Building the Hügels

Lots and lots of great stuff from Paul Wheaton’s work as well as Valerie Herrmann and Alex Ojeda from Jacksonville.

The property is so small that Hügelkultuur and the use of Keyhole gardening greatly increases the surface area for a start! The most amazing thing is that the rotten trees came from the forest and trees I removed years ago. Harvested them and dragged them back. 🙂 I had to remove some scrub and small trees along the roadside, as they were shading the property in Winter. (I managed to borrow abit of Council road as well?)  So they went into the hugels. Its Autumn (Fall) and all the trees around have provided more leaves and pine needles than we can use. On top of it all I have managed to source pasture grazed cow dung and Hay bales within a few miles. So Mother Nature has given us the materials to help us take care of ourselves. Organic food at it’s best!

Hugel logs 300x225 Building the Hügels


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leaves on top of logs

Logs from rotten and not so rotten trees. On the RHS the logs were covered with leaves and watered. This will be a high-ish Hügel, on the property line basically. The Hügel Warren laid out is to the right of this one and will be built much lower to tolerate the Florida weather in summer!

There’s a mixture of leaves and ideally should be broken down by pushing them through a leaf blower in reverse or cutting with a weed whacker in a drum. Oak tends to block water or builds a barrier so that water slips off.




Scrub and branches cover the logs, leaves and manure. Ontop of  this will be added an 8″ layer of soil. In time, we can build it up again. Bambi getting into the garden will be a challenge? They too must eat.. LOL.  But we will have to take care of the issue some time.

Next comes the layer of soil. These hügels are about 3  foot plus above the ground. Some  Jax permies friends came down to give a hand … and it rained. lol. Sabrina pointed out that our hügels in Florida function better if they are kept low due to the heat here. So I will keep this one highish and the next one lower. Plenty of Hay coverage too.

It will be interesting to see how the various designs perform. Some are low, some of the keyholes are sunken (new plantings of trees) others are on the surface (around established trees). A “16 months later” observation is made later down the page.

James is my “cow manure contact” driving that 70’s model F(ound) O(n) R(oad) D(ead) tractor.  Still running. The pins and bushes have been “remodelled” somewhat.. lol.

James dug the trench for the Hügel that Warren helped map out. Saved days of work. It’s about 18″ plus abit  deep, and the logs are about surface height. Mixture of rotting and fresh. He also moved the pile of dirt for me. The dirt (American for soil?) you see has a little clay in it too. By Florida standards it’s pretty nice stuff. Most of the ground around North Florida is sandy.

Next trick is to make Bio-dynamic Colloidal Compost (see dedicated article in the blog) which will GREATLY enhance the soil. It is magnificent stuff. Come summer, lots of greens available and rain. Can’t wait? In a year or two the soil will be so good?


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Some existing trees were hügel-keyholed.. lol

No digging around the trees as they are existing, but logs and brush were placed around them as well as manure. Not trying to capture water run-off as they are too close to the dome home.

Planted some clover, Austrian winter peas and a mixture of two rye’s with some oats for a winter cover crop.


Left to right: Apple, Persimmon and Fig.


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Trees 16  months later


This shot taken from the same angle above, shows the growth of the trees 16 months later. Both are over 20 ft. tall. The fig is bound between the workshop and the dome and has shot up vertically. Plenty of fruit last year with a good crop on the way this year. (2014). AD and all that good stuff..

The fig tree gets plenty of water and the hügel is not yet planted. Gets a lot of shade. There is an Okinawan spinach and a holly bush growing in it and are doing great.

The persimmon had about 300 fruit last year and all but 2 fell off. Poor season in the area last year. May have gotten too much water and/or nitrogen which can cause the fruit to drop off?

Neither get pruned.






So what clover is he sowing?

Next tree plant will be a Naartjie (Afrikaans for Nectarine) because Val said so.. lol. Then a fig from Oranjemund, Namibia… and a Louquat (Japanese plum it’s sometimes called?) Lastly some grapes for making jam with strawberries and persimmon?

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Hugel, planted with spuds. They came out pretty good.



Inspector Skyler checking out the Rye grass..






A year down the road I needed to drop a large water oak. The drop zone (DZ … rolling of drums)  was right in the path of some of the round “key hole” hügels, so I  removed some bushes and trees and put them in drums. Then it rained for 3 days. Those round hügels got water logged and did not drain for days. The lesson and “fix” is to fill them up with some logs, and top up with loam (top soil) for planting out with root veggies. The fig tree grew in leaps and bounds as it is now nested between two buildings and has a large water capture area!

The hügel in general have shrunk down by about 50% and are full of earthworms! Fantastic. We can top up with some more loam soon?


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Fig trees from Namibia


As a child, I grew up (?) in Oranjemund, Namibia. (South West Africa in those days)
Anyway, brother Johns father-in-law to be had a fig tree in their garden. That was in the 60’s and the tree is still there.  So now you know where it came from. Some cuttings arrived here just out of the blue (so to speak) in a parcel with contents as “wood carvings”. One is in the ground and I have a few which will go into containers. To be pruned.

Val has one and Alex will get one…

A little history there.. lol.













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