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Harmony Museum's raised garden uses old wood, soil

Board members of the Harmony Museum, from left, Gwen Lutz, Rodney Gasch and Chuck Welsh plant flowers in the Hügelkultur, or raised garden beds, at the Harmonist Barn on Tuesday morning.

HARMONY — It may look like a random assortment of dirt and dead wood with flowers poking out, but the mound outside the Harmonist Barn is actually part of a tradition stretching back centuries.

Harmony Museum's latest living display of the German culture on which Harmony was founded in the early 1800s is Hügelkultur, a technique that uses old wood and soil to create, in essence, a sustainable raised bed garden.

Museum president Rodney Gasch said he hadn't heard of Hügelkultur until a friend's Christmas card discussed it. Once he learned of and researched it, however, he thought it was a great idea: a living example of the museum's goal that also brings beauty to the town and even helps get rid of an old tree stump.“He had an old stump, and he wrote that they were turning it into a flower bed using Hügelkultur, which I had never heard of,” Gasch said. “I saw that it was a centuries-old German gardening technique, and I knew the museum had a big, ugly stump near the Harmonist Barn, and thought it would be a great solution for our big, ugly stump.”

Rather than doing the traditional method of stacking hardwood logs below softwood logs and piling bark, branches and soil on top — “like a big compost pile,” Gasch explained — the museum this time used the stump to form its base.This year, the museum planted full-sun and drought-resistant plants, such as sweet potato vine and geranium. Gasch said the bed contains tomatoes as well, with the hopes that anyone walking by can pick a ripe tomato.“It's kind of a community tomato resource,” he added.As time marches on and the stump and logs turn into sources of organic food for the plants, Gasch said, he expects the bed to be a source of beauty for the surrounding community while also providing some historical tidbits about those who settled the borough.“One of the things we like to talk about is local history, and the German heritage that the original settlers brought to the area, so we look for things that tie back to the German heritage,” Gasch said. “This seemed like a good way to both beautify and do a little bit of educating, which must be needed, because I had never heard of Hügelkultur.”

Board members of the Harmony Museum, from left, Gwen Lutz, Rodney Gasch and Chuck Welsh plant flowers in the Hugelkulture at the Harmonist Barn Tuesday morning.Harold Aughton/Butler Eagle
Board members of the Harmony Museum hope the Hügelkultur they planted at the Harmonist Barn will serve as a source of beauty and history.

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