What do you get when you mix a few sheets of cardboard, four tractor buckets (2 yards) of rock, and two tractor buckets of dirt?
As part of The Human Path’s Permaculture classes, Dr. Paul Range and Gloria Haswell led our class through a hands-on construction of a spiral garden. The idea behind this garden is to create something attractive and sustainable, ideally using materials found on your property. By building a raised bed in this way, water is conserved in multiple ways: it is a large embankment of dirt and stone, which retains water better than a shallow garden; it also allows water to flow down the spiral rather than run off into the lawn. It also has many areas for excess water to escape in times of heavy rain (not that we’re accustomed to that kind of rainfall in Central Texas this year!).
To construct the garden, we first gathered flat rocks from the creek as well as rocks from the quarry itself.
Back at the site, our team next cut down the tall grass and laid the grass and used cardboard on the ground.
From there, it was a relatively simple task to stack the rocks in a spiral shape, building up the walls gradually. Well, for the most part it was simple. As we built the walls up, it became a bit tricky ensuring that the construction was stable. A couple of times we decided to tear down and rebuild parts of the spiral wall to ensure we could reach the desired height without everything collapsing. The final solution was to build the base out of the widest rocks and using smaller rocks as we went upwards.
From there, we filled in the open areas of the spiral halfway with soil from the property, packed it in around the rocks, and then watered it in. Then we repeated the process for the rest of the spiral.
Between the natural strength of the spiral shape and the dirt filling in the cracks, the final structure is actually remarkably sturdy and should last for many years.
Eventually we will be planting culinary herbs in the garden, but since the San Antonio area has been over 100° and without rain for a bajillion days, we decided not to torture poor defenseless plants, and will wait until more favorable fall weather to add the greenery.