It wasn’t my idea. Jackie French talks about growing watermelons in boots (haven’t tried that yet), she may also talk about growing strawberries in shoes. I can’t remember. But that’s where the idea came from and ever since I first designed the Stanmore school garden I’ve been keen to put strawberry shoes on the fence.
Fortunately I have a child whose feet grow pretty quick and who manages to destroy his school shoes pretty easily so I’ve got a never ending supply of shoes.
Strawberries propagate by producing runners. Once these mini plants have a root system they can be removed from the ‘mother’ plant and planted elsewhere. In this case, in shoes. I put in the new plants along with a good amount of compost and let them settle in, in the school green house for a few weeks until I felt they were strong enough to be screwed to the fence.
Strawberries can tolerate shade but you may not get the best out of the fruit wise. They also like rich soil and don’t mind a bit of acid in it. Strawberries are prone to virus attack. To avoid this they need to be regularly replanted. Linda Woodrow in her excellent book ‘The Permaculture Home Garden’ outlines her strategy to avoid the virus. She keeps one plant as a stock plant. This plant is not allowed to produce fruit (any flowers are removed) and is used to produce the runners. This then provides her with a constant virus free source of strawberry plants.
This week we built a herb spiral at CECAL (Canterbury Earlwood Caring Community Centre) as the start of turning their front area into a community garden. The herb spiral is a small example of a lot of good permaculture ideas in one place. It uses space and water efficiently and creates micro climates for your different herbs. Traditionally the herb spiral is placed close to your kitchen door so that you can nip out and grab your favourite herbs. In Earlwood we placed it as close as we practically could to the kitchen but when you’re working in limited and confined spaces these decisions also become limited.
This is how we did it:
The area is first measured out with a couple of sticks joined by a bit of string. One stick stays firm in the ground, the other moves around the circle. We played with a few different sizes thinking about access (both to the herb spiral and past it) and the number of bricks we had. We then leveled the soil a little and laid a thick layer of newspaper to inhibit any weeds.
On top of the newspaper we threw on wood chip. A lot of websites suggest gravel for drainage but I wasn’t keen to add stones to the soil, a hard thing to reverse, so we used woodchip. The bricks are then laid around in a spiral pattern with the soil added in to help with stability. We used a mixture of soils and manure.
It probably would have been wise to water in each layer as we went but this was a step we missed. On top of the soil we put in mulch and there you have it. A herb spiral ready for planting.
In terms of planting the idea is to plant sun loving plants on the northern side and shade tolerant plants on the southern. Water loving plants go toward the bottom and plants that can take drier conditions are planted towards the top.
All your herbs in one spot. The magic of permaculture design.