Shelagh Leutwiler: Hugelkultur expert and work party co-host

Catchy name. What is a Hugelkultur?

You pretty much collect rotting wood, decaying logs, branches—any kind of decaying biomass—and assemble it kind of like a lasagna.

What's it good for?

It's a method of building soil. As it decomposes, it creates a constant supply of nutrients. Also, the wood acts as a sponge so you don't have to water it as frequently. And heat is created through decomposition, so you can plant earlier in the spring and later in the fall.

Where will you get supplies?

Different members from the Parkridge Community Garden. Brandon is bringing logs, and his partner works on a farm and she has access to manure. Chad has access to leaf mold.

And the wood can't come from like an old picnic table?

No, it's got to be organic. From a tree—a fallen tree. And everything needs to be aged, for at least a year I suppose.

Can you still plant this Hugelkultur for fall?

Yeah, but not immediately—you have to water it in, let it settle. I'll probably go back and plant according to the almanac, cool-season crops: spinach, kale, collards. Ideally, a Hugelkultur is good for vines—beans, squash, melons. The one in my yard has watermelons and bush beans.

Is this the kind of thing you can try independently?

You can, but it's so labor intensive it helps to have a group, or a partner, when you gather supplies and dig the trench—mine at home I set 18 inches deep. I got my instructions from Gaia's Gardens, which is a permaculture book.

Is it just coincidence that you and Hugelkultur both have German names?

Sure. Although I do love efficiency. I hate waste. This is a good way to use things that otherwise might be neglected.