The taller the hugel, the more efficient it will be, but those steep sides are hard to stabilise. What’s the best way of working with them?
- Before adding the final compost layer, spread a thin layer of straw just below the crown of the hugel and all up the sides. This will trap the soil and prevent it from pouring down the sides. Do this as often as you need to.
- Water the hugel frequently, this will help compact the material and provide a binding agent to stop it rolling or sliding away.
- Put the compost on using a shaking technique, to prevent the weight of the soil dragging it down the side of the hugel.
- Be patient and work slowly.
- Place thin branches horizontally along the sides and pin them into place using twigs. I no longer do this, and prefer to use straw, but this will definitely help with really tall hugels.
An alternative to working with steep sides is to bury as much of the hugel in the ground as you can, using a hybrid hugel. This will definitely improve the water efficiency, but will reduce the surface area of your bed.