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Bayside Park Farm herb spiral
The Bayside Park Farm is a three-acre vegetable farm located in the City of Arcata's Bayside Park and became the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Arcata. A CSA is a community supported agriculture program where shareholders pledge their support in the spring and receive a share of the harvest every week for the growing season. Bayside Park Farm is also a permaculture farm demonstrating sustainable farming practices and appropriate means of energy use. In 2010, the Engr305 Appropriate Technology class at Humboldt State University in Arcata built an herb spiral on the farm. The current farmers flattened the herb spiral since it was not functioning as hoped, and had issues such as insufficient water drainage and mint and weed overgrowth. The current mission is to recreate a functioning herb spiral that requires minimal maintenance and prompts shareholders and visitors to the farm to pick their own herbs.
The objective of the project is construct a permaculture design herb spiral garden that will create microclimates in order to grow a wide variety of herbs suited to different growing conditions. The herb spiral will grow a variety of herbs that can also be used and harvested by CSA shareholders. The herb spiral garden will be functional by providing medicinal and culinary herbs for shareholders and the farm, educational in displaying a type of permaculture design, and an aesthetically pleasing addition to the educational farm. This project provides an opportunity to grow different herb species across the range of climatic conditions found in along the Northern California coast. Each section within the design will feature a particular environment suited for specific plant characteristics. Information about the garden as a whole and the different species being grown within it will be made available on the site.
Project Evaluation Criteria
The herb spiral garden to be revamped and incorporated into Bayside Park Farm, offers many opportunities to provide locally beneficial herbs, showcase a creative design, and invite others to learn about the importance of different climatic requirements for plants. The criteria that this project depends on will help to make the herb spiral a positive fixture in the greater space of the farm. The spiral will fit in well with the terrain and be used to support many other activities on the premises. The herbs used in the garden will fit the nature of the Bayside Park Farm as a whole and the various needs of the community. The development and harvest of the herbs presents a unique means of educating anyone on the farm about sustainable and appropriate horticultural techniques. The following Criteria will be used to assess the success of this project. These criteria were chosen based on the suggestions and priorities of the farm coordinators as well as the students designing and building the herb spiral. The scale (1-10) represents the importance level of meeting the constraint of each listed criteria.
|Criteria||Constraints|| Weight |
|Level of Engagement from Community||Will encourage visitors to harvest own herbs and be a focal point as usable public leisure space|| |
|Maintainability||Must be easy to maintain in regards to weed control, watering, and harvesting|| |
|Aesthetics||Must be eye catching to visitors and encourage leisure time spent near design|
|Educational Aspect||Must include an educational piece for community (signs marking herbs) and sign marking materials used and basic design principle|
|Safety & Placement||Must not interfere with walking paths or require unsafe climbing to harvest plants|
|Reproducibility||The structure could be reproduced by anyone in their home garden|
|Budget||Use available and recycled materials as much as possible to minimize budget|| |
|Functionality||Must sufficiently supplement culinary and medicinal herbs for CSA shares and farm sales|
This is the proposed timeline for our project:
|2/2/14||Met with client to discuss plans with respect to site layout and desired criteria; researched for and started Appropedia page|
|2/6/14||Researched design, planting, soil, and materials|
|2/14/14||Met with client to hash out our final design choise, budget, and materials; researched for our plan|
|2/19/14||Acquired urbanite for construction purposes|
|2/20/14||Chose our plant layout and started some seeds (three types: catnip, basil, and parsley)|
|2/21/14||Outlined two-dimensional herb spiral design with rocks and string|
|2/28/14||Completed budget proposal and timeline. Built the bottom wall of the garden with urbanite and rocks|
|3/2/14||Acquire more urbanite for wall construction|
|3/7/14||Start seeds, lay bottom gravel, mix soil, and build bottom spiral layer. Water and allow for compaction and sinking. Build up the soil as needed|
|3/14/14||Build up next wall of spiral, mix soil, and build up soil layer of spiral. Water and allow for compaction|
|3/28/14||Fill bottles with dirt for top tier of spiral and start building the top tier|
|4/4/14||Build up top tier of spiral wall, mix soil, and build up top layer of the spiral/mulch around seedlings|
|4/11/14||Mix soil and add more as needed with compaction|
|4/18/14||Check soil drainage, plant growth, and design issues|
|4/25/14||Create small plant signs, troubleshoot drainage and structural issues, and assess any other issues|
|5/2/14||Finish and place the signage, final document|
This is the proposed budget for our project:
|Quantity||Material||Source||Cost ($)||Total ($)|
|16||pre-cut plant signs||Almquist Lumber||10.00||10.00|
|1||linseed oil||Ace Hardware||3.99||3.99|
This is a review of the available literature pertinent to building and designing a permaculture herb spiral.
Herb spiral design basics
Building a three dimensional mound shaped herb garden, or herb spiral, saves space and creates microclimates since all slopes will face different directions . Herbs are planted in a suitable environment according to their growing needs.
Placement of plants in the herb spiral and observing directional placement of the spot where we will be building the herb spiral (i.e. where is the south facing direction that will receive the most sun) is an important aspect in analyzing and designing in permaculture .
The pyramidal or spiral shape in these gardens increases the water flow as well as the overall productivity of the space because the geometry offers more surface area than the horizontal gardens that are employed in most agricultural operations . The gardening space can be kept tidy and in a convenient arrangement due to the maximization of space.
Climate and environmental considerations
Many recent climate models have indicated a general trend of drought increase for the western United States in the 20th century and the significant potential for continued and accentuated drought in the first decades of the 21st century . While the local climate of Humboldt County has historically provided high amounts of precipitation, this particular geographic area lies on the latitudinal threshold between predicted decreases in precipitation near the subtropical zone and predicted increases in rain and snowfall in mid-to-high latitudes . This means that there is some uncertainty regarding the future of northern California climate patterns, and any local agriculture should have a collective resiliency against extreme climate events as well as long-term trends. To improve the viability of agriculture in Humboldt County, plant species tolerant to warmer conditions and lesser precipitation rates can be selected for use. Growing herbs that are compatible with the soil types and other ecological characteristics of the area will also increase their tolerance to any climate fluctuations.
Making it “user-friendly” and engaging
The farmers at Bayside Park Farm want the herb spiral garden to be functional, but also to encourage CSA members and other visitors to the demonstration farm to pick their own herbs, spend leisure time near the spiral, and become inspired by the design . Many herb spirals incorporate different themes and uses found within the typical garden. Depending on the amount of space available, culinary and medicinal sections can be made and situated based on the constituent plants and their environmental requirements . The suggested size of the herb spiral is approximately six feet in diameter and three feet in height that will allow for approximately 22 feet of plant-able space that can be easily accessed for harvesting by farm members and visitors.
Construction of the spiral begins with marking the shape of the spiral on the ground with the stones, bricks, or other materials to hold the shape of the spiral . We chose a design six feet in diameter and two and a half feet in height for easy reach for harvesting. A bottom sheet mulch layer is used to kill and prevent weeds. A bottom layer of gravel, perlite, small rocks, etc. is added to the bottom to increase drainage. The bricks, stones, or other materials are stacked to create a wall and support the infill dirt. Compost, soil, sand, and/or dirt are gradually filled in. The herbs are planted based on best location for their growing needs within the spiral. A thin layer of mulch can be added to the top of soil around plant to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
The previous herb spiral was removed due to issues with slumping of the spiral from the top, inadequate drainage, and weed overgrowth. The design we will be using will establish a firm base with a combination of rocks and bricks available on site to keep the base firm . We will continue to use bricks and stones up the spiral to establish a firm retaining wall to hold the dirt. Perlite with available compost and topsoil to provide adequate drainage for drought loving plants and to provide more support so the spiral stays sturdy at top.
There are wood chips available on site for mulch to help with weed control. Wood chips can also be used as ground cover to minimize weeds sprouting up from the bottom of the spiral . The design size of 6 feet diameter (approximately 3 feet on each side) and a height of 2 1/2 to 3 feet enables the entire spiral to be easily watered with a sprinkler system, allowing for ease of maintenance during drier months.
Planting and choosing herbs
The types of plants to be incorporated in the herb spiral will be largely based on the needs and wishes of the farmers at Bayside Park Farm and the types of medicinal and culinary herbs they would like to be made available to the CSA members. The planting of herbs based on location on the spiral will be determined based on the growing needs of each individual herb . The farm will mostly focus on perennial herbs for ease of maintenance.
Just like any garden, regular watering during dry months and weeding are a part of regular maintenance. The use of a cover mulch (this can be compost, small size wood chips or shavings, or straw) helps to reduce maintenance by retaining moisture to reduce watering needs and suppress weeds. The height of the herb spiral is short enough that a sprinkler can be placed on it as needed to cover the area. The preference of the client to plant more perennials than annuals also reduces maintenance since perennials, especially Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and sage, prefer less water and thrive with less care.
Testing involved finishing the herb spiral, planting the herbs, and observing how the plants hold up to weather changes, potential pests, weeds, etc. We found that even with sheet mulching the bottom of the spiral and mulching the top some weeds still emerged, but was a huge improvement from the last spiral than was overrun with weeds. We also had to replant some basil due to slugs, but most of the transplants were successful.
One of the greatest challenges in building the spiral was building sturdy and structurally sound support using all recycled and donated materials in varying shapes and sizes. This project would be significantly easier with more uniformly sized materials, such as all brick, since less attention would be needed to making all the materials fit together.
We would also have been able to make the diameter of the spiral slightly smaller without sacrificing too much area for planting. This would have made the herbs at the top of the spiral even easier to harvest from, but is still within easy reach.
The next steps are to maintain watering, especially in the drier months, and pull any weeds that emerge. The client will have to replace the annual herbs that were planted next year, but this was only a small portion of the total herbs planted.
- Nicole Piña
- Matthew Byrne
Update October 2014
The herb spiral is doing good, but is having some issues. Along the lower level wall of the spiral, mint is a continually popping up, as well as some weeds. Also, some of the herbs are not doing well, and some aren't thriving at all. It is possible this is due to inadequate sunlight, on that side of the spiral. The structure of the herb spiral is doing great, as there hasn't been any problems with bricks falling. Overall, the garden is doing its job, but could be adjusted, just a bit, to fix some of the lower-level herbs, and weed problems.
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