Can Rotting Wood Really Help Plants Grow?

Can Rotting Wood Really Help Plants Grow?


Illustration for article titled Can Rotting Wood Really Help Plants Grow?

Photo: NayaDadara (Shutterstock)

The combination of Earth Day and emerging from the pandemic during springtime might have you looking for ways to get outside, connect with nature, and plant new life. If you are like me (a person lacking any hint of a green thumb), you need all the help you can get to keep those plants alive. Thankfully, there are some easy hacks you can employ to set your garden up for success from the get-go.

TikToker The Crunchy Urbanite, for one, swears by the “Hugelkultur method” to ready his garden beds before planting. Here’s how to create a Hugel bed and give yourself a leg up in the horticulture department.

What are Hugel beds?

Hugel beds follow the Hugelkultur, or “hill garden,” method of planting. You start by building a hill using a stack of old wood buried underneath the soil to mimic the natural growing environment plants experience in the wilderness. The Permaculture Research Center explains the process in detail the natural process the method attempts to recreate:

“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.”

Emulating this kind of environment in your backyard should, in theory, both help plants thrive and spare you some of the hard work involved in making that happen.

Raised beds take less work

When you create in-ground garden beds, there are several steps to follow when tilling the land to make it more hospitable for new plants. Planting prep includes killing current vegetation, turning the soil by digging down at least a foot, and more. With an elevated box, you can just use fresh soil, and skip the digging and tilling altogether.

Repurpose your old wood

Before you layer in the dirt, hunt down some old wood. You can either forage for sticks, logs, and dead leaves (and any other items you might throw into a compost pile) or repurpose any old wood you have lying around.

The best wood for this task will already be rotting a bit. Newer wood can interfere with the nitrogen levels in the soil, tampering with the natural balance needed for plant growth. The rotting wood, on the other hand, will provide a nutrient boost to the soil and help maintain proper drainage, leaving you with the perfect amount of moisture to cultivate plant growth. For a visual illustration of the process, check out The Crunchy Urbanite’s video showing you how he employs hill gardening in his own raised Hugel beds.

 



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