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Building a Herb Spiral

Herb spirals are space-saving, energy-efficient gardens designed to use nature’s forces to their advantage.

Herb spirals are a vertical garden design - a highly productive and energy-efficient way to grow food whilst maximising space. Herbs are the perfect plants for spiral gardens as they have a variety of requirements with regards to water, light and space, and the spiral will offer varying conditions to suit.

This type of garden utilises the natural force of gravity, allowing the water to drain down through the layers. This creates a moist area near the bottom and drier zones at the top. Microclimates are created, providing a range of conditions for different plants and their needs.

A flourishing herb spiral

An explosion of thyme, oregano and rosemary in the herb spiral at Bringelly Public School.

Laying bricks

Constructing a herb spiral at Bundanoon Primary School for a teacher professional development day.

Adding carbon

Shredded paper is added in the early layers of a herb spiral. 

Placing herb plants

Place plants where they will be happiest - in drier conditions at the top of the spiral, or moist and cool at the bottom. 

Newly finished herb spiral

A newly completed herb spiral at Bringelly Primary School.

Large herb spiral

An established herb spiral with lots of mulch to mimimise water-loss. 

Harvest ideas

Potential uses for your herb spiral harvest - herbal tea.

Benefits of a Herb Spiral:

 
  • Maximize space to grow more food

  • Multiple microclimates available for optimal plant growth (plants are healthier where growing needs are met)

  • Mixed or companion planting reduces insect problems and fosters beneficial plant relationships for better growth

  • Manage water-use by harnessing the natural force of gravity to perpetuate the growing season

  • Harvesting is easy and all plants are effortlessly accessible

  • Save money by growing your own food

  • Create an attractive garden feature and focal point

Activity: Build a Herb Spiral

Planting Plan:

Think about the plants you would like to include. Some prefer good drainage and direct sunlight, whilst others prefer shade. Here is one possible spiral layout showing some herbs you could use, and where each one will grow well:

Illustration of a plan for a herb spiral including herb suggestions

Materials:

  • Cardboard
  • Bricks
  • Rocks or some sort of building material
  • Soil or materials as for the no-dig garden (pea straw, lucerne, straw, manure, compost)
  • Herbs
  • Additional flowers
  • Water

Construction:

  1. If you are building the herb spiral on grass, first lay a thick bed of newspaper or cardboard with overlapping edges. Give this layer a good soaking of water.

  2. Plan your spiral using your chosen building material to set out a single layer with the spiral flowing in an anti-clockwise direction (water flows anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere). The spiral should also finish facing south, so the lowest end is the shadiest and therefore most moist section of the garden.

  3. Continue laying the building blocks (bricks or stone etc.) getting higher as you spiral inwards. There are no specific rules for size and dimensions of herb spiral gardens, but a common spiral would be one metre high in the centre and one and a half metres in diameter.

  4. Fill the spiral with your chosen soil medium or layer as in a no-dig garden. 

  5. Plant out your herbs considering carefully the position of your plants. 

  6. Water and watch it grow!


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