Building an herb spiral in your garden is a unique way to grow a variety of herbs in a single location. Herb spirals have many features that appeal to both gardeners and cooks. Not only are they attractive, but they are an efficient way to grow herbs conserving both space and water.
First we’ll walk through the steps involved in building an herb spiral. Then we’ll help you plan the layout of the garden so you know which herbs to plant where.
How to Build An Herb Spiral
Before you get started, you’ll want to choose the material needed for your project. The two biggest decisions are what to use for the structure and the soil that will make up the bulk of the design. Here are the items you will need.
- Gravel or landscaping cloth. Choose a material that drains well but inhibits weed growth.
- The structure. Select a barrier for your edges. This can be anything that will contain your soil. Large rocks, stones, logs, patio bricks, and cement blocks are all good examples.
- Soil. Most herbs prefer a sandier well-draining soil. You can also create layers of straw, leaves, compost, and greens similar to the lasagna-style gardens.
- A wheelbarrow. This is used for moving the soil and stones to the site location.
- Shovels. Gather both a regular spade and a small garden trowel for planting.
- Gardening gloves to protect your hands.
- String and a stake to layout the circular form of the structure.
Step by Step Instructions to Build The Spiral
Now that you have decided on the primary materials, you will build your spiral. Here is the easiest way to get it done:
- On a piece of paper, draw out how you would like your spiral to look and the size.
- Take the stake you have and pound it into the ground at the center of where your herb spiral will be.
- Measure out a piece of string or rope to the size you would like to make your spiral.
- A good size is a meter or yard from the center stake. This will make a great smaller spiral with a diameter of six feet.
- Once you have the size and marked it out on the ground, cover the area needed with gravel or cut-out landscape cloth.
- Start to place your bricks or stones (whatever material you have chosen). Remember, this is an upward spiral, so you will be increasing the height of your material in increments. A good ratio is for every two bricks you lay flat, go up one.
- Keep space open at the end of the circle. This will be the start of your ramp for the spiral and allows the water to drain freely.
- Form the next inner circle with your bricks or material. You will go about double the height as your outer circle of bricks.
- Create the inner circle using the same ratio as your outer circle two across one up.
- Once you have done 360 degrees of your first level, it’s time to add your soil, mulch, and compost.
- I find it best to use the mulch at the bottom then covering it with soil. This will give your herbs a great start with a good nitrogen fix. If you don’t have a lot of mulch, you can use rotten old wood or twigs as filler below your soil.
- Using filler saves you a lot of money if you are buying your topsoil or substrate. Herbs do not need deep soil to flourish.
Herb Spiral Diagram
I have drawn a picture to show you the placement of the spiral, the soil, and mulch.
If you follow the process I have laid out; you are sure to have a successful spiral herb garden no matter the size.
Remember the placement as far as the amount of sun your spiral gets each day is crucial.
The next step is to figure out which herbs will grow in which placement the best.
What To Plant In An Herb Spiral
The important thing is to understand how much sunlight your particular herbs require and how much water. The seedlings you purchased should have a tag with growing requirements on them.
You will want to plant the herbs which require more sun and less water closer to the top of your spiral. Mediterranean herbs are good choices here since they like it hot and dry. Some examples include rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and sage.
Herbs that like both sun and water should go in the middle on the sunny side. Basil is a good choices for this location.
Parsley and cilantro enjoy moderate sun and water. Place them on the opposite side of the basil in the middle of the spiral.
The more succulent herbs you will want to plant closer to the bottom of your spiral. They need less sun and more water. Good examples for the bottom half of the spiral include chives, mint, and watercress. English violets are pretty on the bottom as well.
Herb Spiral Plant List
Here is a chart for you to use in your planning. Use this as a guideline only. Don’t be afraid to try other locations when placing your herbs in the ground. Every yard is different depending on the zone you live in, the surrounding trees or structures that may add shade, etc. But this is a great tool to get you started.
|Herb||Spiral Position||Sun Requirements||Water/Soil Preference|
|Basil||Middle; Sunny Side||Full Sun||Moist Soil|
|Chives||Mid to Bottom; Sheltered Sun||Full Sun||Average to Moist|
|Cilantro||Middle, East Side||Morning Sun||Average|
|Dill||Middle, East Side||Morning Sun||Moist Soil|
|Lemon Grass||Middle to Top, Sunny Side||Full Sun||Good Drainage|
|Mint||Bottom, Sheltered Sun||Full/Part Sun||Moist Soil|
|Oregano||Middle to Top/Sunny Side||Full Sun||Good Drainage|
|Parsley||Middle, East Side||Morning Sun||Average|
|Rosemary||Middle to Top/Sunny Side||Full Sun||Good Drainage|
|Sage||Middle to Top/Sunny Side||Full Sun||Good Drainage|
|Tarragon||Top, Sheltered Sun||Full/Part Sun||Good Drainage|
|Thyme||Top, Sheltered, or Sunny Side||Full Sun||Good Drainage|
Location: Where to Build Your Herb Spiral
Let’s look at where the best place for our herb spiral is and what time of year is the best to build one. When choosing a location, you should consider the following three factors.
- Sun – 6 or more hours is best
- Wind and possible wind barriers
- Proximity to the house
First, you will need to limit the options by identifying the locations in your yard with the most sun. Choose an area with a minimum of 6 hours of sun a day. More sun is ok. Less can make it a bit harder to obtain decent yields, but it is still possible.
Be sure to check the area at different times of day and different seasons A sunny corner of the yard in March, may become quite shady once the trees fill in.
Different herbs require different amounts of sunlight. Some prefer it hot and dry, others cool and moist. The herbs which love the sun will be placed where they get the most exposure, most likely on the top or south side of the spiral.
How much wind does your spot get? Do you need some windbreaks?
High winds will have the most effect on your herb seedlings. Once the herbs are established, they can survive some very high winds.
You might want to build your herb spiral near a fence or trees to create a natural windbreak for your herbs. Observe your orientation, what parts will be shaded by buildings or trees at certain times of the day.
How accessible is each possible location? You will be harvesting often, so it needs to be convenient. If you are using your herbs in cooking, you will want your spiral in a place that is close to the kitchen and very easy to access.
What Size Do You Need?
The standard size of an herb spiral is 6 feet wide and reaches three or four feet in the center. Six feet is about the maximum diameter where most people can comfortably reach the center for planting or harvesting without stepping inside.
Most herb spiral begins on the ground. However, constructing your herb spiral higher means less bending over. You can build the garden on a platform raising it several inches or more to keep most of the herbs closer to hip level or above.
Consider putting a two-foot sitting area around the edge of the garden. This not only provides seating and a place to rest, but it also makes it wheelchair-friendly.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Build?
The best time to build your herb spiral is the early spring, so you are ready to plant directly after the last frost. But don’t let the time of year dissuade you from adding one at other times of the year.
You can also choose to set up the structure at the end of the growing season in preparation for next year’s planting. Anytime in the summer is perfectly fine too. If you already have herbs, you can transplant them into your herb spiral.
Why Should You Plant An Herb Spiral?
- Allows you to grow much more within a limited space,
- Creates multiple environments ( microclimates) in a small area,
- It makes harvesting your herbs so much easier because they are all together.
- Herb spirals make a beautiful feature in any garden or yard.
- The design saves on resources like water since watering becomes part of the process. You water the top, so the water works its way down to the bottom.
- It prevents any need for herbicides or pesticides.
- Perennial, so sustainable from year to year
How To Maintain Your Herb Spiral
If you have constructed your herb spiral correctly, there is very little maintenance that you will have to do. In the beginning you may need to monitor the herbs more to be sure they are getting the right amount of sun, shade and water. Relocate any herbs based on your observations.
You will want to watch any trees you have in your yard. They might require a trim should they start to create too much shade for your herb spiral.
Any other maintenance is just to ensure your walls are strong enough to contain the soil.
Weeding In The Herb Garden
The reason you put the gravel or landscaping cloth at the bottom is to control any weeds. You may have the occasional weed seeds that nature plants on top though.
However, remember that all weeds are not bad; some may be herbs that you just don’t know about.
Try to identify what you might think is a weed before you pull it. You might find that you can not only eat it, but it provides value to the domestic herbs you are growing.
There are a few great plant identifying apps, plant.net, and inaturalist.org. These are great apps to have on your smartphone and make plant identification very easy.
Knowing what grows in your garden is very beneficial and fun. You might find what you have been pulling out and throwing away is actually a very good medicine.
That’s about all you need to start an herb spiral. I found the best way was the first year to make a very small spiral. This teaches what herbs do the best in which positions on the spiral in your garden.
The next season, I made a much larger spiral, which provided great yields of herbs the very first year and continues to do so.
The last bit of advice I can give is to not worry about stacking your plants. As long as you plant the larger herbs according to their requirements, you can use them to shade the more delicate herbs.
Planting man herbs close together with a lot of varieties is not an issue.
Are You Ready To Build Your Own Herb Spiral?
Building an herb spiral will be one of the most fun projects you will do in your garden or yard this year.The reward of having fresh herbs at your fingertips, without having to pay, is so worth the effort.
Make sure to get your family, friends, and neighbors involved. Once they see the benefits of your spiral herb garden, they will undoubtedly want one of their very own.
Spring is here, so time to get our hands dirty, have fun, and reap the rewards for years to come.