Have you discovered the many benefits of a spiral herb garden? It seems nowadays you cannot read anything about gardening or permaculture without hearing about herb spirals.
There is a good reason for that. Herb spirals are not only a sensible way to grow herbs. They also create a great visual interest in your garden. In this article, we’ll review the benefits of growing your herbs in this type of design and how it works.
What Is An Herb Spiral?
The herb spiral is a decorative and functional way to add herbs to your garden. The design of the garden is built using an upwards spiral that gets higher as it moves towards the center section.
A retaining wall made of stones, brick, tree stumps, or other sturdy material creates the structure of the garden. Then, herbs are planted along the pathways created by the retaining wall. Growing vertically provides more planting space, making it an efficient way to grow a larger variety of plants.
What Makes The Spiral Design So Special?
The circular, raised structure creates several different microclimates within a confined space. These individual climate zones create the perfect environment for all your culinary or medicinal herbs even though they may have different growing requirements.
The top of the structure has well-draining soil and receives the most sun. The lower sections will get the most moisture as the water flows from the upper sections.
The eastern side of the spiral herb garden receives morning sun and afternoon shade. And the bottom of the spiral can be either shadier toward the north or sunnier on the south side.
This design allows you to plant both sun-loving drier herbs like Rosemary in close proximately to herbs that prefer more moisture in the soil.
Using The Spiral Herb Garden In Permaculture Designs
The layout of the herb spiral was first introduced by the founders of permaculture, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison. The term permaculture is the combination of two words: permanent and agriculture. The general concept is to develop a sustainable way of growing food where every element, natural or man-made, has a purpose.
Several permacultural design elements can be seen in the spiral herb garden.
- The retaining walls support the upper levels of plants that need more sun and better drainage.
- Taller herbs on one side of the spiral can provide shade for the herbs below.
- Water collects at the bottom of the spiral supporting the herbs that enjoy a wetter environment.
The goal of a permaculture garden is to work with nature, not against it, utilizing every element to its fullest.
Which Way Should The Garden Spiral?
The answer depends on where you live. In the northern hemisphere, herb spirals should be planted clockwise or unwinding to the right. In the southern half of the globe, the spiral should unwind to the left or counterclockwise.
The reason for the different planting directions is based on the movement of the ocean’s currents and the rotation of the Earth. Water and air naturally flow to the right in the northern hemisphere and in the opposite direction in the south. This is what is known as the Coriolis Effect.
Since the goal of the spiral herb garden is to work with nature, it makes the most sense to plant in the same direction that water naturally flows.
The Benefits of The Spiral Herb Garden
There are numberous benefits to including an herb spiral in your garden layout.
1. Grow A Variety Of Herbs In A Single Location
One of the biggest benefits of the herb spiral is the variety of herb you can grow. The spiral creates several microclimates, that allows you to grow herbs that thrive in different environments in one small area.
- Place the herbs which prefer maximum sun exposure on the sunny side of the spiral at the top or southwest side.
- Plant the herbs that enjoy partial sun or morning on the eastern slop or under taller herbs that will shade them from direct sun.
- You can plant herbs requiring less water or more drainage on a steeper portion of the spiral.
- Then you plant moisture-loving herbs on the flatter surfaces of the spiral.
The spiral design gives you total control over access to the herbs.
- Build your spiral as close as you can to your kitchen and harvest all of your herbs from a single area.
- You can build your spiral to reach every herb without having to walk within the circle.
- Or you can make it larger so that you have a path or bench for sitting beside your herbs inside the spiral.
3. More Control Over Growing Conditions
Planting your herbs in spiral, gives you tight control over watering and sun exposure.
- You control the amount of water and sun each herb receives by choosing the planting location.
- Use taller herbs or existing structures to add shade where needed.
- A fountain or drip system can be added to water the herbs from the top layer.
- You can even build a pond on the bottom to let the water fully drain down and collect in a single location.
4. Efficient Use Of Space
One of the beautiful aspects of an herb spiral is you don’t require a lot of space. You can plan the layout of your garden to fit the amount of space available. The vertical nature of your garden will still produce far more herbs than the equivalent flat space.
- An herb spiral is the best way to maximize your herb yields in smaller spaces.
- If you have a large garden, you can build a big herb spiral in the center of the yard, making it the primary focal feature of your landscaping.
- Apartment dwellers can even create a herb spiral on a patio or rooftop using planters and bricks.
5. Herb Spirals Requires Very Few Tools To Build
Most herb spirals don’t require a degree in construction to build. All you need to the tool you use everyday in gardening.
- A standard shovel/spade for site preparation.
- A gardener’s mini spade to plant your herbs.
- A Wheelbarrow to move the stone, bricks, or other retaining wall material.
- A pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands as you work.
6. Flexible Budget
You can be as frugal or expensive as you like for the edge and soil containment materials.
The amount of money you spend is up to you; it can be substantial or nothing.
- If budget is not a problem, you can purchase gorgeous building stones or bricks from your local garden nursery.
- But if money is tight, you can search for materials that others have discarded and repurpose them. A few examples of recycled materials for the structure include old pallets, tires, or rocks from the beach or field.
7. Vertical Growing Means Less Bending
The design can be adapted so it is easy to harvest the herbs without straining your back. If you are getting a bit older like I am, you don’t want to be bent over very long cutting herbs.
Build your spiral so bending over is at a minimum. The harder to collect herbs at the high points of the spiral, the easier ones below.
8. Organic Pest Control
By positioning your herbs correctly, you create a barrier for pests. Different herbs will repel different pests. You can place your herbs so that they support each other.
- Herbs that are susceptible to certain pests can be protected by the plants that repel those same pests.
- Many herbs will deter many of the insects that are irritable to humans, like mosquitos, black flies, wasps, and midges or sandflies. Lavender, lemongrass, and basil are all good insect repelling herbs.
- Different herbs will support each other when placed according to their strengths.
9. Take Advantage Of Companion Planting
With a bit of research, you will learn how to place herbs together to benefit each other. It might be as simple as one shading the other, or more specific, like adding nutrients to the soil that complement each other.
Some herbs will attract beneficial insects such as pollinators. These insects will help support the rest of your vegetable garden and flowers.
Following these basics, you will be off to a great start. You will soon start to realize productive yields of the herbs you love, making life healthier, easier, and less expensive.
The final layout of your herb spiral is really up to your imagination. You can make it as straightforward or as intricate as you want. But no matter which design you choose, you will have a steady supply of herbs for many years to come.