What is a herb spiral?

Herb Spiral Northey St

I have been lucky to come across two herb spirals in the last month. Herbs that need good drainage are planted at the top of the raised garden bed. Plants which need good sunlight are planted on the side that receives the most sunlight and shade loving plants are planted on the other side.

herb-spiral-northey

Northey Street City Farm herb spiral

The first herb spiral was at Northey Street City Farm. It is approximately 1 metre high by 3 metres wide with three different levels for herbs. The top level is well drained and drier, while the bottom level is moister and cool. Different plants are planted on different levels depending on their needs.

Raised spiral gardens offer a range of micro-climates to meet the habitat needs of different plants. Raised spiral gardens are also very space efficient, and conserve water. A herb spiral can add detail to an otherwise flat or boring landscape.

Herb Spiral Qld Plant Expo

Queensland Plant Expo herb spiral

The herb spiral at the Queensland Plant Expo was smaller and probably a better size for most suburban backyards. It had only two levels and the spiral was made with stones to define the different areas. You can see they have used straw mulching to keep the weeds away.

Herbs for a herb spiral

Herbs that prefer moist conditions (plant these near the bottom of the spiral facing the morning sun):

  • Bergamot
  • Borage
  • Coriander
  • Cress
  • French tarragon
  • Ginger
  • Lebanese Cress (in a pot)
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint (in a pot)
  • Mushroom plant
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Vietnamese mint (in a pot)
  • Watercress

Herbs that prefer or handle drier conditions (plant facing the summer sun and on top of the spiral):

  • Garlic chives
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Society garlic
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow

How to grow a lychee tree

lychee

Lychee – Litchi chinensis

Nearly two months ago we ate a bag of fresh lychees and I kept some of the seeds. I just rinsed them and then let them dry in a saucer (above), then planted them out in some soil – nothing fancy it was just some compost because that’s all I had at the time.

Out of a dozen seeds that I planted, four of them thrived and they were transplanted into a small pot each. Each little plant is now about 20 cm high and looking pretty healthy. One is straggling but I think they’ll all make it.

Lychees are self-pollinating, producing both male and female flowers on the same panicle, so only one tree is needed to get fruit. To become productive trees however, they need a week of cool night temperatures (below 20°C) before flowering.
ABC Gardening

Where to buy local native plants around Brisbane

bottlebrush

There are a number of great little places where you can buy local native plants in and around Brisbane. The top four are my favourite places for variety and price:

Northey Street City Farm

Corner of Northey and Victoria Streets,
Windsor QLD
Phone: (07) 3857 8775

Pine Rivers Community Nursery – Kumbartcho Sanctuary
Bunya Pine Court, Eatons Hill
Phone: (07) 3264 3953

Fairhill Native Plants and Botanic Gardens
114-132 Fairhill Road,
Ninderry (Yandina) QLD 4561
Phone: (07) 5446 7088

Nova Gardens Nursery
78a Settlement Road, The Gap, QLD
Phone: (07)  3300 4161

Morton Bay community plant nurseries:

Bribie Island Community Nursery
208 First Avenue, Bongaree
Phone: (07) 3410 0088

Caboolture Region Environmental Education Centre (CREEC)
150 Rowley Road, Burpengary
Phone: (07) 3888 9285

Redcliffe Botanic Gardens
Henzell Street, Redcliffe

 

Cut and come again or pick-and-pluck plants

Try saying that three times quickly. Cut and come again plants are sometimes called pick and pluck. They are a certain type of edible plant that can yield for a long period of time. Instead of picking a whole plant, simply pick off a few of the outer leaves as required. The main plant will continue to grow and produce more.

Here’s my future plan for a path side plucking area:

Divide your space up into a number of areas. The first area could be for salad ingredients that don’t need cooking. The second area could be used for the plants that need cooking before eating. You may like to also add an herbal spiral or garden nearby, perhaps in a pot or by reusing half a wine barrel for herbs like basil, mint, and parsley etc.

This area is designed to be fairly low maintenance, so I’ve given preference to perennials (p) and self-seeding (ss) plants. For some colour and interest add some edible flowers such as calendula, chamomile, cornflower, geranium, lavender, nasturtiums, stock, sunflower and violets.

For apartments and small areas, you could grow a selection of some of the smaller plants in pots or Styrofoam containers.

Some of these may be considered weeds in your area, so please check first. If you are having trouble sourcing seed try your local seedsavers or a wildflower supplier.

No cooking required

Cook these

For more information try Salad Leaves for All Seasons by Charles Dowding. Patrick Whitefield has plans for a ‘minimalist garden’ in his book on permaculture called The Earth Care Manual.

Written in part for a permaculture assignment.

How to pot a tree

We repotted a number of fruit trees that I’d bought recently. I swapped their small seedling pots to big plastic pots so they could spread out their roots and grow. The basic steps I follow when repotting a fruit tree are as follows:

  1. Add a thick layer of sugar cane mulch or hay at the bottom to allow any excess water to drain out. You could use stones (although it’ll be heavy to lift) or broken Styrofoam.
  2. Add some homemade compost to half way. If you don’t have any compost ready use a middle of the range bag of organic fruit and vegetable mix. Be careful the cheaper bags of compost tend to be filled with stones and sticks.
  3. Mix in a handful of blood and bone, chicken manure, and a spoonful of trace elements. This is to ensure your plant has a good mix of different minerals so it will develop healthy fruit.
  4. Add a handful of water crystals (or cat litter) – If you have time pre-soak them in water and seaweed solutions (optional).
  5. Add the plant making sure it’s straight and back fill to the rim with more compost.
  6. Gently press the soil down and water well.
  7. Add some more sugar cane on top to act as a mulch.

I use the same basic method for repotting a native tree – leaving out the extra nutrients at step 3, and using a decent quality native soil mix in place of the compost. Although these days I have started planting out native seedlings straight into the ground. Natives can be touchy and do not like being transplanted.

An alternative to using a pot is a planter bag. These are lightweight bags made from tough plastic with handles. They are easy to move and allow good aeration.

Any other hints?

Native plant choice

There are a few questions to ask before you buy a plant.

Does it suit the climate?

Is the mature plant the right size for the spot?

Will the soil and water requirements be suitable?

I chose our native plants based on ‘Creating a Sustainable, Waterwise Garden’ by Linda Ross. I also worked my way through back issues of ‘Gardening Australia‘ and ‘Organic Gardener‘ magazines from the library and added more natives to my wish list.

Two other good resources are your state’s or local Society for Growing Australian Plants and the illustrated ‘Australian Native Plants‘ (I have the Concise Edition) by Wrighley and Fagg.

A word of warning though, if I bought a plant at the nursery because it looked attractive or had pretty flowers, it was usually dead within a month of planting.