Hugelkultur and 3 Sisters

A couple years ago we put a hugelkultur bed in our backyard and last year we added another one. Hugelkultur is a raised bed made of wooden branches, logs, rotted wood, grass clippings, leaves and other natural debris. We covered ours with soil and planted right in it. So far so good! We usually plant squash in these beds since they are big and have ample room for running plants. Hugelkultur beds retain water well due to the makeup of the beds and they have a lot of nutrients within the decaying materials.

Two hugel beds full of squash and pumpkins. Wood chip mulch is around the base of the beds to keep weeds down.
Close up of the pumpkin patch.
Squash bed.

Another permaculture technique we tried this year is to plant an area with the three sisters – corn, beans and squash. This is a Native American agricultural practice of interplanting crops that support each other. The beans fix nitrogen, the corn gives the beans something to climb, and the squash provides ground cover for weeds and keeps pests off the corn. We are growing Kentucky Wonder pole beans, a variety of squash, and Oaxacan green corn. It’s the first time we’ve grown corn. Some of it has grown quite well, though the outside bed has been a bit stunted.

Corn on the stalk
Corn on the stalk


This photo shows the full planting. The corn on the edge is stunted.
This photo shows the full planting. The corn on the outside is stunted.

6 thoughts on “Hugelkultur and 3 Sisters

  1. Helen says:

    Great to see your pumpkin patch…. Doing much better than mine, though I think it has more to do with the weather than the hugel bed!

    • Annabel says:

      Thanks, Helen! It’s been hot and dry, so I hope the pumpkins and squash survive. Gotta go water (again!) soon. Good luck with your growing season!

  2. platyzoa says:

    Awesome to see some pictures of these techniques in action! I was wondering if the three sisters patch is next to a path of some sort where there could be soil compaction, that could be what’s causing the outside plants to be stunted.

    • Annabel says:

      That’s a definite possibility as the edge is up against soil that is compacted. The rest of the bed is thriving, however. Super excited to harvest this fall.

      • platyzoa says:

        Yes the overall plot looks beautiful! Some soil compaction around the farm is of course inevitable. I wonder if it would help at all to plant a buffer zone with something that has deep roots that can penetrate that compacted zone. Doesn’t seem like it’s anything to worry about though in any case. Best of luck with the harvest 🙂

    • Annabel says:

      Thanks so much and congrats on your farm purchase and soon-to-be country life! Just started following your blog.

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