culture or hill culture. A hügelkultur is a sloped and raised planting bed filled with topsoil, wood, and organic materials. This has been practised in Europe for hundreds of years.
Redmond said Hügelkultur provides two key benefits – a drought-resistant bed; and a garden bed raised up for ease-of-use.
The primary goal for raised beds in Claresholm is to grow food in a sustainable way. In southwestern Alberta, water management is the key to food production.
He then discussed building the raised beds.
Branches, logs and old lumber are placed at the bottom of the bed. Plant matter is put on top of that, although Redmond uses beef manure. Compost is placed on top of that, and it is all topped off by topsoil.
Bacteria in the bed will digest the wood, creating organic matter.
Redmond also encouraged making a compost pile of everything organic on a property.
He suggested keeping a bucket under the sink and adding organic waste such as banana peels; vegetable peelings; bathroom tissue rolls; paper towels; tea bags and coffee grounds. Egg shells should be rinsed, placed in a separate bucket, pounded into small pieces and added to soil in the spring or fall.
Redmond concluded by noting you can grow more food than ever imagined in a very small area.
He encouraged people to add organic matter to hold onto precious moisture; amend their garden soil with inexpensive amendments; and not let any organic matter leave their property.

Steve Redmond, who has years of experience in agriculture, was one of the guest speakers at a gardening session at the Claresholm Social Centre on Monday night, talking about the use of hügelkultur, or raised beds, to grow food in the yard. Photo by Rob Vogt