What Kind Of Wood Is Used For Hugelkultur?

by Nicholas Chew

Many people are battling with what kind of wood is suitable for their hugelkultur bed. Confusion reigns daily after discovering varying benefits that come with different wood types.

Hugelkultur is a gardening technique that largely utilizes pieces of rotting wood as the centerpiece for prolonged humus building. Therefore, the first answer to this question would be, use whatever kind of wood that you can easily access.

However, with some exceptions. A pro tip for every gardener who wants to begin gardening in hugelkultur beds, skip any contaminated or treated wood. This article is meant to guide you to choose the best kind of wood for your hugelkultur bed. Keep reading.

Importance of wood in hugelkultur beds

Hugelkultur beds are mainly composed of branches, logs, and other woody materials covered with a thin layer of soils. Wood being the primary materials, it has several benefits to your hugelkultur bed. However, for the best results, you need to break up the wood materials into smaller pieces. Some of the importance of wood in hugelkultur include:

Creating very stable humus for a longer-term:

Basically, wood materials rot slowly. As the wood buried in the hugelkultur beds decomposes, it releases nutrients that are contained within its structure to the soil. These nutrients are utilized by the plants growing in your hugelkultur beds.

Improving Soil Quality:

Woody material and other detritus readily become spongy-like, thus absorbing water and retaining moisture. Additionally, soil aeration increases, and drainage improves as the wood breaks down. This is how wood becomes handy in improving the soil quality in your hugelkultur beds.

Improving Water Retention Capacity:

Wood has a higher ability to hold water and release it slowly to the surrounding, thus, burying wood in your hugelkultur retains more water.

Creates A Warm Environment:

The decomposition process of wood generates warmth essential for germination and growth of plants in your hugelkultur beds.

Types of Wood that can be used in hugelkultur beds

To avoid upsets, it is essential to use the right kind of woody materials when building a hugelkultur bed. This is because hugelkultur beds only have a thin layer of soil, and the type of wood you choose will be the source of nutrients and carbon. This makes softwood win over hardwoods because of their ability to rot faster. Softwoods decompose more quickly into fertile humus, allowing the roots of your plants to establish well. Some of the wood that will perform well in hugelkultur include;

Apple

They decompose faster, giving more nutrients to your hugelkultur beds, which is a great benefit to your plants. However, they take too long to dry, which means they need tons of nitrogen to decompose. Therefore, fresh applewood may do be the best.

Pine

This is one of the right choices you can settle on for your hugelkultur beds. It decomposes faster, making your hugelkultur bed fertile. The thorns of pine trees are acidic, which may adversely affect your plants; however, the acidity may be essential if you plant acid lovers like azaleas and blueberries. Utilizing the wood alone would work perfectly for every hugelkultur beds.

Alders

It is one of the best woods that you can use in your hugelkultur beds. This is because it quickly decomposes, giving your beds rich humus and retain high levels of moisture. Also, it is inexpensive.

Poplar

This is a relatively lightweight hardwood that will provide you with the best from your hugelkultur beds. The diffuse-porous property gives it better capability to hold moisture and an advantage for drainage. It is cheaply available in most of the regions.

Dry willow

Willow exists in many species, but they are perfect regardless of the species you get. It is a low-density wood that would decompose very easily. Fresh willow wood may take longer to dry. Besides willow being a hardwood, they do not last for longer.

Cottonwood

Cottonwood logs are an excellent choice for your hugelkultur beds. They make one of the cheapest woods available for use in beds. Since this type of wood does not have robust uses, it is readily available. Cottonwood logs have some traces of acid, so keep it in mind before choosing.

Maple

This wood type decomposes faster. However, it works well when it is combined with other types of wood.

Types of Wood that cannot be used in hugelkultur beds

Rot-resistant woods may be a great hassle before you start getting significant results from your hugelkultur beds. Also, there some types of wood that contain harmful chemicals that will give you disappointing results. Therefore, when establishing your hugelkultur bed, it is good to avoid the following allopathic trees.

Cedar

Cedar is characterized by natural anti-microbial, rot-resistant, and anti-fungal properties that make it do decompose very slowly. Additionally, cedar is a hardwood with a variety of uses making it not readily available for use in hugelkultur beds. However, it may be advantageous in large hugelkultur beds because it adds a more microbial diversity when placed strategically without getting in touch with roots. Anyway, this extends the life of your beds.

Black walnut

This type of wood should be avoided because it contains traces of toxic juglone that inhibit plants’ growth. This chemical levels can be tolerated by limited species.

Black locust

Wood from black locus is rot-resistant because of its density and should be avoided in hugelkultur beds. However, black locus wood can be very useful in humid regions.

Oak

It is rot-resistant, thus, not suitable. Additionally, it is not readily available.

Pecans

It secrets the toxic juglone, though in low quantities, making it unsuitable for hugelkultur beds.

Cherry

The only reason to avoid cherry wood is that it is toxic to animals. However, it may be an excellent choice if you can get it at the early stages of decomposition.

Conclusion

When choosing the type of wood to use in your hugelkultur beds, it is advisable to consider several factors like the plants you want to grow, the cost of the wood, availability, among others. For best results, Pine wood that tend to decompose faster make an excellent choice. However, if you are laying down a large hugelkultur bed, you may find it advantageous to include semi-rot-resistant woods to continue offering humus when the softwoods have fully decomposed.