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HugelkulterNew homes, housing estates, apartment blocks and other new developments tend to be surrounded by a lunarscape of ‘wrecked’ land – sometimes earth, other times sand or, quite simply rocks.  With water conservation necessarily going hand in hand with creating green spaces, there is one great solution to greening up and beautifying these areas at very little cost.

The technical term is ‘hugelkultur’ which, in plain English, is the creation of raised beds – these require very little, if any, water for their upkeep – based on wood. The wood can be fallen trees, branches or any other similar ‘detritus’ from trees and shrubs. These are either covered over with earth where they have fallen, or made into heaps as part of an overall landscaping project, and can be used to contour flat or hilly land and, furthermore, they can be made at ground level in pits too. They work better above, rather than below ground, and even work well in desert conditions.

What happens is that as the tree, branches or other wood, slowly rot down – it takes years for a tree to rot away – it feeds the soil and helps it retain moisture too. This means there is no need to add fertiliser, or even water in the majority of cases (depending on the time of year) during the initial stages of plant growth.

The hugelkultur method is an excellent landscape tool and one which brings previously unproductive land immediately into cultivation with no ongoing costs. A hugelkultur mound can be built from tree branches or dead shrubs in a small yard, and even on top of cement. Furthermore, a person can grow huge amounts of food or ornamental plants on it with very little work, no fertiliser and a little water.

These mounds can be used, on a large scale, to create interesting landscape effects and – this is wonderful – a hugelkultur mound built on top of a fallen tree can last well over 20 years before requiring any replenishment.

– B Khan

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 27, 2014.