As a urban gardener, I love ideas that help create more growing space, are visually appealing, low maintenance, very do-able and are easily accessible.
The Herb Spiral is a nature-inspired vertical garden design that is highly productive and energy efficient. It allows you to stack plants in a pyramid to maximise space - a practical and attractive solution. It is typically 6.5ft wide in diameter at the base, ascending to 3.2- 4.2ft, with the center of the spiral at the highest point. The spiral ramp provides a planting area large enough to accommodate all your common culinary herbs but is certainly not limited to just growing herbs!
If you are interested in how the design works and all the benefits, you can read more about them at http://themicrogardener.com/15-benefits-of-a....
I thought I'd share a tutorial on this DIY project which can be as cheap and cheerful or elaborate as your budget allows - the materials vary widely so you can choose something that meets your taste, time and skill level. There are plenty of videos, specs and tips in the full online tutorial that will help you get the feel for the various options you have and stages of the project.
I've helped build them from scratch in just a few hours - it's about organizing your materials and having the site ready - bribing a couple of friends with some yummy food to help give you a hand doesn't hurt either!
Here are the basics you need to know:
Choose a site ideally located close to your kitchen door for quick access to fresh herbs. Orientate the bottom of your spiral on the northern side in the Northern hemisphere or southern side in the Southern hemisphere. This creates micro climates that allow you to plant a wide variety of herbs that enjoy different positions - sun, shade, dry or moist.
Materials: (these are just typical 'ingredients' you can use and the basic 'recipe').
· Cardboard (without ink or tape), weed mat or gravel – optional but useful to kill weeds if building your spiral straight on top of lawn. (I avoid carpet because it's likely been treated with chemicals that will leach into the soil as it breaks down). Alternatively, you may need a drill for drainage holes if building on concrete.
· Long stake. Secure a 1m length of string to the stake and tie at the other end with a lightweight stake, bamboo cane or chalk. Use this to draw a line on the ground to measure out the circle.
· Organic matter such as mushroom compost, worm castings, lucerne, mulch, straw and garden soil to build fertility to feed your garden long term (quantity depends on diameter of your spiral).
· Compost (for planting your herbs into – preferably home made so it will be full of living microorganisms or alternately, a certified organic compost).
· Rock minerals and organic fertiliser (to add nutrients to your soil).
· Mulch (whatever you have available) e.g. lucerne, sugarcane, baled grassy mulch hay, pea straw, grass clippings,leaves, etc.
· Herb seedlings; bay tree and vegetable seedlings if planting.
· (Optional) pond materials and irrigation fittings if including.
STEP 1: Measuring up – Have someone hold or bang the stake into the central point of the ground where you want to position your herb spiral. To determine the perimeter, stretch out the string attached to the center stake to mark out your circle, drawing a line in the soil with the other stake or bamboo cane tied on the end of it (or use chalk if you are marking out a hard surface). The diameter averages between 5 –6.5 ft or 2.5 – 3.25 ft from the center.
STEP 2: Your base – if starting on lawn you will need to stop weeds from growing. Cardboard can be used for this purpose to sheet mulch and build the spiral on top. No light = no weeds! Lay your weed mat or wet cardboard (soak with a hose or in a wheelbarrow) to cover the circle you have marked out.
STEP 3: Construct the wall structure – Using your edging material of choice, start laying your bricks/rocks on the outer edge and working inwards to create a spiral shape, allowing about 1.6 ft width to plant into or adjust if making a smaller spiral.
Once you have your basic shape laid out around the circumference, add a second tier of bricks, remembering the outside 'wall' of your spiral is lowest (e.g. 2 bricks high or perhaps 1-2 rocks depending on size – enough to retain your soil).
The middle will usually end up about 1m (2.5 ft) high with a central planting area, gradually tapering down in height on a light slope to the bottom. You can block it off or add your bog/pond at the base if using.
STEP 4: Add your organic materials & nutrition – for each of us this will be different, depending on what you have easy access to. Some people only add mulch or straw to their herb spiral and plant into pockets of compost. If you're on a tight budget or this is all you have access to, then this system of 'growing soil' will work fine but 'dead dirt' is unlikely to bring you a successful outcome! There are plenty of tips on ways to make your own soil in the online tutorial. For which herbs to plant where, you can find more info @ http://bit.ly/14vJxmJ
I'd love to see pics if you've built one and if you haven't, I hope this inspires your next project!
Take a stroll down the produce aisle at your local grocery store and you will quickly notice that peppers have grown in popularity. No longer are we stuck settling for just the so-called
"Traffic Light" varieties - those green, red and yellow bell peppers that seemed to be about the only choices we had growing up.
Peppers are now grown in hundreds of different sizes, shapes and colors - all with their own unique taste. Whether you prefer sweet peppers, savory peppers, mild peppers, ornamental peppers or our personal favorite, hot peppers - you can add beauty and taste to your garden and landscape by planting your own this year.
We devote a large part of our garden to growing peppers - and with good reason! We use them fresh on sandwiches, in salads, salsa and soups - or simply to eat on a veggie plate. Add to the mix stuffed peppers, grilled peppers and tasty appetizers - and you can make quite a few tasty meals from the humble pepper. And that's just on the fresh side! We dry many of our excess peppers to also use in our hot and spicy tomato juice, ground hot pepper flakes, chili powder, and dried chipotle peppers that we make each fall. (Click Here For Recipes)
Here are some tips on planting and growing all kinds of peppers - along with the low down on a handful of our favorite varieties that we grow:
Peppers, like tomatoes, grow in well-drained fertile soil
Almost all peppers have the same requirements for successful growth. Plant them in good, well-drained, fertile soil - and make sure they get lots of sunlight and a good inch of water per week. In many ways, they mimic the same requirements needed for growing great tomatoes.
At Planting Time:
We plant all of our peppers with a good shovel full of compost in the planting hole, and then give them a good dose of compost tea every few weeks for the first 6 weeks of growth. We also mulch around each of our pepper plants with a good 1 to 2" thick layer of compost.
Peppers need support just like tomatoes do. Our banana peppers growing strong with the support of a cageProvide Support:
We all spend time and resources setting up cages and stakes for our tomatoes - why not peppers? Peppers need some support too! We actually use a smaller version of our stake-a-cage method to support our peppers and keep them upright and growing strong. No matter what you use - provide some support for the plants and peppers to grow strong.
Don't be afraid to cut back a wayward branch. We prune off the bottom foliage from our pepper plants to allow a little light into the plant and to keep pests at bay. Peppers are notorious for breaking off if a branch becomes weighty or too full of peppers. So don't be afraid to prune a little to keep them growing strong.
Pick those peppers! Keep picking your plants to keep new peppers developingPick Those Peppers!
To keep your plants producing all season long - keep them picked! Pepper plants will continue to produce new peppers as long as you keep the stocks picked. The more tasty veggies you pluck from the plant - the more the plant will continue to spend its energy making more.
Besides the workhorse green bell pepper - here are some of our favorite varieties that we plant, along with some tips on how we use them in the kitchen:
Marconi PepperMarconi Pepper - This quickly became one of our favorites last year for grilling and stuffing. It is considered an Italian sweet-style pepper - and therefore no need to worry about the heat with this one. It has fantastic flavor and the heart meaty thick walls stand up well to grilling and baking. It was a big producer in our garden last year - and we picked them both green and red with good results in the kitchen. These will definitely need to be staked - as the peppers grow big and heavy. With their sweeter flavor - they are actually delicious to just slice up and serve on a vegetable tray as well.
Italian RoasterItalian Roaster - If you were to make a hotter version of the Giant Marconi - then the Italian Roaster would be it! A really thick-walled and tasty pepper, they seem to get much hotter when left to turn red on the vine. The green ones are delicious and still pack a little heat - but as they turned red in our garden - we definitely noticed a turn up in the heat! This is another variety that you will definitely want to provide support for. We grew them for the first time last year, and the plant produced well all year long, and the peppers became very heavy on the branches.
The Cajun Belle PepperCajun Belle - The Cajun Belle is the ultimate pepper to have if you love the combination of sweet with heat. They average about 2″ in size, and have a seed core that is easy to remove. They make an incredible stuffed appetizer, are great to chop up in salads and salsa or chili, or to use on a sandwich. An added benefit of the Cajun Belle – they freeze really well and are great to pull out for use during those cold winter months. The plants are absolutely beautiful in the garden or landscape – filling up with 50 or more brightly colored peppers ranging from green to orange to bright red when fully ripe.
Hungarian Wax PepperHungarian Sweet Wax Peppers - These are a massive producer of 4 to 6" long sweet peppers. Peppers will turn from light yellow to a deeper red and even orange when they mature. They are amazing on salads, sandwiches, and do well as a grilled sliced pepper for brats. The plants themselves grow to around 24" in height. We grow both a sweet variety and the hot yellow wax pepper to use in Mary's hot pepper mustard.
Sweet Mini Bell PeppersMini Belle Peppers - These plants will grow to be about 18″ to 24″ high and are covered in tons of 1″ to 2″ mini bell peppers at a time. They have a super small seed core that is easy to remove, and are perfect for salads and salsa. This is also one of our favorite peppers to use for making great appetizers. We use a good spicy sausage and cream cheese stuffing that makes for an incredible paring with the sweet taste of the peppers. They look great in the landscape too as an accent plant – adding a splash of color wherever you put them.
Mariachi PepperMariachi Pepper - Another sweet-heat type pepper that almost has a fruity taste to it. I would classify this pepper more as a sweet and fruity pepper than as a hot pepper. It turns from green to yellow to red - and can be picked at the yellow or red stage with the same great flavor. The plants are about 24 to 30" in height and stay strong all year - producing peppers as long as you keep picking. Great in salads and salsa, or a sandwich - and perfect to grill or stuff. We also dried some last year and added to our own mixture of dry spice. If they are well watered and it is a cool summer - they tend to be more on the mild side. With less water and more sun and heat - they turn out with a little more kick! Another one to support with a stake or cage.
Poinsettia PepperPoinsettia Peppers - These are actually classified as an ornamental pepper - but they have a fiery hot taste and look great in the landscape or garden. Poinsettia peppers grow to about 16 to 24″ tall – with the pods coming on in late June. Each plant is covered in hundreds of the pepper pods. They start out as an ordinary slim green pepper – and then turn to an incredible fiery deep red from early August until well after the first frost. They are a tasty little pepper that can be added to stir fry to give off some deep heat – or you can put them in olive oil to have hot pepper oil. Poinsettia peppers are another easy seed to save and require little maintenance.
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary
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Commented on Apr 21, 2013
S. Florida, yes but get them in immediately. 6 hours of Fla sun is good, we get such hot sun.
Lots of water if dry, manure/compost mix is great and fertilize. generally Fl seasons are Sept/Oct and Feb/March.
Plant matter is a resource we should be keeping out of the landfills. But what do you do if you don't have the space for a compost pile or you don't want to be constantly running outside
with your kitchen scraps? Vermicomposting is the answer and , even better,a worm bin is efficient when you're continually adding new material, unlike your outdoor compost pile. Composting at home in a worm tub is most suitable for smaller families and apartment dwellers, or can be used in combination with an outside composting method. A well-tended worm bin shouldn't smell, so some people will keep them in a kitchen cupboard if they're short on space or just want it handy for adding their kitchen waste. The garage or basement are also possible locations for your worm bin. (Note: do not add animal waste, bones, fats or meat to your bins or compost piles. That will make it smell and draw unwanted visitors!)
Follow the easy steps below to set up your own worm bin and begin vermicomposting at home. Set the finished lidded bin on a couple bricks on a tray to collect any drips. You will keep plant matter out of the landfill and have the benefits of compost and compost tea for your houseplants, worms for feeding birds and pet reptiles and going fishing, too!
See my blog post at http://ourfairfieldhomeandgarden.com/diy-pro... for more composting information and worm sources.
I know these photos are not great, but all I had on me was my cell phone. This was growing at a client's yard and we noticed it blooming in a very shady corner near their house. I am
struggling to identify it. I took these photos on May 3, 2012.
It reminds me of Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) based on the leaves and similar shape of the flowers, but the flowers are appearing on the ends, not along the stems like Winter Jasmine. It is also not the season for winter jasmine. Thanks for the help.
Commented on May 11, 2012
Does it have a fragrance? Night blooming Jasmine has yellow flowers and a different smell from