Reusing A Tree Stump: A Gardener’s Goldmine

Traditionally, Hügelkultur is as the practice of making raised garden beds over large woody material. The decaying wood inside the bed is a gold mine – providing nutrients over time to feed the plants and holding excess water that can be used by the garden during drier times – reducing/eliminating the need for fertilizing and irrigation.

Wikipedia defines Hügelkultur as:

The practice of making raised garden beds filled with rotting wood. It is in effect creating a Nurse log, however, covered with dirt. Benefits of hugelkultur garden beds include water retention and warming of soil. Buried wood becomes like a sponge as it decomposes, able to capture water and store it for later use by crops planted on top of the hugelkultur bed. The buried decomposing wood will also give off heat, as all compost does, for several years. These effects have been used by Sepp Holzer for one to allow fruit trees to survive at otherwise inhospitable temperatures and altitudes.

A simplified form of Hügelkultur was used in the circular “Welcome” flower bed in the Reclaimed Garden. A tree previously stood at that spot and was cut down over 15 years ago. The tree was cut flush with the ground surface, leaving the entire root system in place. After all this time, the stump is still in place and the wood has just begun to break down.

The flower bed was built over and around an old tree stump. The decaying wood provides a long-term source of water and nutrients to the flower bed. The roots and stump act like a sponge, storing rainwater and surface run-off water during wetter times and releasing the water to the plantings during drier times. The deep root system is also spongy, wicking deep groundwater to the surface to provide a hidden source of water for the flower bed. The decaying wood is a source of compost right inside the bed and provides long-term nutrients for the new plants. As the tree stump and root system degrade, it creates air pockets that naturally aerate the soil.

Who knew, an old tree stump was such a valuable resource!

For more about traditional Hügelkultur and it’s adaptations, here is a quick video from Jack Spirko.