Hugelkultur is a method for creating growing areas. It allows gardeners to create beds that make the most of a space by creating a number of growing conditions in the same area. The name comes from 'mound culture' – a type of food growing used in parts of Europe throughout history. In hugelkultur, raised beds are created that are not flat but in a mound shape. These mound shapes are created by making a ditch that is then filled with part rotten wood, then topped with other organic matter, soil and compost. Plants can then be placed into these mounds, positioned according to their growing needs.
One of the beneficial things about growing in hugelkultur mounds is that the wood and organic matter within the mounds can be wonderful at retaining moisture. These mounds are also beneficial in terms of providing plants with the nutrients that they need to grow. Slowly decomposing and sinking, the mounds will release the nutrients slowly over time. These nutrients will be made available for the plants growing on them. Another of the benefits of hugelkultur methods is that the mounds allow for plants with different needs to be grown at the same time. The top of the mound will provide a drier environment and will be better for deep rooted plants, while the south side will get full sun and the north side can provide shade and extra moisture for those plants that need it.
It could be a good idea to consider growing using hugelkultur methods in your polytunnel. In a polytunnel, watering needs can be significantly reduced and you can do away with the need for synthetic fertilisers. Since space is also usually a significant factor in limiting the potential yield from a polytunnel, hugelkultur could also help in an organic polytunnel to maximise the yield in the given space. It is possible to fit more plants over a mound than in a regular flat raised bed. Hugelkultur could allow a polytunnel gardener to grow more sustainably, especially when the raised mounds can be created using extra biomass (waste materials) from elsewhere on a property. While hugelkultur does require effort to implement, over time, it can save effort and make it easier to grow your own food in a polytunnel.