Hugul Culture


I have an area on the property that is surrounded by good clay soil but is a bit stoney and hard , tends to really dry out in summer and produce a lot of burdock and other stuff I would rather not have. This winter I have been taking the left over charcoal bits and wood ash form the woodstove ( we heat with wood) and scattering that over the area on the snow. I plan to add a lot of coffee grounds ( I pick up 10 or so bags of it every week or two from our local café) and maybe some peat and sand , to see if I can get some better soil there. I also have a honey locust planted next to it to help with nitrogen fixing. I was just considering that we have a few piles of cut Manitoba Maple sitting around which has lost it’s viability for burning or worse, is deteriorating. I thought of making the area a hugul culture area so as not only enrich the soil but add some interest to the otherwise flat yard and one of the benefits of hugul culture aside from enrichment is the little microclimates it can make from having a shaded and/or cooler, and/or wind protected , but also a more prominently sunny south facing slope. Anyone doing this ? I am trying to distract myself from the stresses and challenges of growing fruit and turn my eye to making pretty…maybe some echinacea and blackeye susan, clover , and other less demanding perennials.


I tried it in my garden last year. So I only have one year of experience. However, I have very sandy soil and didnt water that area at all last summer and the plants did well.


If I had sandy soil, I would be growing so many sweet cherry trees…Got clay here.which is nice because it is rich, but drainage leaves something to be desired, and the plants can’t get at all the nutrient that’s right there.


I am thinking that wood should be at least partly decomposing when it is buried…going on experience, every time I’ve had a garden and found buried wood, it always seems to have been preserved from being in the ground rather than decomposing…which makes me think it should probably be on it’s way when it is buried.


I definitely want to try some of the hardier varieties in the future. I might still see if I can get one this spring.


You can’t see it, but under the sticks are rotten punky pine logs. Mostly gathered from around the yard I didn’t burn and fallen trees in the woods. After I put the sticks on I topped it with all the compost I had in my piles. Then I put the soil back on leaving the richer topsoil for the top again.


I have had good luck with Black Tartarian, and (was) having good luck with a Kristin (supposed the hardiest sweet cherry), until it died, I think because of my clay and also because the area that was supposed to be a shelter ended up being a wind tunnel. ( watch the area and see what it does in the winter, what looks like a shelter can actually be worse in winter winds if close to buildings that funnel the winds). I have a Hedelfingen which is supposed to be a reliable commercial variety here in Ontario (although Niagara area is surrounded by water and almost 2 zones from us even tho it is just a few hours west and hardly south).


Thanks I’ll do some research on them. Blackgold was another I was looking at.


I was eyeing that one too.


I suspect that all of the problems that I have with stone fruit…(particularly sweet cherry and apricot), and I mean ALL problems, even if it is bugs or gummosis can ultimately be traced back to drainage. Without good drainage the tree becomes susceptible to everything, that is my theory.


i highly suggest you shore up your hugels with bigger logs if you have them or its always a struggle to keep material on the piles. also wider is better for retaining moisture.


The cherries are soft. I don’t care much for softer sweets. Everybody is different though.

It’s very important and yes once compromised they have a giant bullseye pests can see. All new trees should at least be mounded.


Thanks for the info. I’m not a big fan of soft sweet cherries either.

Yeah between keeping the roots healthy and good nutrition plants should have a lot less problems. I’m working on apricots and plums too. I grafted a few apricots last year I got from Bob Purvis. I’m hoping they make it through the winter okay. No reason they shouldn’t as mild as it’s been this year.


From what I understand about Hugul culture is that your creating layers of decomposing material simply buried will quickly over 4-6 years decomposition. You’re not necessarily going to change your soil makeup with buried wood. With out microbial activity it just sits there as you have observed. If I where you and I wanted to plant fruit trees, I would plant Dandelion, Burdock(which you already have),sterile Comfrey and clover. The deep rooted plants draw nutrients up into the soil there leaves bring it to the surface. The Dandelion Is also a calcium indicator they will not grow in soil thats low in calcium and high in potassium but they pull calcium from the ground with there deep tap roots enriching it. Burdock is similar with regards to calcium and both it and comfrey are rich with trace elements from deep under the surface. The Dandelion and Burdock have 2 year life cycles and there dead roots leave channels for water to enter the clay pack and thus keep the subsurface hydrated. Cover of course aides soil microbial life by providing nitrogen. Plant a comfrey next to each fruit tree and cut and drop its leaves 3 times a year.


i grow a little patch of dandelion and plantain next to my chic coop. once the flowers start to wither i cut it all and feed to them. i get 2 cuttings a summer. its a great green for them.


If I planted dandelion seeds my husband would think I was definitely nuts, LOL. We have so many now in the lawn that it is a sea of yellow in the spring. They do love hard clay soil and thrive on our hill. I would kill them but they are the only think that stays green in times of drought. I will now have to consider them a good food source for the chickens.


and you. my grandmother harvested them in the spring before they flowered. they’re pretty good steamed then sautéed with garlic. butter, salt/ pepper! she lived to 93!


All parts are edible, roots, leaves and flowers are often used to make wine.


Dandelion wine is out of this world good!!! Dandelions are one key to helping all our beneficial pollinating insects.


very good advice thank you !