Updated: May 9, 2021
Follow the development and growth of my new Herb Garden at Gärtnerhof Distelfink, nestled between the Vienna Woods and the River Danube
My Herb Garden started life as bare earth on the newly expanded field at Gärtnerhof Distelfink in St Andrä-Wördern, just outside Vienna, Austria. The first organic herb seeds have arrived in the post. The risk of late frosts will be over within the next few days or weeks.
Watch this space transform over the coming weeks and months!
organic herb seeds
Some seeds are stratifying in the fridge, others have been planted in seed trays in the polytunnel. Freshly prepared beds welcomed the first directly sown seeds in the evening warmth of Beltane Eve. Although the timing or conditions are not always ideal, I am germinating what I can... who knows, I might be surprised... I will learn something new.
After nearly 20 years studying and practicing herbal medicine, focusing on the making, applying and teaching of herbs as medicine, only gardening in other people's gardens in the 3 countries I have lived in, I have finally found the place to settle and let my roots grow deep. So with a small budget for seeds and my deepest gratitude for the generous use of the land, compost, irrigation system, tools and other facilities and both manual labour and gardening tips from Gärtnerhof Distelfink, I am at long last turning my dream of growing my own healing herbs into reality.
This year is all about the sheer joy of planting seeds, tending them and watching them grow. If I manage to harvest and turn the herbs into home remedies later in the year then that is an exciting bonus, but not what I am focusing on for now. For now I want to hang out with, observe, photograph and tend to the living herbs, deepening my relationship with these wonderful plants.
The herb beds are only temporary this year, with my Herb Garden moving to a new home on the field next year. This gives me the opportunity to experiment, a space to try things out and see what works here and what doesn't.
To set the scene:
The soil is sandy silt loam, alkaline and medium draining. The site is exposed, frequently windy, can reach temperatures close to (and rarely even over) 40°C in the summer with periods below freezing in the winter. The ground water is plentiful and usually sits around 2-3 meters below ground, which we make use of by means of a borehole with an electric pump feeding the irrigation system, easier now that we are connected to mains electricity. The rainfall is becoming more random, making it hard to prepare for a wet or dry growing season, hence our gratitude to the availablility of the groundwater and irrigation system.
Watching the woodlands north and south of us change with the changing seasons is a comfort, a rhythmical pleasure. The sunrises and sunsets can be a stunning backdrop to early gardening mornings while we avoid the heat of the summer or later while we enjoy the cooler evenings and appreciate the beautiful space we are co-creating.
What used to be monoculture agricultural fields is being transformed into a biodiversity haven. The original field has been run by Gärtnerhof Distelfink for over 3 years and alongside the intensively grown vegetable beds and the infrastructure, there are also numerous strips and patches of biodiverse planting areas hosting a wide range of medicinal herbs and beneficial weeds, wildlife including honey bees in the beehives, wild bees and numerous other beneficial insects and many visiting creatures and birds, including kestrels and European Goldfinches (the namesake of the farm 'Distelfink' translates to 'Thistle Finch', a common name for the 'Stieglitz' or 'European Goldfinch').
Initially looking stark in comparison to the colourful field next door, the new field is already transforming with new paths seeded with grass, vegetable beds prepared and being planted, along with fruit trees, hedges and wildflower areas. All this and more surround my small Herb Garden, all of which is in full view of people passing by on their way to or from the River Danube. The train station is also only a few minutes walk away with the railway cutting across the landscape in front of the Vienna Woods and beyond the neighbouring field. The passing trains look quaint from our viewpoint, almost like a toy train or model railway, connecting our small town to the big city and beyond... And to keep it real, we are next to the local sewage works, thankfully we are upwind.
The Herb Garden is my passion and joy but will only get limited attention as I am on maternity leave for another year. With my wee one just a year old, I do not have the capacity to grow the quantity or variety of herbs that I hope to be able to in the future. So I am learning to embrace patience and take baby steps (as I watch my baby take her first steps) and learning through experience in preparaton for the creation of a more long-term functional, teaching, healing Herb Garden over the years to come. I am excited to share my gardening journey from the beginning with you and tell you the stories of what unfolds and grows over the seasons ahead.
"Wild Weeds and Healing Herbs on the Farm"
I will be giving spontaneous Herb Walks at Gärtnerhof Distelfink over the coming months, focusing on the wild and cultivated healing herbs growing there. Sometimes I will be joined by one of the Distelfink team for additional attention to botany, ecology and cultivation.
To join me on a Herb Walk at Gärtnerhof Distelfink or on other walks in the surrounding area, contact me for upcoming dates.
For a taste of some herbs that are already growing locally, either wild or cultivated, see my Herbal Gallery, with new herb photos from my local walks on and around the farm being added throughout the year.