I just learned about Hugelkultur from Sue at The Little Acre That Could.
Hugelkutur is basically a raised garden bed filled with rotting wood and topped with topsoil.
The idea pleases me, as it makes a great deal of sense, and it's possibly one of the easiest things I could do. The added bonus is that the heat in the decomposition is supposed to help heat seaking plants, and some years, that's each and every plant here!
So I've done a fair bit of reading online, and as eager as I am to get started, I'm going to do a couple of cheats before I do the real thing. The real thing apparently draws a lot of nitrogen away from plants the first year, so unless you have a lot of yard/kitchen waste to add into the pile, it may damage your plants. Yard and kitchen waste are also known as animal feed at my house, so I think it's best to set the real thing up, and let it sit for the first year.
The cheats that I am going to try for this year are much easier, and may show quicker results. They won't have the long lasting effects of the real thing, but hopefully will give a much needed boost to some already established plants.
First, there are a row of black currant bushes on the edge of the garden. The previous owner told me that he'd planted them years before, and they never fruited. Our first summer I vigorously pulled the weeds and crab grass around them, laying them around the stems as mulch. They grew a fair bit taller, and seemed healthy and vibrant, but no fruit. That winter, we parked our trailer to the side of them, which created an accidental wind break, and also led to the snow melting faster in that area in the spring. We also dumped a lot of ash from the wood stove over top of the plants all winter long. That summer a few of the bushes flowered, and we ended up with 6 currant berries. I haven't done anything with them since, figuring the effort wasn't worth the pay off.
I just grabbed a couple of armfuls of crappy firewood to play with while I was taking pictures. There's a long ways to go yet.
Third, I had plans to add pathways to the raspberry patch. I was thinking of buying planks to put in where I wanted the pathways, but why not use the firewood? It'll still give me clear pathways, but cost me nothing, and as a bonus, they'll fertilize the raspberries as they rot!
Fourth, my rhubarb patches get a similar treatment.
Then there's the flower bed/herb/perennial garden (aka, the front yard). The front yard has about 10 feet of grass from the road to the row of lilac bushes. There's a driveway on either side. Between the lilacs and the house there is a 15 pace square area (less than 30 feet, 'cause I have short legs) of what used to be lawn. There's another lilac bush to the right of the front door, a forsythia kind of in the middle on the right side, and a rose bush about two feet away from the lilacs, front and centre. The well head in to the right.
So, I expanded the flower beds, laid out cardboard, landscape cloth, and carpet, attempting to kill that grass. I transplanted rhubarb, perennials from my mom, asparagus seedlings, grew tobacco one year... There are still big patches of grass poking through. The biggest problem, is that I putter around in there in the spring, wanting to play in the dirt, but knowing that it's too early to do the real gardening. Then once the gardening season begins, I all but completely ignore it. The grass grows three feet high, the weeds are out of control, anything that isn't pretty right now is considered a weed, and I really just don't care. I get too tired working with the things I can eat, I don't have the energy to deal with the things I can't.
This year, however, I bought a bunch of perennial herbs and medicinal plants, and I was making plans to turn that front yard into something worth having. I always make plans, but with money invested, it's more important to me to make it work. I had figured on bringing over a few loads of composted manure to enrich the soil, but how much more effort would it take to add a layer of rotting firewood in first? My plan for now, is to add a row of firewood around the things I can identify in there, and a pathway of rotting firewood across the yard in front of the step. Then add a layer of firewood in the areas that I'm pretty sure I haven't planted with anything. Some spots will need to wait for more spring like weather, so I can start to see what's in there. Then the big idea, a proper hugelkulture mound along the driveway on the right side.
I'm debating putting mounds in to the forest garden area, and/or adding wood around the apple trees, but I don't think I'll have time to do either this year.
Flurries off and on today, 5°C, but a sure sign of spring...