Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spiral Herb Garden

I have finally been able to implement a project that I have wanted to do for some time. I took a Permaculture Design course before we moved here and part of the class was to build a spiral garden. We did this during the class as a group but I have wanted to build my own ever since. When we moved last summer I just didn't have the time or the materials to do it but now that it's getting warmer I have finally been able to build one!

First I placed some hay on the ground to help serve as a weed barrier and it will compost and add to the soil. Then I laid out four bricks in a square that measured one foot square and filled in the rest of the shape to form the spiral.

Once you have the initial shape it is simply a matter of continuing to stack the brick to build the walls. You can start in the middle and build that area up first to get to the height that you want and then finish the walls. As you finish the outside walls, you will want them to taper down allowing sunlight into different areas of the spiral. By doing this you are creating microclimates for various plants.

3 courses of bricks

Getting closer!

It took about 3-4 hours to rake and clear the area and then to build the spiral. I have put some old hay in the spiral that has already begun to compost and will finish it with some fresh straw. Once the new straw is in, all I have to do is move the hay aside to place a couple of good handfuls of soil in a hole and put the plant in place. The idea is that the plants will get the the nutrients that they need from the soil and the roots can spread out into the hay in search of water. As the hay composts I can add more until eventually the entire spiral will be full of soil. I would like to build some more with stone just because I think they look prettier. You also don't have to build them this tall but since I was working with brick I knew this was out it would turn out. Here's a picture of the final product.

If you look on You Tube you can find some videos of various spiral gardens and how they were made. I will put a picture up when I get all of the plants in so you can see how it looks. In the meantime, happy planting!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Fever

The temperatures are finally getting warmer and we are beginning to see signs of spring. Not only are we seeing signs outside but the garden centers at our local stores are bustling with activity and new shipments. Spring Fever has set in and we are getting busier since it is finally getting warm enough to tackle outside projects again.

In the last couple of weeks my husband has built three raised garden beds and a cold frame. Yes, I finally have my cold frame! And it does look good if I say so myself. We have also been gathering the compost, peat moss, and vermiculite we need to make our soil for the garden. We are going to use the Square Foot Gardening method this year and see what happens. We will probably buy some plants that have already been started from local nurseries and others we will try to start from seed.

One of the garden boxes
 I may have mentioned it before, but several months ago we came across a door like the ones that are used on refrigerated cases in convenience stores that had been set out to be thrown away. The door was in excellent shape and that is what we are using on the cold frame instead of windows. I can't wait to really put this thing into use! I'm not sure but I think it is almost 5 feet long. A cold frame is built on a slant to catch the sun and work as a mini greenhouse. It is 18 inches tall in the back and 12 inches tall in the front. I also love that the door has the handle intact so it will be easier to open.

A view of the cold frame from the front.

A side view so you can see the slope.
 Our seed potatoes also arrived this week. We ordered German Butterball potatoes and I hope to get them planted soon. Hopefully we will get something from them but we'll see. We ordered these from Seed Savers Exchange and they are certified organic. This particular type is supposed to be a good all purpose potato.

Our bag of seed potatoes

And last but not least, we finally have a grain mill! I am so excited! I know, I'm crazy. It is a manual mill but that was what we wanted. I didn't want to get something that I had to rely on electricity for. It will mill from a coarse consistency to a flour consistency. I can't wait to give it a good try but I still need an oven so I can do some baking! Ah well, everything in time I suppose. From what little we have tested it, it seems to do very well. We wanted to get a mill so we can mainly mill our own flour. To me this is all part of creating a simpler life.

The front of the mill

The back
 As we continue to work on our projects here, we are keeping a close eye on what is happening in Japan and the Middle East. To be honest, I don't think things look good but all we can really do is wait to see what happens. If all of this doesn't re-emphasize the need to be prepared, I don't know what does. I hope everyone is getting started with their own spring projects and hopefully I'll be back with some new updates soon!