Building a Solar Dryer

Wouldn’t it be perfect, if we can harvest fruits and veggies in our own garden the whole year through? Well, in some countries this is possible; but not in every country. In general I would say, you have warm summers and colder winters, which makes it more difficult to grow plants during winter times.

Today I want to show you, what you can do to still have the benefits of your own fruits and veggies the whole year through. It is not a new method. It was already used in ancient times. Today we are building our own solar dryer or solar dehydrator. And the good thing is, instead of using hours of expensive electricity with an electronic version, we get our power source for free: the sun.

The method is quite simple. Cool air enters a solar collector where it is heated as it passes along a hot black metal. It then rises into the dryer where your fruits and veggies are placed on shelves. Also the building is not that difficult, if you have the right tools at hand. It is the planning that takes a lot of afford, if you want to avoid buying all the needed materials for lots of money in a hardware store. Besides the hinges for the door and the paint, I used the materials that can be found or grow already in our garden like the bamboo for the shelves; the rest I bought for little money on a junkyard.

1) Gathering materials

2) Making a plan

3) Start building

4) Start painting

5) Finished project

Crop Rotation for your Veggie Garden

Every garden needs a little bit of organisation. Before planing your own veggie garden, you need to be aware that there are basically two types of crops: the ones which are taking nutrition out of the soil, and the ones which are putting nutrition into the soil. So when you divide your veggie garden into several garden beds, you can rotate the plants across the beds over the years.

The two most important benefits for a crop rotation are: on the one hand it stops the soil from getting depleted and on the other hand it avoids the building up of pests as some plants are prone to diseases.

The groups that are taking more nutrition out of the soil are the following:
– Alliums (like Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Shallots) and Umbellifers (like Beetroot, Carrots, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip). They both can share a bed.
– Brassicas (like Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Kohlrabi, Radish)

The groups that are putting more nutrition into the soil and that you can harvest are the following:
– Legumes (like Broad Beans, French Beans, Peas, Runner Beans)
– Miscellaneous (like Cucumbers, Peppers, Pumpkins, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes, Zucchini)

There is actually another third group. The plants that are also putting more nutrition into the soil but that you can not harvest. They protect the soil from erosion and keep the beds free from weeds as well. After you have planted them, let them grow for a short time and then dig them back into the soil. Wait a month before you start planting your crops. They are called Green Manures:
– Legumes (like Alfalfa, Clover, Fenugreek, Lupins)
– Miscellaneous (like Buckwheat, Grazing Rye)

Besides the green manures you can of course put some mulch onto the soil to prevent the weeds from coming back and to prevent the soil from drying out.

Salads (like Chicory or Lettuce) you can plant everywhere where space is available.

Potatoes I would plant in a separate bed as they can be prone to blight.
And don’t forget to label what you have planted.

What to plant in a spiral herb garden

After building our herb spiral, we surely want to plant our medicine.
Some plants like it more dry and sunny, and some plants like it more damp and shady. The herb spiral is the perfect place giving each herb its own little microclimate. The driest conditions are at the top of the spiral. As the herbs grow, the spiral will create its own shadier conditions.

Herbs that can be planted are:

1) Herbs that like it damp and shady. South-Facing (in the southern Hemisphere)/North-Facing (in the northern Hemisphere).
– Chervil
– Mint
– Chives
– Parsley
– Sorrel
– Tarragon

2) Herbs that like it dry and sunny. North-Facing (in the southern Hemisphere)/South-Facing (in the northern Hemisphere).
– Marjoram
– Thyme
– Chamomille
– Coriander
– Basil
– Sage
– Rosemary

How to build a Spiral Herb Garden

Let your food be your medicine. And in addition to this I believe that for every disease there is a plant or herb that can cure that disease. So if you have a little space left in your backyard, why not start planting some herbs? Best would be, if you place them not to far away from the kitchen, so that you can easily reach them when you need them.

A spiral herb garden has lots of benefits. To me one of the most important one is, that it has its own micro climates (like shade, sun, water, etc.) allowing you to plant a huge variety of herbs.

Building a spiral herb garden is not that difficult. It is a matter of what kind of materials you have. In my case I had only a few things available as I always try to get along with the materials that are available. This time I had not the perfect size of stones or not enough soil for instance. But it was just right to finish it, in order to show you how it can be done. Another difficulty might be, if your place has a slope, like in my case. But as you will see, even in such a terrain it is possible. The following videos show you the most important steps to build your own spiral herb garden.

1) Preperation
If you don’t want to buy expensive soil use the soil out of old buckets with old plants inside. Therefore you need to separate the soil from the plants including all of its roots. The screened soil store in the meantime in a shady and dry place. For the spiral’s place itself search for the sunniest place in your garden.

2) Weeding
Once you know where you will set up the herb spiral, you need to get rid of all the weeds from the existing soil.

3) Optional: place for aquatic herbs
If you want to raise aquatic herbs, you need to dig a hole and put in a bucket. The stones can be put around the bucket, so that it still fits into the whole system.

4) Weed prevention
To avoid that the weeds are coming back, put onto the existing soil some cardboards.

5) First layer of soil

6) First layer of stones

7) Second layer of soil

8) In case of a break

9) Second layer of stones

10) Final layer of soil

11) Last steps
Be careful with this step and let only skilled people do this.

12) Finished project