Back in about March, we thought adding a herb garden close to our front door would be easy. There’s an ideal spot, with easy access from our path. Herbs typically have shallow roots, so we wouldn’t need to dig too far down, and then we’d have an ample supply of fresh taste just meters from our kitchen bench.
One of the challenges of gardening here is managing the soil – it’s well-compacted solid clay, with a high proportion of stones. However, the initial turning of the soil wasn’t our issue – the problem was what we found.
Soon after we started digging we found a pipe (wastewater we think) which isn’t on the house plans. It’s shallow, and right in the way of where the garden was to go. And at the time, that’s about where we stopped.
So while we’ve been making all kinds of other progress, the denuded patch of intended-to-be herb garden has been taunting us. Until now.
We finally decided to build up, and put our herbs in a raised bed. We put together a frame, and removed the brick edging we’d originally laid. Our frame is macrocarpa – a hard wood that withstands the elements without requiring chemical treatment – and we laid cardboard at the base to help kill off any grass or weeds that I didn’t pull out first.
On top of the cardboard, we laid straw from the chicken coop, and litter from our rabbits. Both will break down over the coming months, and the animal manure they contain will boost soil nutrition. Then we laid on fresh compost, mixed with sheep manure, to provide more quality nutrients for small plants. In went the herbs, then we mulched around them with pea straw.
We now have the herb garden we wanted – with rosemary, basil, sage, pizza thyme, garlic chives, oregano and cilantro, along with a curry plant that ultimately ended up in a pot.
The whole process of constructing the raised bed was fast and simple. On ground which hadn’t been gardened for more than a decade, it was close to ideal. In fact, it was so easy we’ve got another raised bed (off freecycle – a great way to bring new life to unwanted things) to set up a pumpkin/rhubarb patch.