Hugel pit #1

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.

Diggin mostly done and pit is 18" deep at it's deepest point

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.

Hugel pit with all the 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.

I actually filled this in with leaves and small branches before I filled it with dirt so I had to remove the branches, fill with dirt/clay, then place the branches back on top

All the leaves & small branches back in place. As time passes the wood will settle and more soil will need to be added so stuff it as full as possible

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.

Bed in place and one more thin layer of native dirt

Almost done

Not having all the soil I needed I decided to lay down a thin layer of straw to help reduce evaporation. I watered the bed twice a week to help things settle

Currently, the bed has a cover crop mix growing that will be tilled into the soil and then more soil on top. The PVC is 6" lengths of 3/4" PVC pipe that allows 1/2" pipe to be installed for a small hoophouse

Small crop of pole beans with peas behind them. The bush beans were already cut down when I took this photo

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