If you are looking for something to do over the holidays, why not make a herb spiral. A herb spiral is a classic piece in a permaculture garden. The herb spiral is traditionally positioned as close as possible to the kitchen for easy access to herbs for meal making or medicinal teas.
The spiral also celebrates pattern language. As the spiral rises, the spaces and edges increase creating different microclimates. You can grow more food on any given area by planting this vertical space, giving you access to picking herbs easily.
The microclimates that are created with stones/bricks help you position your herbs according to their sun, shade and water requirements. Mediterranean type herbs such as rosemary, sage and basil enjoy the top of the herb spiral. The sun will be strong with good drainage, making the soil dry.
As the spirals moves downwards, choose herbs that enjoy a little more shade and moister soil. The bottom of the spiral gives shade from afternoon sun and is reserved for herbs that enjoy humidity such as mint and pennyroyal.
Spiraling to the sky
There are a few ways to build a herb spiral. This article will focus on the mound and ground-up model. First choose a spot in your garden that has at least 6 hours of sun per day.
The mound spiral is great to make with kids. Simply form a conical mound of garden soil mixed with compost at least 1m in height and approximately 1 – 1.5m in diameter.
Once you have shaped the mound, place rocks around the base edge of the mound. Before closing the circle, start to place rocks in a curve going upwards around the mound to make the spiral. As you can see from the photo, round rocks suit this type of spiral perfectly. Some people use bricks or bamboo, and this works well too.
Plant your seedling and then cover the soil with a layer of mulch. My favourite is sugar cane mulch. As it decomposes, it releases the sugars and helps activate the soil keeping soil organisms happy.
The ground-up spiral is formed on the ground, first with stones and then soil is added. It’s really important to make the base exactly how you want. The stones are positioned in a a circular base of approximately 1.5m in diameter. Once again, before the circle is closed, begin the inward spiral.
As you can see from the photo, we have used flat stones but you can also use bricks. Stack the stones/bricks, increasing as they reach the centre. To gain height, introduce more stones carefully while filling the spiral with soil.
At the bottom of the spiral, build a small pond to create habitat for fish, lizards and frogs. You can also grow watercress and Vietnamese mints.
Get to know herbs
Knowing the characteristics of the herbs you wish to plant will help achieve better results for your garden. Every plant has its own characteristics, height, colour and shape. Researching will help you position them in the ideal microclimate.
If your garden area is small, a series of herb spirals may be the ideal solution as they are beautiful, highly productive and energy efficient gardens that can be easily watered with a watering can or with drip hose irrigation.