North Garland High School Key Club members install the large logs that will form the bottom layer of the hugelkultur.  These logs, most of which are already in some stage of decay, will continue to decay, thus providing nutrients and storing water needed to nourish the plants in this bed. - October 6, 2015  Garland Texas

On Tuesday, October 6, members of the North Garland High School Key Club, assisted by members of Loving Garland Green, completed the second stage of the installation of a butterfly garden on the school grounds--installing hugelkulturs. 

Loving Garland Green member Kevin Keeling (in the red cap) works with members of the North Garland High School Key Club in preparing the large bed in front of the school sign to become a hugelkultur--October 6, 2015 Garland Texas.

During this second stage we dug down about ten inches in four of the smaller beds.  In this cavity we placed large decayed logs, twigs, brown and green organic matter and manure.  These layers were all watered thoroughly before we placed the soil we removed on top of this organic matter.  In the larger bed in front, which is actually more like a container, the students dug down about two feet before placing the logs and other organic matter.

Typically, the ideal way to build a hugelkultur is to place the logs and organic materials on top of the soil and build up a mound that is about three feet high.  We varied from this and disturbed the soil by digging (not something we normally recommend).  We did this for economical reasons to save the cost of purchasing the soil required to build on top.  Since the soil we removed was only exposed for about an hour, we surmise that we didn’t murder that many microbes.

North Garland High School Key Club members preparing one of the four smaller beds for a hugelkultur. October 6, 2015 Garland, Texas.

On Thursday we will add some Azomite, molasses and expanded shale to the beds and install the plants. 

For the first month until the plants are established— until just about time for the first killing frost—the students have a watering schedule of three times a week.  By spring, we are hoping that no more supplemental watering will be required.

When spring arrives, we will monitor the plants carefully regarding their needs for water and nutrients.  If it appears they need more than nature is providing, our next step will be to install a form of trench composting.  These are wire baskets about two feet tall.  They are inserted about six to eight inches in the bed.  Uncooked waste from vegetable bins is placed in these baskets (that lettuce that never made it to the table for a salad and a squishy tomato or squash).  Crumpled newspaper is placed on top to mask any odor and to discourage pests. 

Our goal is to have a self-sustaining butterfly garden ecosystem that will need only a little assistance from human beings.


Second Monarch Caterpillar poses for its rescue on October 5, 2015.  When the time is right, this caterpillar will be released in the North Garland High School Butterfly Garden. It will number among the 95% of rescued butterflies who complete their lifecycle and not the 5% of those in the wild who do.


Today was a day for taking care of Monarch butterflies.  I spent the morning in the Garland Community Garden gathering needed materials for building five hugelkulturs on Tuesday. (Tuesday October 6 at the North Garland High School will be Stage Two for the installation of a special butterfly garden.  The time is 2:30 to 5:30 if you want to come help.)

What makes the installation of a Butterfly Garden at North Garland High School so special?

  • It may be the first butterfly garden at any Garland public school.  [If not, I’m sure to be corrected by my readers.]
  • It is almost definitely the first butterfly garden in the entire DFW area that is planted in a hugelkultur. [Again, I might be corrected on this statement as well, but I doubt it.]
  • It is a joint effort involving members Loving Garland Green, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization and members of the North Garland High School Key Club.


So what was Stage One of this special butterfly garden build?

Stage One, on Thursday October 1, 2015, involved removing three large clumps of overgrown grasses from the central bed and seventeen Nandina shrubs and two small dead trees from the four smaller beds that are part of the area we will call the North Garland High School Butterfly Habitat.  Loving Garland Green members hauled the debris to the Garland Community Garden where the grass went to one of our large compost heaps and the Nandina bushes now have a second life encircling the Children’s Garden there.


Stage Two:  Hugelkultur Builds

Stage Two will take place today, October 6, 2015 between 2:30 and 6:00 PM on the front lawn of North Garland High School.  During this stage we will install five hugelkultur beds.  One will be installed in the large bed shown above and four in the smaller beds against to the school building.

Hugelkultur is a German word meaning mound or hill culture.  These types of garden beds have been used in Germany for hundreds of years.  They are a permaculture technique that replicates the natural process of decay that happens on the forest floor.  Trees fall and become logs.  As the logs decay, they become porous and store water and release nutrients to feed plants.

On Tuesday we will:

  • Remove garden soil and place nearby on tarp.
  • Pile logs (old and rotting are best) on the bottom of the bed space.
  • Soak them with water.
  • Add twigs
  • Add leaves and brown organic matter.
  • Add green organic matter (sweet potato leaves).
  • Add manure.
  • Add brown organic matter.
  • Replace soil removed from original bed and water thoroughly.

The hugelkultur is an ongoing nurturing compost pile that continues to support and nourish plants ongoing with no water except in extreme drought without any added soil amendments for up to 20 years.

Timely Monarch Caterpillar Interruption

Monday, after gathering organic materials from the Garland Community Garden, I returned home for a drink of water before going over to Monroe Todd’s home to get some free manure from this goat farm nestled amongst the large beautiful homes of the Firewheel area here in Garland.  Mr. Todd is an 87-year-old member of one of the founding families of Garland. His home is also the home of about 30 goats, numerous chickens, and a productive pecan grove.  I love to visit with him as he always has at least one great story.  Yesterday I learned about all the many uses of the cowboy’s bandana.  I wish he would travel around to our schools telling school children his stories about Garland.

I just happened to glance at the milkweed in my back yard as I went into the kitchen and there was the second Monarch caterpillar I’ve seen in the past few weeks.  It is now in the laundry basket along with the pupa of another Monarch and plenty of milkweeds to munch on.


Stage Three:  Installation of Plants

 Thursday October 8, from 2:30 to 5:30 PM we will install plants in the five hugelkulturs.  Most of these plants are native and drought tolerant and most of them are perennials and self-seeding plants such as various milkweeds.  Our butterfly garden, like all butterfly gardens, has nectar plants and host plants.  Nectar plants are the food plants for the butterflies. The host plants provide the habitat for the butterfly eggs, caterpillars and pupae.  Butterflies are often very specific regarding their choice of host plants.  For example, the Monarchs and 300 other species of butterflies will only deposit their eggs on milkweed plants.  Other butterflies such as the Gulf and Mexican Fritillaries will only deposit their eggs on the passionflower vine.


Why build butterfly gardens or even care about these creatures?

This butterfly garden is more than a flower garden.  We hope it will be an example of sustainable living and environmental awareness—from water conservation to taking action to protect pollinators by providing them with an acceptable habitat.


Monarch butterfly at the Garland Community Garden - Photo taken by Robert Opel

Two Good Reasons

First of all, our pollinators are beautiful creatures as illustrated in the photo above taken in the Garland Community Garden by Robert Opel, one of Loving Garland Green’s board members.   

Second of all, as I mentioned in a previous article our pollinators—from bees to butterflies—are a critical link in our food chain.: Although some plant species rely on wind or water to transfer pollen from one flower to the next, the vast majority (almost 90%) of all plant species need the help of animals for this task. There are approximately 200,000 different species of animals around the world that act as pollinators. Of these, about 1,000 are vertebrates, such as birds, bats, and small mammals, and  the rest are invertebrates, including flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees. [SOURCE:  Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wildlife Habitat Management Institute – Native Pollinators - - accessed 9/29/2015]