First I dug up some leaf mould. This has been sitting behind my shed for two years... last year I put most of the shredded leaves directly on my growing beds.
This was harder to dig out than I had expected—roots had grown horizontally through it.
It's very very matted. It kind of just sits on top of the sticks. It rained later that day, but that didn't affect the appearance of it that I could see.
I tried breaking this up with my garden fork, but it's VERY matted. The weather between now and spring should do most of that for me.
No matter. There's a whole winter of snow coming.
The idea behind hugelkultur is to mimic what happens on a forest floor, to create a similar spongy, soft garden bed. When I first heard about it, it made all kinds of sense to me because the closer you can get to how God set things up, the better. Worms will come up out of the ground to work this over, and it's already full of beneficial microorganisms.
I did put SOME of last year's leaves to the side of the shed. Maybe I should have started with those! They would have filtered down between the sticks. Ah well--I finished off with the rest of the old old mould after these pictures were taken. Besides, I have lots of other beds I can use last year's leaves on.
Next, a surprise... There was a dead tree in the lot next door. A large limb broke off and was just lying there. They had piled other branches that fell next to the garage.
I asked if I could have them. The neighbor and her son were like, sure. Not only that, but the son pitched them over the fence into my yard for me. Woo hoo!
Alas, her landlord sent someone to take down the rest of the tree and I didn't get any more lumber from it. However, I used the large limb and branches to start a much longer Hugelkultur bed. Any new sticks from my maple and the neighborhood are going onto this pile now.
I placed a couple of pizza boxes on the ground underneath to block the grass, but it's so long, I need about three more pizza boxes.
Below is a photo of our cat Buster on the largest tree limb, for scale. He, of course, thinks I put it there just for him to sharpen his claws on.
I asked over at the All Things Plants website in the Hugelkultur forum if I should put compost on top now, or wait until spring. Now, they said--to prevent any of my leaf mould from blowing away. I haven't done that yet, but I will soon.
I have a lot of work ahead of me yet with this, but I'm looking forward to having these dedicated vegetable beds!