Hill Bed: Everything You Need to create and plant

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Many gardeners swear by hill beds. We reveal the advantages and disadvantages of this and show you how to properly create and plant your own hill.

What is a hill bed?

A hill bed is a bed in the garden that is raised towards the middle and creates a favorable climate for growth through the layering of various organic materials. A raised bed has the same advantages as a raised bed, for example, higher yields without additional fertilization. However, hill beds are easier to build than raised beds, as they do not have a border, for example, made of wood.

Creating a hillbed: this is how it works

The best time to create a hillbed is in autumn. Then there is plenty of filling material such as leaves for the bed and the stacked layers can settle well until next spring. Any place that is not completely in the shade is suitable as a location in the garden. The following dimensions should be observed when creating:

  • Height: max. 1 meter
  • Width: max. 1.5 meters
  • Length: max. 4 meters

A north-south orientation of the bed is recommended when laying it out, as this way the entire area of the bed receives enough light. In preparation, mark out the area you want your bed to have. The maximum width of 1.5 meters has been chosen so that the middle of the bed can still be easily reached to carry out planting and maintenance measures. The bed should also not be too narrow or too high, otherwise, the soil will slide off the sides. The staked area is then excavated about 25 centimeters deep. You can put the cut turf to one side, it will be used later. As the last step of the preparations, a wire mesh is placed in the dug pit to protect against voles. Layering can now begin.

Hill bed: Everything you need to create and plant

Instructions for building hill beds in a nutshell:

  • Stake out the desired area
  • Dig a hole approx. 25 cm deep
  • Layout chicken wire for protection
  • Layer different materials
  • Always knock on all layers well

There are no limits to your imagination when designing your hill bed. You can leave the bed unpaved, but the hill bed can also be attached to the sides with stones or wood.

List of layers of a hill bed

The secret of the many advantages of a hillbed lies in the five different layers. The bottom layer is cut 40 centimeters high and chopped up clippings, i.e. branches and twigs. The next layer is formed by the turf that was created when the pit was excavated. These are piled up with the grass side down. Next is a 20-centimeter high layer of damp leaves or straw. But garden waste can also be used – just take what is there. The next layer consists of manure or young, little rotted compost. It is piled up about 15 centimeters high. The top layer of the hillbed, 20 centimeters high, consists of garden soil mixed with ripe compost.

Hill bed: Everything you need to create and plant

The five layers of the hill bed at a glance:

  1. 40 cm of chopped branches and twigs
  2. 15 cm turf sod
  3. 20 cm of damp leaves or straw
  4. 15 cm of manure or young compost
  5. 20 cm of garden soil and ripe compost

Proper irrigation for the hillbed

Watering hill beds properly is not an easy task. There are two reasons for this: the water drains quickly over the sides and the top layer dries out quickly due to the loose structure. A good way to ensure the bed’s water supply is to have rain and watering trough on the apex of the bed. In addition, smaller hollows for water storage can be created around the bed. Professionals water their hillbed with hoses between the vegetables. A mulch layer made of leaves or grass clippings can also secure the water supply, which protects against drying out.

Hill bed: Everything you need to create and plant

Properly watering hill beds at a glance:

  • Create hollows and gutters to store water
  • Irrigation with hoses
  • The mulch layer protects against drying out

Plant hillbed

Basically, you can plant anything you like on your hill bed. You just have to ensure that the bed is not exposed to the same amount of sun in all places and that in the first year most of the nutrients are in the bed, which will slowly be used up over the years. The rule of thumb is therefore to consider the sun’s rays and the different nutrient requirements of the individual vegetables when creating a planting plan. In general, pre-grown plants are suitable for the hill bed, as seeds are easily washed away on the still loose soil and the sloping sides of the bed.

What should you watch out for when planting a hillbed?

  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Nutritional requirements of plants
  • Number of years of use
  • Better pre-grown plants than seeds

Hill bed: Everything you need to create and plant

You can also simply take a look at our planting plan for raised beds for more tips on planting hill beds. After all, the same conditions prevail on the hill bed as on the raised bed, which is why the same can be cultivated.

Which vegetables are suitable for the hillbed?

Which vegetables are grown after the creation of the hillbed depends on the nutritional requirements of the vegetables? Most of the nutrients are still available in the first year; therefore the bed is planted with so-called heavy eaters. These are, for example, tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), pumpkins (Cucurbita), zucchini, and cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. Capitata), broccoli (Brassica oleracea var . Italica ), or cauliflower ( Brassica oleracea var. botrytis ). In the further year, the middle eaters follow, i.e. vegetables with medium nutrient requirements. This may strawberries (Fragaria), beetroot (Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris var. Conditiva), carrot (Daucus carota subsp. Sativus), onion (Allium cepa), garlic (Allium sativum) or kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. Gongylodes L. ) be.

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In the first two years, neither spinach ( Spinacia oleracea ) nor lettuce ( Lactuca ) should be grown on the hill bed, as these plants would absorb too much nitrate. From the third year onwards, weak eaters are cultivated on the hill bed. These include, for example, lettuce and spinach, radishes ( Raphanus sativus var. Sativus ), various legumes such as peas ( Pisum sativum ) or beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ), and various herbs such as dill ( Anethum graveolens ), borage ( Borago officinalis ) or parsley ( Petroselinum) crispum ssp. crispum ). After six years most of the nutrients in the bed have been used up and it is time to start a new one.

Hill bed: Everything you need to create and plant

Tip: Potatoes ( Solanum tuberosum ) should never be planted on a hill bed. Unfortunately, the plants destroy the layers of the bed.

Planting plan for the hill bed at a glance:

  • 1st year: Eaters like tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, various types of cabbage
  • 2nd year: Medium eaters such as carrots, strawberries, kohlrabi, onions, beetroot
  • From the 3rd year: low consumers such as lettuce, beans, peas, radishes, spinach, herbs
  • The hill bed should be renewed after 6 years

The hill bed can of course not only be planted with vegetables, but also with flowers or both in mixed culture.

Permaculture in the hillbed

Hill beds are often used in permaculture gardens because they combine many of the principles of permaculture: garden waste can be used and recycled and vegetables can be grown for many years without additional fertilizers. Additional tillage is not necessary. An important element when creating a hillbed according to the principles of permaculture is also mulching, which protects the bed from drying out and weeds.

Hill bed: Everything you need to create and plant

Advantages and disadvantages of a hill bed

Hill beds have many advantages: The hill increases the area under cultivation and there is more solar radiation. In addition, garden waste can be recycled and plants are naturally supplied with nutrients. Another advantage is that the construction is simple and no additional building material is required (other than wire mesh).

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The rotting process inside warms up the bed and thus offers better growth conditions for plants. It also extends the cultivation phase. Added to this are the nutrients released by the rotting of plants. All of this ultimately leads to higher yields. It should also be mentioned that the increase makes it easier to work on the bed and that you do not have to bend down so much.

The disadvantages of hill beds should not be concealed either. Unfortunately, voles find ideal homes in hill beds and disrupt the cultivation of vegetables. The supply of water is also not easy with a hill bed. In addition, the soil on the sides of the bed needs to be repacked regularly, as the sides tend to slide off.

The advantages and disadvantages of hill beds at a glance:

The following table shows the advantages and disadvantages of hill beds.

advantages disadvantage
Recycling of leftovers Voles
Easy to build Water supply
Enlarged cultivation area Should be piled up regularly
Higher exposure to sunlight
Warming from within
No fertilization necessary
Higher yields through extended cultivation phase
Better working height

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