How to Build an Herb Spiral Video Part 2 (Planting)

June 11, 2013 by  
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See what herbs can be planted in what microclimates in the herb spiral.

How to Build an Herb Spiral Part 2 (Planting)

June 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Design, Herbs, Permaculture

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An herb spiral is not meant for large scale production. It is meant to provide many different microclimates in a small space. This is beneficial because you can pack many different varieties of herbs into a small space close to your kitchen, so you can conveniently pick them as you need them. It is also garden feature that can be admired simply for its beauty.


Herb spirals can house up to 36 different varieties of herbs, or at least so I have read. My herb spiral does not have near that many, but I can see how it could be possible. I personally did not want to put that many herbs in my spiral, because I have a fairly large, but very convenient herb garden right along my front walkway, so there are some herbs that I don’t want overcrowding or taking over my herb spiral.

Rosemary, thyme, lavender, marjoram, calendula, sage, oregano, tomato (volunteer), basil, onions, chives, parsley, dill, daikon

For the most part, I tried to only use perennial, biennial, or self-seeding annuals in my herb spiral. Apart from basil, I really don’t like to have to reseed my herbs every year, especially when there are so many good ones that don’t need to be replanted year after year. So what can be planted into the different microclimates of an herb spiral?


Dry and sunny (The top of the spiral)


Thyme- I put my thyme in front of the rosemary, because the rosemary would shade out the thyme if it were in front.


Oregano- Oregano can also go in the mid slope of the spiral on the sunny side.





Sunny & moist, but well drained still (The middle of the spiral on the sunny side)


Cilantro- I would not plant cilantro in an herb spiral, because it is an aggressive self-seeder, unless you want a cilantro spiral.





Bee Balm- Bee balm is another one that is too aggressive in my opinion for an herb spiral.



Rosemary, thyme, lavender, marjoram, calendula, sage, oregano, tomato (volunteer), basil, onions, chives, parsley, dill, daikon

Shady & moist, but still well drained (The middle of the spiral on the shady side)



Parsley- Can do OK in sun or some shade




Sunny & Wet (Bottom of the spiral on the sunny side)



Lemon Balm

Mints- I would not plant mints in an herb spiral as they can be very aggressive.


Shady & Wet (Bottom of the spiral on the shady side)

Chives-are so versatile, and can grow in the sun or shade, and will tolerate wet conditions.

Mints- I would not plant mints in an herb spiral as they can be very aggressive.


Herbs for Every Herb Garden

May 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Design, Herbs

Last year I moved my herb garden right next to my front door, and just off my front walkway. This made it extremely convenient to harvest fresh herbs for cooking as I needed them. I also installed an herb spiral to allow for a wide diversity of herbs to be placed in a small area. Denise and I definitely used more herbs, just because of the convenience factor. Denise can pick herbs without having to put on any outdoor shoes. I did make one mistake when I installed my herb garden. I transplanted some St. Johns Wort very close to my front step. Last year Denise asked me if she should grab some oregano for dinner.


I said, “Sure that would be nice.”


She grabbed St. Johns Wort, which is poisonous. I told her what that was, and she said we had been eating St. Johns Wort for about a week. We are still alive, so it must not be too poisonous. Anyway, it is my fault for putting the St Johns Wort in such a easily harvestable place. I should have tucked it away somewhere out of the way.


I think everyone should start with an herb garden. There are many different herbs that are easy to grow, that are perennial or self-seeding annuals, and they look and smell wonderful. Also, if you have ever priced fresh organic herbs, you will realize that this is an easy area to save money by having a garden.

Herb Garden 2012

If you are starting an herb garden, below is a list of the herbs I tend to use the most that are easy to grow:


Basil is an annual, but you can collect the seed, or let the plant self-seed. It is not a prodigious self-seeder though. Despite the fact that you have to replant basil year after year, it is so versatile in the kitchen, that it is a must have. It is excellent in most Italian dishes, any cooked vegetables, and we even put a few leaves here and there in salads. Basil also does well preserved by drying.


Oregano is a perennial, so no worries about having to replant. Like basil it is also excellent in Italian dishes, and can be moderately used in most spicy meals. As a side benefit its’ flowers attract plenty of pollinators, and its’ strong smell can repel pests.


Thyme is a perennial herb that goes well with most meats, and in soups. Once established it can form a nice groundcover that is maintenance free.

Herb Garden 2013 Pictured: wheat, sage, oregano, onions, chives, basil, daikon radish, calendula, azalea, yarrow, lambsquarters, tomato, clover, thyme, lettuce, dill, parsnips

Sage is a perennial herb that grows to be a small shrub. Sage was one of the first herbs that I grew when I first started gardening, and I still have the same plants from that initial success. In fact they all survived a rough transplant a few months ago. Denise added some fresh sage to the top of our Thanksgiving turkey, and it made everything smell great. I also use it with honey to make sage tea.


Chives are a perennial herb that is great on potatoes, eggs, in soups, or on anything that you need an onion flavor. The other great thing about chives is that in my area, zone 6, I have fresh chives from March through the end of December.


Garlic is a perennial that good cooks everywhere rely on. It is also an herb that promotes good health, as well as excellent meals. It can also double as a pest repellant.


Cilantro is a self-seeding annual that is great in Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes. The coriander seeds can be used in vegetable dishes and in meats. Be careful where you put cilantro, as it can be invasive once established. I would suggest placing it in an area where it will have room to take over.


Mint is a perennial that is excellent in summer teas and drinks, and can be used as garnishment for summer salads and desserts. It is extremely invasive, so it is a good idea to place it in an enclosed area.


Rosemary is a perennial that is an evergreen shrub. It is excellent as an herb for meat and fish.

How to Grow Garlic

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Herbs

Garlic is an extremely versatile cooking and medicinal herb. It is a great herb to grow in the backyard, because it is relatively easy to propagate at home, and it is expensive to buy at the store.

Cloves separated ready to be planted

Uses for Garlic

1. Skin care

2. Organic insecticide

3. Mosquito repellant

4. Cold sore treatment

5. Cooking

6. Fresh in salad

7. Anti-fungal

8. Flea deterrent

9. Cough

10. Intestinal Parasite Killer


When to Plant Garlic

It really depends on where you live, but typically sometime in the fall. Immediately after the first light frost is a good time.


What type of garlic, hardneck or softneck?

Hardneck garlic is great for northern climates as this type of garlic is very hardy. It also tends to have a flavor closer to wild garlic. Softneck garlic is not quite as hardy, but you can grow it to zone 5 or 6. Softneck garlic does store better than hardneck, and it has a milder taste.


Soil Type?

Garlic does best in rich, loose soil, with plenty of organic material, and a soil pH near 6.5. It is a greedy feeder of nutrients.

How to Plant Garlic?

Separate the cloves right before planting. Plant the cloves 2-3 inches deep with the root side down and the pointed side up. Maintain at least 6 inches space between cloves. Apply 4-6 inches of straw. This will help to keep the garlic from freezing in the winter.


Garlic planted pointed end up

How to Grow Garlic Video

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under All Videos, Blog, Herbs

Garlic is an easy herb to grow, see how in this 5 minute video.

How to Make Sage Tea

September 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Herbs, Preservation, Recipes

Tuesday 9-25-2012

My sage plants are looking really healthy these days with a lot of new growth. I like to make a tea out of the leaves. Most people would be really surprised at the multitude of benefits that can be derived from sage tea. In fact I really didn’t know how beneficial the tea is for you, until I did the research. I have been making the tea for a few years now, and I have mentioned to Denise on numerous occasions that I feel really good after drinking the tea. 


Benefits of Sage Tea

-To heal inflammations of the mouth

-Can help to break fevers

-Good for stomach and digestion

-Good for the liver and kidneys

-Helps with colds and sore throats

-Helps with joint pain


I actually have a sore throat that has been nagging me for a few days, so I will be trying this out on myself.


Making the Tea

1. Pick good leaves from your sage plant.


2. If you want to make the tea right away, simply pour boiling water over the leaves into your tea cup. Or you can put your leaves in a perforated tea globe to be inserted into your cup of boiling water. I like to add honey to my sage tea.


3. If you wish to preserve the tea, cut your leaves into tiny pieces and place into an air tight container. Cover the leaves with honey then seal the container. The sage tea will last quite a while this way. I use snap tight containers, that way it is easy to open and close the container for multiple uses.  

How to Divide & Transplant Chives

September 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Herbs

Friday 9-21-2012

Chives were one of the first things I planted in my herb garden, and they have been extremely productive and carefree. With my new design, my existing herb garden will be moved to the beds along the front of my house to allow easier access to herbs while cooking. Also, chives make a great addition to a fruit tree guild as they provide insect repellant by masking smells, so I transplanted a bunch to my new fruit tree guilds that are in progress. Also, they provide grass suppression, but at the same time they do not compete with your fruit tree roots. 


1. Early fall, or early spring are good times to transplant and divide chives.


2. It is a good idea to dig the holes where the chives will be going to, lessen the amount of time that the roots of your chives are out of the ground. Add some water to the holes if the soil is dry.


3. Trim back your chives by 50%. This will lessen the transplant shock. Use a spade to dig up the chives you wish to transplant.


4. If you wish to divide, simply pull the chives apart, trying not to damage roots. In tight clumps this may involve a hand trowel.


5. Transplant your chives to the pre-made holes. You may need to enlarge or add soil to the holes as needed to fit. Plant your chives at the same depth, or slightly deeper than they were.


6. Water thoroughly. This is very important because the roots can dry out and die. If it is dry, water daily for the first week.

How to Preserve Basil

August 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Herbs, Preservation

We use basil almost every time we cook. It is an extremely versatile herb that can be used in a wide variety of dishes. The problem with basil is that it is a summer annual that we only have fresh for about five months of the year. We always have a lot more fresh basil than we could ever eat. This of course leads us to want to preserve the excess basil.


My first couple of years of gardening, I froze my excess basil. This is actually pretty simple, and just involves cleaning off the basil plants, and putting the leaves in the freezer in a single layer on cookie sheets. After the leaves freeze, you can put them in zip-lock bags, and make sure to get most of the air out of the bags. This is a decent way to preserve basil, but unless you are using the basil in a sauce, the fact that the basil will get pretty slimy as soon as it starts to thaw, makes it not practical for most dishes. I actually much prefer drying basil.


A couple of years ago I dried basil, using my Excalibur dehydrator. This process is fairly easy, but it is time consuming. Basically, you just need to clean the plants, and place the leaves on the dehydrator shelves in a single layer. It took three days in the dehydrator to dry. Then you crush the leaves into tiny pieces, and put the basil in a spice container.    


Now, I dry my basil in the easiest least labor intensive way I could find. My greenhouse is really hot, and really dry in the summer. I don’t do anything with my greenhouse at this time, so I thought it would be a perfect place to dry herbs and vegetables. I was right it is a great place for drying.


How to dry basil in your greenhouse

1. Cut your mature basil plants just as they are starting to flower. This is the best time to dry the basil, as the flavor is at its height, and the plant is very large.


2. Shake the plant to knock off bugs and dirt.


3. Wash off basil plant.


4. Shake plants again to dry. The plants don’t need to be really dry, just dry enough that the leaves aren’t sticking together.


5. Hang up the basil plants in your greenhouse. I used clothes line pins.


6. After 3 days or so, the leaves should be completely dry and crumbly. At this point, simply run your hand up and down the stem of the plant pulling the leaves off and dropping them into a bowl.


7. Crunch the basil leaves into smaller pieces.


8. Put the basil pieces into your spice container.

How to Preserve Basil Video

August 9, 2012 by  
Filed under All Videos, Blog, Herbs, Preservation

See the fastest basil drying method I know of, without using any power.

Chives are a must have for any garden

May 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Herbs, Onions

Friday 5-4-2012

Chives were the first herb that I planted in my herb garden. It is a really easy to grow, versatile herb that is a must have in any garden. Chives seed can be planted in the spring about 12 inches apart, and you can be harvesting 6 weeks later. The only big requirement they have is to make sure they get sufficient water. They like a lot of humidity.


Benefits of chives

1. A long growing season, I get 9 months out of my chives, sometimes longer.

2. Cooking versatility, it can be used in a lot of different dishes, and is a good substitute for onions

3. It is a perennial herb (It comes back on its own year after year)

4. Easy to grow (I don’t do anything special for my chives, and they do great, without any pest issues)

5. Pull up the plant, and the bulbs can be picked like small onions

6. Chives are great companions for fruit trees, carrots, tomatoes, and brassicas


Chives in bloom

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