Friday, May 8, 2015

Homesteading Like a Jerk: Herb Spirals for Free!

I took some time this winter to learn about gardening without working. I am aiming for a fully-functional, high-producing food yard that I don't need to put any effort into.

So it's almost like divine intervention that I stumbled upon something that can actually give me what I want. I learned one of the great, magical, fundamental principles behind a low-maintenance garden is permaculture. Yep. Permaculture is the creation of your own little mini ecosystem, right in your own backyard. You use permaculture techniques to create self-sufficient zones on your property...zones that care for each other and provide each others' biological needs so I, the jerk homesteader, don't need to. 

I'm obviously over the moon about this. 

My first permaculture project was the creation of an herb spiral. 

What's an herb spiral, you might ask? Well that's a great question. It's not just a fairy-looking fun thing like I originally thought. Herb spirals are specially designed to hold your herbs in a particular order so they may naturally receive their water and light needs without any outside assistance. 

Now as awesome as the idea of an herb spiral was, I didn't want to go spending a ton of money on anything. The great thing about herb spirals is they can be built out of anything you want. I had a ton of old bricks left by the previous owners on the side of my shed, so I went with those. I've seen people use rocks, pavers, wood, buckets, glass bottles, whatever you've got. Just stack 'em and go. I also had some of that awesome half-price, sun-damaged weed barrier left over from two springs ago and I laid that down over my lawn to try and keep my soil medium fresh and clean. 

If there's one thing I hate, it's buying dirt. I'm going to need to bite the bullet here and get a little, but before I do, I'm building up a nice layer of other soil-building components. I want to buy as little dirt as possible, you see.

So unbeknownst to most people, mulch can be found for free through local townships and road departments. My township was giving the stuff away and all I needed to do was shovel it into my *new* truck and haul it home. 

Got the first part done.

Check out that sweet back-up job. 

My helper :)

Only a few more trips to go. 

This mulch isn't the best mulch in the world. I found some plastic in it, prolly the most carcinogenic kind. But it was free, and for the most part I just need this stuff to hold space and decompose, so I put it on the very bottom of the spiral and covered it with some peat moss. Jerks like to cover things up. 

Next came some poop-filled bedding from my chicken coop and some compost. Last but not least, I'll top it off with some store-bought dirt. So maybe this herb spiral is not completely free. Maybe that was just a jerk move to lure you in. Worked, didn't it?

In just a few short weeks I will plant my herbs...once that pesky threat of frost has disappeared.  

My spiral planting order from top - down:
Lemon balm
Water lillies

**violets and marigolds are gonna get planted throughout - these are good companions for herbs -  they play well together...guess you could say they are in I am with permaculture....**

Check out some of these key design features:

1. The direction the spiral goes matters ~! Water in my hemisphere runs clockwise, so my herb spiral was built with the spiral running clockwise to facilitate natural runoff.

2. The top of the spiral is hot, gets a lot of light, and has well-drained soil. Your sun-loving, well-drained soil plants will like this area.

3. The sides and bottom of the spiral is cooler, with more shade and damp soil. Your shade-loving, wet-soil plants will enjoy these areas.

4. Herbs planted with other herbs helps facilitate better herbs. Feel me? Companion planting at it's best.

5. That little tin at the bottom will collect water runoff during rainstorms. I hope to plant water lilies here. Lily pads are rad.

Not too shabby, huh? I'm excited to see how it works. Next year I'm going to shoot for a tree guild. Yea. That's right. A freaking tree guild. It's a thing. Until then, I'm going to kinda sit back and enjoy my very first permaculture project. Nothin' better than looking at chicken butts after a hard day's work. 

Any of you experiment with permaculture or specialized gardening techniques? Any of you think I'll attract a plethora of fairies to my garden with this thing? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you for reading :)


  1. Very scientific! I definitely like the idea of a garden which, once planted, can pretty much take care of itself! Mint and cilantro are our two most used spices and Angel used to plant them in random patches all over our yard (opposite of scientific, but we always had mint and cilantro, I just had to search for it). In our next apartment I hope to have some potted herbs on the balcony.

    1. Right?!? I love how purposeful every element of the design is....from reusing materials to water run off to sun and soil requirements. Super interesting! I love mint - heard it can run wild if you let it! I like the idea of searching around a little bit - must've made you good at identifying plants!! :)

  2. That is sooo cool! I can't wait to see what it looks like once it's complete and things start flourishing! You have the best helper for sure - I would like to have a mini herb garden but they always die because eh sunlight is difficult in the apartment. There's a little perch in front of the doors that lead to the outside -it's not a balcony just huge french door of which only one door opens to let air and light in when it is needed. I need to try and get a mini herb garden going though because there is nothing better than fresh basil, cilantro, and parsley :'( Have a blast and can't wait to see the final product!! Take Care Jen! -Iva

    1. Thanks Iva :) I should be planting everything next weekend - I'm going to be coated in dirt! HAHA Gotta get that food planted in time for me to harvest it this fall.....thankfully herbs grow fast so I should be getting some decent freshness in my house within a couple weeks. I tend to kill plants, so here's hoping I don't lose my investment! :) So glad you stopped by! Have an awesome week!

  3. I stink at gardening. I wish I could grow stuff, but alas...

    1. Hahaha I kill plants for a living - no truly, I do. Helps me narrow down the really strong ones so I can recommend them to all my friends. HA!