Saturday, October 6, 2012

Herb Spiral Research

The one big thing in the front yard project we're doing ourselves is building an herb spiral using the old cement blocks that we pulled out.

Our idea for including an herb spiral came from two inspirations. First, a post on this blog: (, (which is a terrific blog, btw) and second, a huge pile of ugly cement blocks we wanted to recycle or re-use.

I did a little research online and doing an image search for "herb spiral" returned so many fantastic pictures that I got even more eager to start the project. Even the lead guy from the crew doing our patio told me he was looking forward to seeing it finished. He said it was a great idea and a good way to use up those ugly blocks.

The place we're putting this gets partial to full sun for several hours a day, enough to grow grass and flowers like daisies, but not really enough for vegetables. The original idea I had was to create a very basic spiral. But my wife wanted something that was taller on one side, so it would have a kind of "back wall" that would sit on the property line.

We went through several iterations, from a traditional spiral to a tall-backed set of tiers/terraces. The plan we landed on was a combination of the two, a kind of double spiral coming down to the right and left sides from a central high spot, sort of an inside out double spiral. My chief worry is that it won't provide a variety of zones, but I think it will be pleasing to look at. Something like this:

I confess that I like the idea but I'm wondering if it will work in practice with the number of blocks we have (slightly more than 80, and they're 12 inches long on the widest part, 9 inches on the back), but we'll give it a shot.

While researching for this I came across keyhole gardens.

Those look really interesting, but wouldn't really fit into this space.

Here's a list of concerns and things to keep in mind while we're designing and building this:

 - Irrigation. We'll have built in irrigation available should we decide to use it.
 - There's a drain cleanout near the "front" of the spiral and so we'll have to be sure to not cover it.
 - There are quite a few animals that will be walking past this thing every day (or night/etc.), including raccoons, possums, squirrels, and house cats. I'm sure there are other creatures (including tons of birds and maybe even some reptiles). That's going to mean that some will come by to have a snack, others to dig up dirt to plant seeds, and still others looking for a latrine. I'm hoping we can find a way to co-exist.
 - This will be in our front yard, so it has to look "clean" enough that it's not an eyesore. Were we to build this in the back yard, I think we'd concentrate much more on yield and less on curb appeal.
 - The area around the spiral will need to be "walkable" -- maybe a gravel or woodchip path of some kind.

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