There are some major projects going on in the backyard right now! Jay is building me an 8′ x 8′ four-post trellis for my hardy kiwis to grow up – aren’t I a lucky girl? He spent the whole weekend on the project: gathering the materials from multiple lumber yards, measuring off the area, digging out the post holes, and busting up the concrete walkway. The four posts are all set in concrete and leveled as of today. He is hoping we can get close to finishing it next weekend.

Between breaks in helping Jay with that project, I built a long-planned herb spiral. I saw the plan initially in Toby Hemenway’s book Gaia’s Garden, although I have since seen it elsewhere online as well. The basic concept is to take an herb garden that would normally need quite a bit of space if planted in a row and coil everything up so it takes up less space. The mound also creates “micro-climates”, with sun-loving plants being on the south side (rosemary, thyme, oregano), cooler plants on the north (parsley, chives), and plants that like to bolt being placed on the east side to avoid hot afternoon sun (cilantro).

I chose a site near my vegetable beds, as beneficial insects are drawn to several of the herbs included in my spiral. I want all those lady bugs and lacewings to come in for the herb flowers and stay for the aphids that will surely try to take up residence in my veggie beds later this season. In the book, they build an herb spiral 5′ wide and 3′ high. Mine turned out more like 3-4′ wide and 2′ high, but it fits into my space quite nicely. It was a really nice break to just add this into the garden without having to design it all myself – I just went totally off the book as a guide. Kind of like a paint by number.

To give the mound a start, I began by piling up some large rocks in the middle. I then covered the rocks with large pieces of sod we had dug up, and turned those upside down. I spread a thick layer of newspaper over the sod and watered it down – I want to make sure to kill that grass and let it turn into compost. This was all done on the day I cleaned out the chicken coop, so I threw huge amounts of used straw on the pile. It was a challenge to find “extra” soil around the garden, but I borrowed here and there to create a nice layer of wood chips over everything.

Collected pieces of broken up concrete were then set into place, spiraling up to the top. Then the planting began. This time I dug in a little potting soil with each seed to help them get a good start in all this mulch material. I included most of the herbs from the book, with a couple additions: feverfew, calendula, cilantro, Italian parsley, chives, fennel, yarrow, sage, echinacea, chamomile, thyme, oregano, dill, rosemary, tarragon, and savory. In a month I plan to bring in some soaker hoses to help irrigate my plants in the summer months, and I plan to coil one up the spiral to keep these guys happy.

The herb spiral looks great! I am planning to include a larger one in the front yard as well, just for visual interest. A friend of mine planted one last year and they are really just as lovely to look at as they are to harvest from. Between the seed swap from a couple months ago and cuttings from some existing herb plants elsewhere in my garden, I didn’t actually have to buy too many seed packets. I will be sure to post pictures once the spiral grows in!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson