PARIS, Aug 17 — Hugelkultur is a horticultral method that allows a vegetable garden to be created on a mound of plant waste. There are many advantages to the technique, particularly when it comes to water retention. So much so that hugelkultur, or mound culture is catching on among gardeners in California, which is in the grip of an unprecedented drought.

Hugelkultur, or hill farming, is an agricultural technique. This approach to farming was popularised in the 1960s and 70s by Austrian permaculture advocate Sepp Holzer, a pioneer of ecological farming.

Although not prominent in the theoretical writings of permaculturists, mound culture espouses permaculture principles. To form vegetable garden crops, a fertile base of trunks, branches, straw or wood chips is built up in order to provide the soil with sufficient nutrients.

By covering the soil with these materials, it allows water to seep in deeply and keep the mound moist. In addition to these advantages, all this accumulated organic matter matures over time to create a genuine ecosystem.

Hugelkultur can be practiced in a variety of ways. Although the method of creating a mound on a trunk is very common, hugelkultur can also be done in a trough or on the ground, using a layering technique.

In recent years, hugelkultur techniques, originally practiced in Europe, have been applied to California gardens to boost water retention and cope with the drought in the region. Indeed a major advantage of hugelkultur is that it’s not water intensive.

Landscapers in the region tout its benefits. “As landscape professionals in the age of climate change, we have access to ways we can impact the vitality of our surroundings.

Prioritising water, biodiversity and carbon will make it so a significant planetary shift can occur,” Leigh Adams and Shawn Maestretti outline on the California Landscape Design site, which presents news from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, California Chapter. — ETX Studio