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What's New With Farmer Pete: Herb Spiral

I did my first permaculture certificate course with Permaculture founder, Bill Mollison, 30 odd years ago at Bill's own home. During his very practical and hands-on course we constructed swales, did contour planting, food forrest design, built a herb spiral and much more. I was able to replicate many of the things I learnt there at Jamberoo Valley Farm, our permaculture farm we owned for 25 years. In fact, Bill later ran courses at our farm and helped us to develop on our design plan.

When we moved to Springfield 3 years ago, the gardens and landscapes were established and quite formal in nature, so we did not have the same clean canvas to work with. This made the classic permaculture zone system trickier to implement. But in true Permie style, we worked with “what we have, where we are”.

Bill loved herb spirals, he said “we can often use spiral form in design, both to create compact forms of otherwise spread out placements and to guide water and wind flows to serve out purpose in landscape”.

Normally you would construct a herb spiral close to the kitchen, but that wasn’t possible at Springfield. Instead, I chose a spot adjacent to our main vegetable garden and orchid in an area that we visit multiple times a day to collect produce, water, tend to the quails or collect eggs.

The classic spiral design is usually 2 metres, wide rising in the centre at about 1.3 metres. Luckily, we already had a hundred or so left over paving blocks that had been stored in the corner of a paddock for 20 years; they were perfect for the structure.

The spiral design is inspired by nature with water flowing from the top to maximise the natural flow of gravity, allowing water to drain freely through the layers. It tends to be drier at the top and most moist at the bottom. In my design, the spiral drains into a pond at the end of the spiral on the southern side. The pond has become the home of lizards and frogs, both of which are great pest controllers. I planted lemon grass at the top centre of the spiral as it loves full sun and dryer soil. Basil is also on the north side as it likes full sun but lower down to benefit from more moisture. Herbs that can take some shade can go on the southern side, like chives and parsley.

So far so good, everything is growing well! Rosemary is starting to droop over the wall and a blue tongue lizard has moved in. Not a snail to be seen anywhere and the first water lily is flowering and providing good shelter for my goldfish.

Bill would have loved it I can hear him in my mind pointing out that it flows clockwise and instead should flow anticlockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Farmer Pete
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