A herb spiral is a permaculture concept that puts all your culinary herbs at your fingertips. The design of the spiral is such that it allows for a wide variety of herbs and growing conditions. Heat loving dry herbs go at the top, whereas herbs that prefer shade and moisture go at the bottom. (See our Herb page for a complete list of herbs and their preferred growing conditions)
According to Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison the ideal ratio for a herb spiral is 1.6 meters wide, by 1 – 1.3 meters high. However this is just a guide, make it any size that suits your requirements, bearing in mind that you want the herbs to be readily accessible from all sides.
Start with a bit of planning – What are you going to make your spiral out of? Some ideas include: bricks, stone, concrete blocks, wood. My one is made from river-stones recycled from a previous garden edge.
Give some thought to the herbs you want to plant and their placement. For example, mint, lemon balm or nasturtium may seem like a good idea, but these do have a tendency to take over.
Catnip (Kitty-Cat Cocaine) was also a very bad idea on my part, not only because -cats, but due to that late night harvesting of herbs, roasted pasta sauce with catnip disaster of 2017. (Actually it didn’t taste too bad but not a recipe I care to repeat)
Many web pages and books will tell you start by carefully measuring out your area and removing topsoil. I guess that is an option, but not really how I tend to do things. So I started by dragging a square of wool carpet (weed mat) and a quad bike tyre around the garden until I found the exact spot I wanted to build the spiral.
Then it was a matter of making a mound, for this I used a mix of compost, horse poo, old straw, anything I had to hand. Once a mound had been achieved (roughly) I started the process of rock stacking and shaping. (There is a tradition in rock wall building in the UK that says if you pick up a rock you must place that rock before selecting another. I have no idea why, But it was fun to do).
I started with a single layer of stones, got the rough shape sorted then started on a second layer of stones, building up the soil and compost as I went. In this way rather than a carefully planned and laid out spiral mine became slightly more organic in nature.
Once the spiral was filled in and completed all that remained was to plant it out, choosing mostly perennial herbs such as sage, thyme, oregano, chives, and unfortunately catnip (subsequently moved) and mint (which is now everywhere).
A couple of years on and the spiral is still going strong and providing us with a multitude of fresh herbs!