Hugelkultur and Compost
March 1, 2022
Hi, we just moved to the North Valley, 87114. Making some raised beds and am going to probably go with the hugelkultur method. Do you know if we can just toss our kitchen scraps in or if they need to be already composted? I'd like to start composting in general, would the online class I just found on the site be a good start?
Answer by RR: Building a hugelkultur mound is usually something you do as a batch process, meaning done all at once. And it usually incorporates a combination of woody products and other organics, like kitchen scraps, if you like. The idea is to soak the wood as you build because, as other organic matter is added and the mound is covered with soil, the wood will hold the moisture, decay very slowly, and provide the nutrients and moisture for planting onto the mound later. I did this about 5 years ago because I had a large accumulation of wood from trees I had trimmed in my yard, plus large cacti I wanted to remove. I dug a 4' x 8' hole a foot deep and built a mound about 3' high, soaking the contents as I built. I've been trying ever since to get something rooted on this mound and finally partially succeeded last year. You really can't plant into it for a year or two because all the internal decomposition is using up the available nitrogen in the mound. So I mulched it, but with the wind and sparse moisture we have, I had to put bird netting over it to hold down the mulch. Last fall I was finally able to get a cover crop partially attached, so maybe I've turned the corner, but it has been a challenge. I suggest you read this project report from one of our graduated Master Composters: https://docs.nmcomposters.org/2019-mc-project-gm.pdf, as an alternative to building a mound.
It sounds as if you want to be able to add your kitchen scraps on a continuing basis, which many of us do. Our website is a tremendous resource for many different methods of doing this "dump and run" technique. Our online class, Home Composting Basics, is a terrific place to start. You will also find the schedule of our free classes on our website menu.
Thank you for your interest in composting.