Herb Spirals


Some permaculturists hate on herb spirals for being an over-used technique that doesn’t fully encompass what permaculture represents.  I think that’s hogwash.  Herb Spirals are a really elegant design for maximizing garden space and creating an interesting landscape feature in the process.  They’re also a great way to introduce people to gardening and permaculture.  It’s a low-maintenance, high-yield system that is visually appealing.  They may not be ideal for large-scale production, but they’re ideal for home-scale herb gardening.  They work by creating microclimates in different parts of the garden.  The spiral is higher in the center, which shades the northern side of the spiral.  Water flows down the garden, so the center/top is drier, while the bottom is wetter.  This allows you to plant herbs that like a variety of conditions, all in the same spot.  It’s best to put a garden like this as close to the kitchen as possible, so you can step outside to pick fresh herbs to use in the kitchen.  You can even add a pond to the bottom of the herb spiral for growing water plants.

Here are the herb spirals that I built during the summer of 2014:

Sprial 1

The client wanted this installation to look aesthetically pleasing, and match the landscaping bricks that lined the other gardens in the yard.

Material Cost – $200ish for materials

Time – 5 Hours over 2 days

~100 Bricks, organic compost, sand, rock rubble from on-site, herbs

Early September and the herb spiral is exploding with life.  Water hyacynth, purslane, marigold, parsley, thyme, chamomille, dill, catnip, lavendar, tarragon, oregano and rosemary.

Water hyacynth, parrot’s feather, and water peppermint in the small pond.

Immediately after construction and transplanting herbs.

Didn’t have anything in the pond at first.

Spiral 2

For this spiral, aesthetics was a priority.

Material Cost – $200 ish for materials

Time – 4 Hours over 2 days

100 bricks, leftover sand, organic compost, rock rubble from on-site, mulch from off-site, herbs and seeds

Eugene picks mint for tea, and basil for salads.

I planted mint, marigold, curly parsley, tuscan basil, garlic chives, fennel, dill, thyme, chamomille, tarragon, sage, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, and a pretty pink flower in the top center.

Right after planting

Gandhi Garden

The Gandhi Garden in downtown Trenton, NJ is a community garden built by the SAGE coallition.  They had reclaimed bricks, and donated soil, so this was a cheap build.

Material Cost ~ $15 for herb transplants

Reclaimed bricks, donated soil, sticks/weeds/etc from on-site

Time – 3 hours in one day with 3-4 volunteers

This had sage, basil, lavendar, oregano, thyme, calendula, chia, rosemary, onions, fennel, dill, and purslane.

Sarah’s Butterfly Community Garden in West Philadelphia

This herb spiral was also built with reclaimed bricks and donated soil.  We had corn transplants, and seeded everything else.

Material Cost ~ FREE

Time – 4 hours over 2 days with 2 volunteers

As it looked in mid-September 2014

We transplanted corn, and seeded echinacea, parsley, chives, fennel, letuce, basil, tarragon, cilantro, oregano, lavendar, and rosemary.

I’m working on an herb spiral info sheet that will have useful information for all the plants I choose from when planting an herb spiral.  It will include care instructions, harvesting instructions, how to use the herbs, and any other useful info I can think of.


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