Herb Spirals

The garden spiral is like a snail shell, with stone spiraling upward to create multiple micro-climates and a cornucopia of flavors on a small footprint. Spirals can come in any size to fit any space, from an urban courtyard to an entire yard. You don’t even need a patch of ground, as they can be built on top of patios, pavement, and rooftops. You can spiral over an old stump or on top of poor soil. By building up vertically, you create more growing space, make watering easy, and lessen the need to bend over while harvesting. To boot, spirals add instant architecture and year-round beauty to your landscape: the perfect garden focal point.

One of the beauties of an herb spiral is that you are creating multiple microclimates in a small space. The combination of stones, shape, and vertical structure offers a variety of planting niches for a diversity of plants. The stones also serve as a thermal mass, minimizing temperature swings and extending the growing seasons. Whatever you grow in your spiral, it will pump out a great harvest for the small space it occupies. I’ve grown monstrous cucumbers in my large garden spiral, with one plant producing over 30 prize-size fruits. The spiral is a food-producing superstar!

Stacked stones create perennial habitat for beneficial critters, such as lizards and spiders that help balance pest populations in the garden. The stone network is a year-round safe haven for beneficial insects and other crawlies that work constantly to keep your garden in balance—and you in the hammock. A little design for them up-front pays big, tasty dividends later.

Read more on Ecologia Design

#permaculture #herb spiral #microclimate

Natural and Harmless Alternatives to Garden Pesticides

Unfortunately, many people choose to use cruel methods that either injure or kill garden visitors. I think the problem is that most people are not aware that there are other ways to protect your garden that don’t require you to harm any living beings.

The best way to keep your garden healthy is to really be a part of your garden. You will be amazed at the big, complex world going on in your backyard (or front yard, or patio or whatever you have the space for). Sit  down one day in your garden and just look closely and quietly. Incredible stuff.

  • Planting

You can plant some “sacrifice” plants in various parts of the yard which is often ones that we don’t like so much, but the bugs do. These include plants from the cabbage family and some others that you can let go to seed purposely. These will naturally attract the most destructive bugs. This may entail some experimentation on your behalf, to note where they like to hang out the most. 

  • Compost

Consider having an open style compost bin. You can have both an open version and a closed one. The open bin can be made with just a few old car tyres stacked up beside the house, where it is too shady to grow anything. Throw plant clippings and some old cabbage/broccoli leaves/plants in there and deposit the collected bugs there. That way they have some food and a way to get out if they wish.

  • Moving on

Another method is to take an empty bucket or container and carefully remove the caterpillars or another bug that you can spot. Take these to your ‘sacrifice’ plants or your open compost bin, depending on how many you have. Use gloves to do this as some hairy caterpillars can give you a nasty rash.

  • Trick ‘em

White cabbage moths, which look like white butterflies with black spots, will lay tonnes of eggs on your cabbage family plants (broccoli, bok choy, Brussel sprouts etc) but you can trick them into thinking the plants are in a territory of other moths. Thread some of the white, Styrofoam peanut-shaped packing thingies (or cut out shapes from plastic containers) onto the string and hang them above your plants. These look like other white moths have already taken those plants, and often encourages them to find somewhere else. Worth a try anyway.

  • Nice Predators

If you have aphids, you will probably have ladybugs in the vicinity. Most of the time they will migrate to the affected plants, however, if you find a plant covered in aphids and no ladybugs, just take a look around for them elsewhere in your garden and carefully transfer a couple. I don’t know how they do it, but these freshly fed ladybugs will soon send out the appropriate signals and others will come. I notice most aphid problems disappear after a few days.

  • Annoy them

Snails and slugs always seem to attack the freshly planted seedlings after a nice raindrop or too. Don’t use snail bait, firstly as they are dangerous to the kids and dogs, and as they are nasty to the snails. Use copper strips and sawdust to stop them from getting into the beds. The copper gives them an annoying electric zap as they crawl across them and saw dust also irritates them. Be sure to use dust from non-treated wood as older-style treated wood can contain nasties like arsenic!

  • Distract them

Pill Bugs or slater beetles or roly-poly bugs are the janitors of the garden, cleaning up all rotting fruit and vegetables. Sometimes they get a bit excited and eat stuff that you can use still. They love eating ripe strawberries so make sure to pick them every day. Keep them distracted by leaving a few orange halves around your garden. They will flock to them. If you do find them eating something you don’t want them to, gently brush them off and give the fruit or veg a good wash before eating it.

  • Block them

We all have plastic bottles or cartons left over from juice/milk substitutes. Before putting these in your recycle bin, cut them into sections about 10-15 cms high. Simply cut through the middle section of the carton leaving a ring-like section, open both top and bottom. Place these protective guards around your seedlings, pushing them a little way into the ground, until they are established. These will stop most slugs or snails getting to them. Make sure you take them off though as I have forgotten a couple in the past, on the large plants. Tricky to cut them off without damaging the plant stems. They will keep for many seasons as long as you wash well and store them out of the weather.

  • Build up

If at all possible, build your garden beds up with raised beds. You can try out some second hand (imperfect) cement blocks. They have a lovely textured finish like bluestones and the slugs/snails don’t like crawling up them. Bonus: they are simple to keep weed free and are easy on your back. They are about 2 ½ feet high and you can overplant them to your heart’s content. Solves any rabbit issues too. Other products you can use are recycled tin, reclaimed wooden train sleepers, old bricks or whatever you can get your hands which are free or, at least, doesn’t cost too much $. Remember: one person’s garbage can be another person’s treasure…

  • Netting

Use netting to stop birds and bats from eating all of your fruit but make sure that they can see it (or hear it in the bat’s case). Add some old, shiny CDs to the netting that act as a further deterrent or warning. They also look pretty, reflecting light around the garden! Make sure you check your nets for any creatures that may have gotten stuck. Alternatively, if you are feeling generous, leave off the nets and share with your bird/bat friends.

A lot of pest control will be a bit of a hit & miss affair and require some experimentation. These are ways which I have found to work in my little patch of earth so I would encourage you to try these, and try out your own ideas. Just like most recipes can be turned vegan, most problems in the garden can be solved cruelty-free. I would be happy to help out with any specific pest issues that you may be experiencing. Just drop me a line. I would love to hear any suggests that you may have too!


  • Aphids (plant lice): Plant chives, marigolds, mint, basil, or cilantro or place aluminum foil at the base of your plants. The foil reflects light onto the undersides of the leaves, which scares away aphids.
  • Ants: If ants are coming in through the cracks of doors and windows, pour a line of cream of tartar where they enter the house, and they will not cross over it. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings will repel ants. You can also squeeze the juice of a lemon at the entry spot and leave the peel there. Planting mint around the foundation of the house will also keep ants away. Place cloves of garlic around indoor and outdoor ant pathways.
  • Cockroaches: Create sachets of catnip and place them throughout the infested area (your cat will love you!). Cockroaches like high places so put a few sachets on top of shelves and other elevated surfaces. Bay leaves, cucumbers, and garlic can also help to keep cockroaches away.
  • Codling moths: Use a cheesecloth square full of lavender, chives and garlic, or cedar chips. Try adding cedar oil, rosemary, dried lemon peels, or rose petals.
  • Deer: Place some soap shavings or used cat litter along the ground to create a boundary between their grazing area and your garden. Also, try hanging a salt lick in their path to distract them from your plants.
  • Grasshoppers: Simply spray garlic oil where you don’t want them, or plant calendula, horehound (a bitter herb), or cilantro.
  • Japanese beetles: Try chives, garlic, rue, and catnip.
  • Mice: Use mint plants, especially peppermint plants! Mice really dislike peppermint and will avoid any areas where it grows.
  • Mites (spider and clover): Try planting alder, coriander, or dill, and use rye mulch and wheat mulch.
  • Rabbits: Sprinkle chili pepper around plants (it must be reapplied if it gets wet). Install oven racks around plants. Rabbits tend to dislike their texture and the way that they feel on their feet. Other natural rabbit repellents include bellflowers, astilbes, asters, yarrows, cranesbills, hostas, lavender, sage, and other textured or thorny plants.
  • Slugs: Place mint, lemon balm, human hair (remove excess hair from hair brushes and place in gardens), pine needles, cosmos, sage, or parsley in your garden.
  • Ticks and fleas: Plant mint, sweet woodruff, rosemary, and lavender. Also, try placing cedar chips in your garden. They smell great to you … but not to fleas and ticks!

Happy gardening.

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2.For a pick me up in the afternoon… Put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours. Slice some and put in your water bottle.

3. If you rub a cucumber slice along your bathroom mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Place a few slices of cucumber in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemical in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free.
Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries by European trappers, traders and explorers for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don’t have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don’t have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber will react with the boiling water and released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown to reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don’t have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the photochemical will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12. Looking for a ‘green’ way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but it won’t leave streaks and won’t harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.


Before and after. I threw out all the dead/dying plants and made room to repot all the citrus. I also organized so that everything with mites or scale is on the left and the healthier stuff is on the right which will hopefully keep the pests from spreading. Next step is to pot up more butterfly bush cuttings once I get more potting soil.


There’s Hornworms in my garden. I think they’re beautiful. However they’re also highly destructive to my tomato plants. My garden is a chemical free zone so no-pesticides allowed. I’ve tried some organic solutions, Diatomaceous Earth and Neem Oil, they haven’t helped. The best method I’ve come up with is to remove them by hand and feed them to my chickens.

Fowlerville Michigan Photographer.

A Glossary of Natural Garden Pest Control Solutions

Faced with a pest problem? Learn a three-tiered approach to natural garden pest control: attract beneficial insects, employ effective physical pest controls such as handpicking and row covers, and use organic pesticides if needed.

By Barbara Pleasant and Shelley Stonebrook 

Glasshouse getting wild late season. We’ve been swimming in cucumbers and tomatoes since before Christmas, and it’s still going strong. Haven’t had any fungal problems this year, and no whiteflies either! The only insect pest that’s been causing any trouble is the white cabbage butterfly (though everyone has that problem at the moment), however it turns out that in lieu of brassicas they will lay their eggs on nasturtiums. I always have nasturtiums growing everywhere. I don’t plant them - they appear to have naturalised themselves in my garden and the seeds are in all the soil and compost and mulch that I used while improving the glasshouse. Lucky they are delicious and useful!

[see more of my glasshouse adventures]


Kaiser’s Crown (Fritallaria imperialis)

This stunning flower in the lily family is found across Western Asia, all the way to the Himalayas, but is naturalised in areas of the temperate zone where it is cultivated as an ornamental.

Roughly 1 metre in height, the blossoms repel rats and mice, due to a distinct “foxy” odour.

dtpennington replied to your photo: I’m trying to figure out the best plan of attack…

Removal is good. We used diluted neem oil for our pest and fungus problems this year. Works wonders and is totally natural.

I am such a fan of Neem. I use the horrible smelling stuff on my face and it works wonders. I’ve treated the plant a few times with an organic Cinnamon oil spray, but he’s got to come in tonight. 28 degree weather in the forecast!

A Glossary of Natural Garden Pest Control Solutions

Faced with a pest problem? Learn a three-tiered approach to natural garden pest control: attract beneficial insects, employ effective physical pest controls such as handpicking and row covers, and use organic pesticides if needed.

By Barbara Pleasant and Shelley Stonebrook

Illustration by Linda Cook


Check out this awesome infographic that shows you how to use organic/biological pest control in your garden using 100% organic methods! These methods leverage mother nature to do most of the work for you. Safe for your garden, pets & plants. (10 images)

Source. Infographic by

“A fruit tree’s companions–or ‘guild’ as called in permaculture–help balance the tree’s needs: a miniature ecology.”

-Ecologia Design

#guilds #companion planting #forest gardening 

Top Organic Vegetable Gardening Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Get solutions for common organic vegetable gardening challenges, including pest control, soil fertility issues, weed control and summer drought.

By Barbara Pleasant