What do you do when you're establishing garden beds in sandy, acidic soil conditions? Hugelkultur of course! First off- what is Hugelkultur? In short, it's a raised bed gardening system that utilizes decomposing vegetative matter to nutrient dense, no till gardening spaces. It's pretty similar to "Lasagna" style no till beds. Essentially, you lay down heavier branch and log debris, cover it with small woody debris, then smaller plant debris, and then top it with soil and grow on top of that mound of decaying wood and plant matter.
Why in the world would you do that?
Well decaying plant matter is rich in nutrients for plants, emits some heat as it decomposes, and the heavier wood at the center of the mound retains moisture so it's a win win for gardeners. We chose to use this model for 2 reasons. First of all, our soil is pretty much acidic sand on the edge of a forest. It would never work for a garden. Secondly, we have a lot of woody debris lying around so materials are cheap and easy to find. Even with creating a couple of these beds for our perennial garden (rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries and garlic), there is plenty (PLENTY) of leftover downed trees and biomass to provide habitat to all of our woodland friends. We didn't want to try to dig up the sand so we're creating right on top of the existing soil.
We did need some edging to anchor deer-netting into and heck, we like the look of it, so we modified the standard hugelkultur design to incorporate a log round edge. But as branches fall this winter, we'll add them to the center of our beds and in the spring, we'll fill them with some plant matter and soil. We'll never have to turn these beds over or even add much more than some compost to keep them well fed and the rotting wood in the bottom layer will retain water and nutrients as well as build a microecosystem of fungus and other beneficial nutrients for our perennial plants.