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Agriscaping Week 30 - Rise and Fall of Mt. Hugel and the Plant Ziggurat

We were super excited about building an awesome Hugelkulture and easy DIY block planter…but these dreams got a tad derailed in the real-life process. The journey was actually somewhat successful, and the result of Mt. Hugel’s destiny was pretty funny, so I want to share. When doing a DIY backyard remodel, you have to expect that not everything you try to do will work. It’s a frustrating reality, but once you accept that fact, you can start to take both the successes and failures with much more humility as you go!

This week I’m sharing two projects that were actually fairly labor-intensive, in terms of the work that was required to set them up, simply because hauling bricks and shoveling that much dirt takes some definite physical effort. And we really thought both of these projects would pan out! But in the end, neither of them stuck around, mostly due to things outside of our control.

The first was our Hugelkultur concept for the Butterfly Garden. We were going to mound up the dirt in the middle, and plant all kinds of cool bushes and flowers on it to attract butterflies. Here are a couple of pictures of the initial mound building. The trick to a Hugelkultur is putting lots of logs and other greens and

browns at the bottom of your dirt hill, so that as time goes on, those logs will compost and create really good soil for your plants. The benefit of this method is not just the good soil, but you can also put a perforated pipe down the middle and easily water into the center of your mound, saving lots of water, which is especially beneficial here in the Phoenix desert. Plus, the raised structure of the Hugelkultur mound increases the square footage you have to plant in the area, which is something any gardener wantly, if we didn’t have the infamous chickens or kids, this plan probably would have worked great! But a loose mound of dirt is just too tempting, and alas, we didn’t get it shored up and planted fast enough to avoid the onslaught. The damage of chickens and kids going up and down and digging round and round the dirt was quickly done, and the whole plan likewise started to unravel. Then when my older son came back from the nursery with the idea that he was going to create a pond in our backyard, there was no convincing him otherwise. And here was the result: a giant hole in the top of our Mt. Hugel, soon to be filled with water (and dirty jumping boys), and eventually piled high with my son’s favorite collection item, aluminum cans…there went our Mt. Hugel. We finally threw in the towel. With kids and chickens climbing and digging in the dirt, this project just didn’t work for us. For a family with older (or no) kids, or if you were able to just do the entire project in one week, it would work great! The only difficulty was figuring out how to shore up the edge of the mound (since it was so tall). A smaller one wouldn’t have had this trouble, either. Honestly, once it was planted, it should have held in place fine if it had been a little shorter, but as it was, it was destroyed before we could even get to planting!!

The second project was one I undertook myself, to use the blocks we ended up not using on Mt. Hugel. We are going to start selling starts and small trees, and I wanted a place out front to house all of those potted plants in a beautiful way. So I decided on a cool DIY block planter that was shaped like a Ziggurat. The build itself was super easy - no mortar or anything was necessary, and the shape of the structure meant it was safe and wouldn’t be falling down on any small kids, even if they climbed on it. The hardest part was just hauling heavy loads of blocks from the backyard out to the front!

Here was the finished product. Nice, huh? The plants looked pretty nice, and the smaller pots fit right in the block holes. Once it was populated with more plants, it would have been a really neat way to green up an area, especially if you have extra blocks on hand leftover from another backyard project!

But alas, this project was not to last either. My husband wanted the blocks for something else, and found a planter shelf on OfferUp to replace it. So I had to spend another couple of hours dismantling my cool planter structure. But if you’re looking for a creative way to display potted plants - especially starts you’re looking to sell! - this is a great way to do it! In case you were wondering, here is what it ended up looking like with the shelf instead. Both of them work great to house our little potted plants.

And, if you’re interested in Mexican Oregano, Longevity Spinach and other hard-to-find, unusual, awesome edible plants that do great in Phoenix, we now do have a little nursery started, and would love to show you around - just message me if you’re interested!

Keywords: Agriscaping, FAB5, Hugelkultur, Hugulkultur, Hugelkulture, Garden Mound Building, Best DIY Block Planter, Garden Fails

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