|Ina Paarman’s Culinary Herb Wheel Garden|
Ina Paarman loves using herbs in her cooking and her herb garden reflects that passion.
A culinary herb wheel can be a small, simple ‘backyard’ herb garden or it can be scaled up into a magnificent potager, complete with central water feature, and raised beds planted with herbs, vegetables and flowers.
It is no surprise that Ina Paarman, whose popular cookbooks and gourmet food range has made her a household name, has created such a potager. It occupies pride of place in her 5.5 acre garden that overlooks the Constantia vineyards.
This garden is not for show. It is a test garden where Ina experiments with herbs to find the right taste for new salad dressings and sauces.
A recent glut of brinjals prompted her to create a recipe for brinjal lasagna while a test crop of several different basil varieties included the new Basil ‘Aristotle’, a tasty, small leaved sweet basil that doubles up as a garnish.
A herb garden for the senses
Working with food, says Ina, means engaging all the senses and that has to be true of her herb garden as well.
The wagon wheel herb garden was created 10 months ago, replacing a previous herb garden that had failed to thrive in the poor, often waterlogged soil. Besides being functional, with raised beds for better drainage and no back-aching bending, Ina wanted a herb garden that was beautiful, fragrant, delicious, and full of texture and colour. The result speaks for itself.
The formal design is a wheel within a square with raised built beds and retaining wall. A beautiful fountain forms the hub of the wheel with rosemary planted around it. A rill of water runs straight through the garden, links with the fountain and flows out the other side where it cascades down as a waterfall.
Pathways of crushed gravel radiate from the hub, forming the spokes. The built beds form the wedges between the spoke. They are filled with an abundance of healthy vegetables and herbs, with splashes of colourful flowers. Lavender is planted on the inside of the retaining wall enclosing the garden. Two bay trees mark the entrance.
Ina is delighted with her garden, getting great pleasure from its restful atmosphere. With a full season’s growth behind it, the garden has proved to be practical, and maintains its appearance, even when some plants go over.
Ina’s favourite herbs
Location - The herb garden occupies the sunniest spot Ina’s garden. The steeply sloping ground was leveled by cutting a platform into the slope.
Soil - The raised beds were filled with a fertile mix of top soil, sand, mushroom compost, and rotted kraal manure. Bonemeal is added when planting. Pine bark mulch covers the surface.
Feeding – Beds are enriched regularly with homemade compost. Plants are fed weekly with Nitrosol and Kelpak, a plant tonic that stimulates growth. Bounce back is applied twice a year.
Pests – are managed through companion planting as well as with Ludwig’s Insect Spray (organic), which has only a 24 hour waiting period before harvesting.
Companion planting – herbs and veggies are planted together to enhance each other’s flavour. Aromatic herbs, such as lavender, repel pests. Marigolds keep nematodes away. Borage is planted as a soil conditioner.
Maintenance – is carried out by a team of four gardeners, headed by Shaun Isaacs, with horticulturalist Nikki de Lange, who visits the garden twice a month.
Make your own wagon wheel herb garden
The built structure of Ina’s herb wheel requires plenty of space but a smaller version can still accommodate plenty of herbs.
For recipes visit www.paarman.co.za.