UPDATE 7/14/22:

For reasons inexplicable to me, people keep promoting hugel culture  for the desert.

It does not work.

It is EXTREMELY important to NOT frustrate desert dwellers with crap that doesn’t work here.

We fell for the BS, learned the hard way.

The main concept of hugel culture is to have many different bacteria, fungi and decomposers in WOOD holding lots of moisture that then breaks down.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to comprehend that this does NOT happen in the desert.

We tried it with Joshua Tree cuttings and brush, what a waste of water. While Joshies do hold a lot of water to enable them to live through extended droughts, they don’t have the microbes and fungi we look for to grow veggies.

We had two hugels.   One got enormous amounts of water and most branches did decompose eventually.   The other didn’t do well, so we watered a lot less, and about two years ago we took it apart.  The branches looked very much like in 2011.

How many mushrooms do you find in the desert?

ANY above ground growing is undesirable because the water … tada!!!! runs off. Simple science:


And you have much more evaporation than when you grow in the ground.

If you have the equipment and you need to prune your Joshies, you could bury the branches, add more organic matter for a future garden.

I like to leave branches on the ground so they create habitat for plants and critters.

I STILL have mounds of dirt covered branches and brush on my property from at least 10 years ago!  We had to clear a lot of brush for our hoophouse in 2011.

Nothing decomposed.

So let’s just NOT promote hugel culture and stick to what actually works in the desert.

My original post from 8/6/2010 — we were not smart enough to realize that this couldn’t work in the desert.   HOWEVER, burying your kitchen compost it fantastic, especially if you can run it through a garbage disposal.   It breaks down and creates soil super fast.   I often bury compost in the garden between plants.

We already somewhat tried this when we built our three sisters bed in spring, putting brush we had to clear in the bottom of the bed.  However, we didn’t think of adding out kitchen waste and a few other goodies to make it work.

The Art and Science of Making a Hugelkultur Bed – Transforming Woody Debris into a Garden Resource

— by Melissa Miles August 3, 2010

Wooden debris will decompose faster,
(and be transformed into a resource)
when hugelkultur techniques are

Used for centuries in Eastern Europe and Germany, hugelkultur (in German hugelkultur translates roughly as “mound culture”) is a gardening and farming technique whereby woody debris (fallen branches and/or logs) are used as a resource.
Often employed in permaculture systems, hugelkultur allows gardeners and farmers to mimic the nutrient cycling found in a natural woodland to realize several benefits. Woody debris (and other detritus) that falls to the forest floor can readily become sponge like, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into the surrounding soil, thus making this moisture available to nearby plants.
Hugelkultur garden beds (and hugelkultur ditches and swales) using the same principle to:

  • Help retain moisture on site
  • Build soil fertility
  • Improve drainage
  • Use woody debris that is unsuitable for other use

Applicable on a variety of sites, hugelkultur is particularly well suited for areas that present a challenge to gardeners. Urban lots with compacted soils, areas with poor drainage, limited moisture, etc., can be significantly improved using a hugelkultur technique, as hugelkultur beds are, essentially, large, layered compost piles covered with a growing medium into which a garden is planted.
Creating a hugelkultur garden bed is a relatively simple process:

So now we’ll try this again and we’ll get started for NEXT year’s planting.  We still have plenty more brush and kitchen waste.  Have to cover it so the animals won’t get to it.