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The optimal hugel is about 5 feet tall, 2 feet wide at the top and 6 feet wide at the bottom, which creates a 45-degree angle to provide good aeration, according to Andrea Holker of Monticello, Minn., an early adopter of hugelkultur who has studied with pioneer Holzer, both in Austria and Montana.
“I first became aware of it three or four years ago,” she said, and has been practicing hugelkultur at home for several growing seasons. As a garden design and maintenance professional (Andrea’s Garden Services), she plans to incorporate it into the services she offers to clients. “What’s exciting to me is to include permaculture with the aesthetics that my clients require,” she said.
From Holzer, Holker learned what to plant where: taller plants that thrive in drier soil at the top, and plants that prefer moist soil, such as melons and garlic, at the bottom, for example. “The goal is to always have a crop cover,” she said. “You need good plant identification skills” to be successful at hugelkultur.
“It offers a lot of potential,” said Paula Westmoreland, a program director for the PRI and owner of Ecological Gardens, a permaculture design and installation service. She went to Duluth last fall to observe a large hugelkultur installation, and returned in the spring to attend a workshop with Holzer and his crew.
The idea behind hugelkultur is simple and basic, but the practice is a bit more complicated, according to Westmoreland. “Careful design is needed to make sure they work effectively, that the slope is stabilized and to prevent erosion.”
Setting up their hugel beds was a lot of hard work, Amy Reisdorf said. “The up-front time investment is high, but after that it gets easier. Build the hugels, and they last a decade. It’s perpetuating.”
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784