When I put my homestead 2444 Gruene up for sale I thought to myself “the soil is one of the most valuable things about this property” When I first purchased the lot in the back I set out to heal this tired old vestige of a pecan orchard, to build the soil, improve the drainage and do my part to prevent flooding and proactively harvest water. It was becoming very apparent to me that rain water was way too valuable to knee jerk it out into the street to become someone else’s problem. I’m all about turning liabilities into assets and this is one great example. The raised hugelkultur garden beds take advantage of these linked systems. Rain falls on the roof, races down the gutters into the storage tanks, they overflow into the berm and swell system and into the wicking pond. The pond fills up several times a year and the surrounding raised (to get the plants up in the breezes and out of wet, low lying areas that encourage fungal issues), hugelkultur beds “wick” the water up from below. Hugelkultur beds by design have rotten wood 6-10 inches below the surface of the soil that act as a sponge or wick, drawing up water from the swells and to the roots of the plants where they need it the most.
For 12 years I have been building, layer upon layer of soil in these raised beds. The “living” soil is teaming with microbes and the symbiotic mycorrhizal relationship between the soil, fungus and plants equates into explosive abundance with minimal inputs. Lively healthy soils make healthy vegetables, plants and people. The plants taste better, are more nutritious, don’t have as many pest issues, don’t need fertilizing and are much more drought tolerant as a result of the mineral dense, living soils. By continually amending with compost, layering with organic matter and adding bio-char (activated charcoal which supplies living space for microbes, filters toxins and increases nitrogen absorption) these beds increase yields every year while simultaneously reducing labor inputs.
If you want to build safety and add food security into your lives at a time when food scarcity (no food on the shelves at HEB) is among us then this is the way.