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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hugelkulter Mound in the Desert?

Q. I have been reading about building a Hugelkulter mound. My husband and I are in our 60's and the less we have to be on our knees the better it is for our backs. I wonder if we could build a Hugelkulter mound out of desert materials? Every article I've read seems to be in a forested area where wood is readily available.

A. I have to be honest with you. I have never heard of this before so I had to do some digging (not literally) into the subject. I also have to admit I don't know anything about it but I did find someone to refer you to. I met her a couple of weeks ago at a class I was teaching in Arizona.

She is a permaculture advocate and a delightful person. I have not visited her place in Arizona but she is enthusiastic and someone I would recommend you contact for more information.

Christine Baker

Perhaps there are others out there who can chime in. Let's all remember this IS the Mojave Desert.


  1. Might straw bale gardening be considered a variation on the hugelkulter theme? I'm in Phoenix and am so happy with the prototype bales I planted that I'm now conditioning nine more bales. They definitely reduce squatting and they can be stacked if you want them higher. And they would be a lot less work than accumulating the sticks and mulch for traditional hugelkulter.

  2. My first comment was deleted this is only a test

    1. No, it was not deleted but I screen all comments to remove spam. Reviewing comments may take minutes and up to days depending on when I can get to them.

  3. I'm Building a Hugelkulter garden here in Vegas but it's sunken bed due to high evaporation rates.

    We have an example of this without the Hugelkulter at the Permaculture learning Garden at Vegas roots community garden.

    The sunken bed there produces almost 300 pounds of food yet the water bill is only seven dollars a month. This method is especially important due to the drought we are in.

    If you have any other questions feel free to look us up on Facebook Great Basin permaculture

  4. Mr Morris ... Thank you for your reply .. We will be in Phoenix next month for a graduation .. I will contact Christine to see if we can meet ... If so I will gladly take some pictures and forward them to you ... Thanks again

    1. I am looking forward to your pictures and I will post them for you.

  5. It can be very confusing to talk about sustainability issues in the desert in terms of $$. In the example above, the $7 of water is roughly somewhere between 3500 to 6000 gallons of water depending on the tier rate at the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The two bottom tiers are $1.16 per 1,000 gallons used (up to 5,000 gallons of total water use) and $2.08 per 1,000 gallons used (5,001 to 10,000 gallons of total water use) per meter. The example in a previous post, 300 pounds of food was produced using somewhere between 3500 to 6000 gallons or about 10 to 20 gallons per pound of food produced.

    You can compare that against conventional agriculture by using a calculator supplied by the USGS and found at https://water.usgs.gov/edu/sc1.html
    Hydroponic lettuce in a floating bed of water consumes less than 1 gallon of water per head to produce. In conventional agriculture both tomatoes and lettuce require about 23 gallons of water each to be produced in California using furrow irrigation. Some estimates for lettuce are as high as 60 gallons. Much of the water use is due to the low cost of water for production and the type of irrigation system installed. Drip irrigation might be 30 to 40% more efficient in delivering water than furrow irrigation and result in substantially less water used.

  6. Hugelkulter will work anywhere and with any wood I suspect. BUT in the arid southwest the lack of rainfall means the wood will likely not decomp in a reasonable amount of time for those hoping to build up the sponge-like water absorbing (banking) purpose of Hugelkulter that allows trees to be planted upon it.

    Adding a lot of water to speed breakdown sort of defeats the purpose plus there is not as much wood/trees to get rid of the way there is in most of the planet.