Surrey in BC, Canada, is the centre of a huge hügelkultur argument as neighbours weigh-in over whether the horticultural practice is ‘unsightly’ or not.
Hügelkultur is a European system of permaculture where large, raised beds are built up by arranging dry material like logs and branches into mounds and covering them with manure and compost and soil. Air pockets formed by larger pieces keep the slow composting process going and the rotting wood acts like sponge, holding moisture against dry times. The generated warmth is great for extending the growing season in cold climates. Plants are planted into the sides of the mound.
However a young couple in Surrey BC found that no sooner had they started their hügelkultur beds with old branches, recycled coconut husk and woodchips on their rented one acre property than complaints from neighbours brought city by-law officers to their door. Despite the fact that the new beds were also suppressing invasive hogweed, they were ordered to level out the piles which were ‘unsightly’.
Although the City of Surrey promotes ‘green’ growing systems and local food production, it seems hügelkultur is too foreign for some. A petition with over 90 signatures is calling for the protection of the beds and mediation is in progress to work out an amicable solution.