July 13, 2013


A wood brigade to move decaying wood from the truck to the bed

Over the years the "herb garden" has had many faces. Located about 200 feet to the southwest of the community kitchen and on top of the drain field, the space is optimal for growing plants that need frequent attention, harvesting or that we simply want close to the kitchen out of convienence. Early in Windward's history the space functioned as the primary garden. In recent years, as the much larger main garden has replaced this function, it has served as home to perennial culinary herbs and vegetables, as well as decorative flowers such as irises and daffodils.

Faun and Arianna placing wood and soil in the hugel bed

The organic morphing of structure and function over the years has led to a relatively poor use of space, which has made the garden a rather uninspiring place to be. And when one is uninspired when in a garden, neglect and under-use soon follow. Since this space is so close to our main community space, it has the potential to be a well-loved and well-used space if designed properly. We have an energetic group of interns this summer, some very knowledgable in the growing of medicinal and culinary herbs, so we decided to use this opportunity to do an overhaul of the entire space.

The primary feature of the garden will be a series of concentrtic curved hugel beds, located on contour, moving south from a large oak tree. Directly under the oak tree will be a 20ft diameter seating area, boardered by a bed of irises, daffodils, daisies and other decorative plants that will attract beneficial insects, birds and butterflies. South and downhill of this first bed will be another curved hugel bed for herbs, and this pattern will continue down the hill with 3-4 hugel beds.

Decayed wood interspersed with bunny manure and soil in a trench

Our first task was to mark out the beds and path spaces, which we did with stakes and bailing twine. Once we did this, it was far easier to envision what the space was going to look like and it made it clear which existing plants needed to be removed in order to allow for the building of the new beds. Faun and Arianna transplanted the sage, thyme, oregano and mint. And then were joined by the helping hands of Paula and Katie in the removal of the irises and daffodils.

The first hugel bed, completed!

For the past two weeks we have been steadily making progress in creating the hugel beds in the newly cleared space. Gathering in the late afternoons for work party, when the heat of the sun is not so intense, we have been digging trenches for the hugel beds, filling them with decomposing wood from the forest, mixed with manure from the rabbits, piling soil back on top and then topping it off with a layer of mulch.

The second hugel bed, partially completed. Still more layers of wood and manure to go.

We have completed the first bed, which is a small hugel bed (meaning not very high). And we are now working on the second hugel bed, which is longer in length and taller in height. The first hugel bed is smaller in height (and volume of buried biomass) for a couple reasons. First is that this bed is inteneded to be mostly bulbs which have proven to grow well in our climate without additional moisture. Secondly, since it surrounds the seating area, we didn't want it to be very tall--tall enough to make the space feel contained but not so tall as to impede the view.

Since we are creating these beds in the height of summer and the dry season, we are not seeding them yet, but instead are layering a thick layer of mulch on top. In the late winter, we will seed the beds with the nitrogen fixing plants so recommended for hugel beds as well as some of the herbs for which the space is intended.

Stay tuned for more images and updates as we make progress over the next few weeks!