Build a Double-Barrel Herb Garden

| 11/9/2010 11:28:06 AM

11-9-2010-edible landscaping coverReprinted by permission of Sierra Club Books from Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy, copyright (c) 2010. 

An herb garden can be a small gem in a larger setting or the focus of your entire landscape—it’s up to you. If you’re new to herb gardening or have a limited area, a small garden is the way to go. Chapter 8 and Appendix C cover all the details about growing in containers; here I wanted to inspire you with a doable weekend project that allows you to grow the common culinary herbs in one small area.

A few years back, I saw a barrel-on-barrel herb tower in a magazine—a brilliant concept featuring a smaller wooden barrel sitting atop a larger one. The two barrels give more surface area for the herbs to spill from and a lot more soil to hold nutrients and water, and root room for all the extra herbs. It is such a great way to grow plenty of herbs in a small space; you don’t even have to lean over to plant or harvest. Whether you live on country acreage, on a suburban lot, or in a condominium, this weekend project can provide you with enough fresh herbs to bring your cooking to a whole new level—all within reach of your kitchen. A word of caution: this is much too heavy to put on a deck, balcony, porch, or roof.

To avoid soil compaction and subsequent bad drainage, I set filler material—a mass of 1-inch-diameter and wider twigs (or use pieces of Styrofoam or upside-down 1-gallon plastic nursery containers) in the bottom quarter of the barrel. And to prevent the top barrel from tilting or compacting the soil in the bottom barrel, I placed a couple of 2 by 4s, each 2 feet long, on the soil in the bottom barrel to distribute the weight of the top barrel and keep it level.

I chose chives, thyme, and creeping winter savory for the top barrel. You can use them or your favorite small herbs like dwarf basil, German chamomile, curly parsley, or chervil. In the bottom barrel I planted larger herbs—oregano, French tarragon, ‘Thai’ and sweet basils, sage, and lemon thyme—to cascade out the front. Italian parsley, rosemary, any basil, and lavender are also great choices.

Depending on where you live, you can find wooden wine or whiskey barrels at most nurseries and home improvement stores (see “Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Patio Garden” in Chapter 8). Or you could use a very large terra-cotta or recycled plastic container on the bottom and a smaller matching container on top. If you are going to use drip irrigation as I did (it is the most efficient way to water), you’ll need to connect your line to a nearby water source.

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