Today we constructed the herb spiral in our meditation garden at the farm. This has been something that I have been wanting to build and plant for years, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to spend the day with stones, gravel, sand, compost, and a good helper: student and farmer Greg (Class of 2014).
Herb spirals are a permaculture* design and offer a good way to grow a diverse array of herbs in a small space that is easy to water and harvest.
Using field stones from Langwater Farm, compost from Clover Valley Stables, sand, and gravel, and cardboard we went to work – a good project for a day with 90+ degree temperatures in the fields.
We started the project by laying cardboard on the ground and sketching out a spiral. We gave the cardboard a good soaking to help boost microbial activity in the sod that lay beneath it and slow weeds from growing in among the rocks. We then started to build the spiral stone wall in a clockwise fashion to mimic the natural way that water drains down a pipe in the northern hemisphere. The gravel went in first to help stabilize the spiral rock wall, and help the water escape in the event of a heavy rainfall.
After the gravel layer was in, we added a couple of inches of sand. The sand and the gravel both help with drainage and help to maintain heat in the soil.
Next we filled the spiral with a healthy planting mix of horse manure based compost.
Next, it was time to plant our herbs!
As the rocks warm, they will help to dehumidify the soil and the extended edge, wrapping in on itself, provides a wide diversity of conditions. We will plant herbs like rosemary, sage, and oregano near the top of the spiral as they require less moisture, and plant mint and other moisture loving herbs near the bottom of the structure.
We still have some important plantings to do around the garden, – perhaps some vibirnums and native grasses – but it is starting to feel more and more like a good space for quiet contemplation or a lively class discussion!
*“Permaculture design emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It asks the question, “Where does this element go? How can it be placed for the maximum benefit of the system?” To answer this question, the central concept of permaculture is maximizing useful connections between components and synergy of the final design.
The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
For more information on how to build an herb spiral please visit this site.