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It’s Thyme to Build a Herb Spiral : Out and About with the Wheelbarrow Gardener Leanne

I recently visited Christine Boxall on her acreage just west of Legal where she grows vegetables to sell along with some baked items at a couple of local farmers markets.  Christine and her husband have approx. 5.5 acres but it was a garden that was 5 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall that had me intrigued and the reason I came for the visit.

Last summer Christine built a herb spiral, and this year she was reaping the rewards of her creative endeavor.  A herb spiral is a vertical garden based on permaculture ideas of working less in the garden but reaping more produce. Herb spirals are a great first permaculture project to get your feet wet with, these beautiful and practical gardens are perfect for any homeowner even if your yard is only the size of a postage stamp.

I asked Christine what inspired her to create a herb spiral.  “I attended a course hosted by Kenton Zerbin ** on permaculture, and thought this was one part of the course that I could manage to build myself. I like the idea of water conservation and ease of care.” So she did just that, in two days with little to no cost she created her herb spiral, and here are some additional reasons why it was a good idea.

Benefits of the herb spiral:

- Grow more food in less space
- Get the benefits of several microclimates in one spot
- Convenient, easy access for maintenance and harvesting
- Simple to irrigate
- Low cost to build
- Healthy herbs for your enjoyment

Herb spirals can be made from just about any type of material from bricks, stones, willow, pipes and even gabion cages filled with rocks.  Any material that will allow you to form a spiral shape and will hold soil in place will work. Christine’s spiral was constructed from 4x4 posts, which she had lying around her property, so the cost to build this was minimal. If you search Google or Pinterest for herb spiral images you will see all the different concepts and designs people have created.

The design for the spiral is not without purpose, by having the spiral raised in the center, spiraling down to ground level, lots of microclimates are created that support different plants. Plants at the top of the spiral will have to be ones that like dryer and hotter conditions.  Plants on the north side will enjoy shade and more moisture while plants at the bottom will receive the greatest abundance of moisture so plants that thrive with moisture consistency will do well here.  Christine grows several types of herbs such as lavender, basil, mint, chamomile and borage in her spiral, all of which she uses for personal use or for her baking that she takes to the farmer’s markets.

The advantages of having such diversity in a small footprint of space extends beyond convenience to the chef. The nature of the herb spiral with the close planting of different species creates beneficial relationships between the herbs (companion planting) and can create an environment that benefits the garden as a whole. Some plants are great pest deterrents such as marigold and basil, and others such as lemon balm, and marjoram attract insects like ladybugs and bees that are beneficial to surrounding gardens and feed on the pests. Borage and Chamomile are good for improving the taste of neighbouring plants as well as being visually appealing.

Here are some of the herbs that are in Christine’s spiral and what she uses them for:

Borage: This herb has cucumber flavoured leaves that she uses dried for tea or fresh in other drinks, and the blue starry flowers are used fresh in salads or frozen into ice cubes as a drink garnish. Bees love this plant and so it aids in attracting beneficial bugs and pollinators to the garden.

Chamomile: She makes a tea using the dried flowers infused in boiling water, it helps boost the immune system, it aids in sleep and calms upset stomachs. Make sure that the yellow and white flowers are not the scentless chamomile noxious weed variety.

Basil: She makes a pesto using 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, 1 ½ cups of pine nuts, chopped walnuts or almonds, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add all ingredients to a food processor adding the oil in last. Store in the fridge.

Lavender: Add 6 flower spikes of fresh or dried lavender to 2 cups of sugar, seal for a week, then use in the baking of cupcakes or custard dishes for an extra little flavor surprise.

Christine loves her hassle free herb spiral, she is letting the plants get established and is finding out which herbs do well and which ones she needs to find a better location for. It’s easy to water and takes nothing to control the weeds. It’s a beautiful focal point as you drive onto their acreage, it adds interest to what is normally a horizontal garden view and it’s a great conversation piece.  Her only wish is that she had built it just a bit bigger so that she could fit more strawberry plants in it.

Herb spirals are only one of the many garden designs that were created based on permaculture principals. Here is a website that you could go to with good info about herb spirals and a video from Bill Mollison and his take on it.

http://permaculturenews.org/2015/04/17/the-magic-and-mystery-of-constructing-an-herb-spiral-and-why-every-suburban-lawn-should-have-one/

** If you are interested in taking some local permaculture courses and learning about herb spirals and other permaculture design concepts I encourage you to check out Kenton Zerbin’s website http://kzpermaculture.ca .  Kenton grew up in Sturgeon County and is now doing amazing things as a permaculture designer and instructor. He often hosts an Introduction to Permaculture workshop in Morninville and surrounding areas, so visit his website, subscribe to his newsletter and be inspired by the permaculture way of gardening.


If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or anything special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me.


Valerie Loseth    |    780-668-3892    |     
thewheelbarrowgardener@gmail.com

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as The Wheelbarrow Gardener or check out my website at www.thewheelbarrowgardener.com

If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or anything special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me.


Tasty Holiday Collaboration Leanne

Seeing businesses collaborate and work together is a personal favorite of mine. I get excited to see people who are passionate about what they do, and recognize that passion in others. Tuesday night's event was an outstanding display of collaboration and celebration.

I had the pleasure of attending one of the finest evenings in Edmonton on Tuesday. My invite was to a Holiday Mixer at the new Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen located downtown Edmonton on Jasper Avenue, to sample some delicious (and I mean DEEEE-LICIOUS) treats and check out the space. Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen has opened recently and is in a gorgeous location right downtown (previously Tavern 1903) with a beautiful food menu and interesting drink menu. Chef Spencer Thompson and Mixologist Brandon Baker put a lot of thought and attention into their creations and source ingredients locally and seasonally. They are open for lunch for and dinner, make sure you go visit!

The first thing I saw was the passion - from the first person that greeted me at the door, to the bartenders attentively mixing up beautiful cocktails, to the servers explaining what was on their tray that we just HAD to try, they were all happy to be there and excited to share details about the event with us. 

We were treated to countless delectable treats - gin rummy gingerbread macaroons, "Eau Eclair" cocktails infused with cocoa, bratwurst sliders and butternut squash soup, just to name a few. Chef Thompson and his team did an exceptional job pulling out all of the stops for us and their attention to detail was second to none. Each bite was delicious and a reminder to make a dinner reservation in the near future! 

The collaboration of the evening came in many forms, there were so many partnerships that it was practically seamless. Impossible to see where one brand started and another finished. Each business and product that was part of the evening fit beautifully with the next. 

The bartenders were whipping up (quite literally, with egg whites!) some amazing beverages that featured Eau Claire Distillery's  premium spirits. Eau Claire Distillery is located in Turner Valley, near Calgary and is Alberta's first craft distillery. Eau Claire sources the grains and ingredients for their vodka and gins locally, working with farmers to grow what they need, exhibiting a complete farm to glass approach. I am definitely making plans to go for a distillery tour! Visit their website for product and tour information.

The collaboration did not stop there. On our way out the door we received a little surprise, which is always exciting! My gift was a pretty Pura Botanicals bag with... get this... an all-natural handcrafted perfume oil, featuring frankincense and myrrh - ingredients featured in Eau Claire Distillery's limited edition Christmas gin that we sampled that very evening!

Pura Botanicals is a green beauty apothecary and natural perfumery right here in Edmonton. Their collection of non-toxic, vegan, and eco-friendly skincare and wellness potions centre around the ancient art of the beauty ritual. Pura can actually create a perfume specifically for you with their fine all-natural and traditional perfuming ingredients. Check out their website to find out more. Also included was a gift certificate for Alberta Hotel Bar + Kitchen, which I can't wait to use!

It is such a fantastic sight, to see businesses pulling together to make their products and events even better. If you own a business, get out and find another company that has products or services that complement what you do! Discuss the potential to collaborate, you never know what will come out of it, but most likely a great experience for both of you.

Thank you to Immedia PR for inviting us and all of their hard work to bring everyone together for this fabulous evening! 


"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."
    - Henry Ford


The Hidden Gems of Sturgeon County Leanne
The Hidden Gems of Sturgeon County

I had the great privilege of attending the Travel Alberta Industry Conference last weekend, and came back to work inspired and excited to put many of the ideas from the conference and discussions into action. Connect and Collaborate was the aptly named theme for this year's event, as there were many great discussions, networking opportunities and awareness that came out of the conference.

One session in particular struck a chord with me as our Sturgeon County Economic Development team works on our tourism and business support plans for 2014. This session was presented by Alberta Tourism and Parks and Recreation outlining a significant study that was done, defining the "Potential Demand for Rural Vacation Experiences in Alberta by Residents of Alberta." Although the study is 180 pages, there are several key points that I pulled out of it such as:


"A link between knowledge and impressions of rural Alberta was found. The greater the knowledge, the more favourable the impression tended to be..."

This got me thinking... if potential visitors from Edmonton or other urban areas in Alberta don't know what we have to offer or what they can expect, will they come visit, shop and experience our events? How many "hidden gems" exist in Sturgeon County that we should be telling people about? More than 70% of people prefer and trust a recommendation from a friend or social media over traditional advertising... What Sturgeon County experiences would you like to recommend to your friends? Maybe there is an amazing restaurant, a fantastic annual event, an interesting historical site, the list is endless. 

The study also showed that people from urban areas had a lot of interest in exploring rural activities and destinations, but there were a number of factors that steered them away from going rural. Some of those factors were: 

  • Lack of promotion / awareness : Is your business on Facebook? Your customers are!
  • Location / GPS availability : Urban visitors are not familiar with the area and need to rely on good directions or GPS to find you.
  • Overnight accommodation : Visitors would like to stay on a farm for a new experience, but are often uncertain as to what to expect and will go to the nearest urban center to stay at a chain hotel instead.

This website, www.sturgeoncountybounty.ca is in the early stages of becoming a hub for information. This is the spot that is featuring upcoming events, local producers and attractions, but it is only the start. There will be two Sturgeon County Bounty events next year - one in the spring and one in the fall, and we are looking for vendors to help get the word out about why local and fresh is better. We are also building a database of all the businesses and attractions in Sturgeon County to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. We are looking for local businesses to feature on our blog and share insight... we want to connect with you!

Please leave your comments below and share your Hidden Gems in Sturgeon County!



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Sturgeon County Bounty is a Sturgeon County Economic Development initiative, aimed at providing local producers, chefs and processors with an opportunity to promote and expand value-added agriculture in the region. more

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