Ok, so here is my first Hugel pit surrounded by a raised bed.
Since DFW has clay soils I could not have ton this without a Mattock pick. I got mine at Lowes for just under $30 and it has been worth every penny. I also snagged a wheelbarrow off of Craigslist for $20 and that combined with the Mattock pick has made this entire process much simpler and faster.
I usually dig down about 3″-6″ with a shovel and set that dirt aside to mix into the raised bed later. I then bust out my Mattock pick and start pickin’ away. When digging clay soils you will pull up large chunks of hardened clay and it does get tiring. The clay gets put into its own pile to be used later while filling the pits back up. Generally the deeper the better but as long as you go to a depth of 12″ you should be fine.
TIP: It is much easier to dig clay after a long soaking rain. Trust me, I tried in July 2011 while it was 107 degrees and no rain for over a month….I don’t recommend it. If you haven’t had any rain in some time you should lay a soaker hose over the area you plan to dig and let the water soak in for a couple of hours.
I then filled the bottom of the pit with small twigs and branches from a large oak tree I cut down in the backyard. On top of those I placed many medium sized logs interspersed with large logs.
At this point I started filling in the pit with the clay I dug out and added some cow manure for an additional nitrogen source. The first year or so of decomposition will trap some of the nitrogen in the pit but that nitrogen will again become available to plants as decomposition accelerates.
Cover everything with more dirt and add another bag of manure. Tamp down everything as best you can either by walking on it or use a tamper. Then place your raised bed on top, make sure it’s level and secure. Fill in the outside edges of your raised bed with more clay and tamp it down.