Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's an Herby Spirally Sorta Day

i am so chuffed. truly. we got a second bed completed yesterday .... and it's raining today so it's all settling in beautifully.

but .... there has been this "thing" i've been wanting to try .... an herb spiral.  and guess what?

I HAVE ONE NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  <g>

oh .... in case you didn't notice .... i'm happy!

son #2 thinks that this makes a
great yard game!
if you are a permie freak then you'll know what i'm talking about .... whether you have built one or not.  it's a way to add heaps of additional garden space in a controlled way ... and in a bit of a micro climate that maximizes the use of sun/shade for different types of plants.  it is most commonly used for an herb spiral .... but once you understand what it is .... well, there are myriads of applications for it.

you can build it any size you like, out of any materials that you might have.  they just need to be stable.  we have heaps of pavers laying around our backyard .... so i chose to do it with those.  i have also kept the size on the small side, wanting to easily be able to reach the middle without having to reach too far.  you can also build them as high as you want too .... but again ... practicality should play a part (e.g., i would've liked mine a little higher at the middle .... but we were running out of good pavers to use!).
tada!  the basics are

so i laid it out .... using the first course to get the size and layout correct.  take the time to get this right.  observe where your sun is so that you utilize the shape based on that.  many people (and we will too - eventually), put a bog or a pond at the bottom   because of the natural flow and run off.  it's a great place for frogs to lay eggs and to grow water chestnuts and water cress.  that'll be stage 2 for us.  but anyway, once you've got the courses laid out the way you want, then you start building it up.  remembering that the center needs to be the highest point.  so at different intervals you will need to start tapering your bricks back so that it actually spirals down.

after this you will need to start filling it. this is where the natural course of decomposition and dad-gum easiness just take over.  ripped up cardboard are at the very bottom ... taking up space (lovely stuff that decomposes nicely!).  on top of this is a thick layer of wood mulch that settles in around it all.  another great decomposer.  and on top of this goes straw.  heaps and heaps of straw.  packed in .... firmly .... but not too tight -- all the way to the top.  and that's it.  your herb spiral foundation is done.  oh.... and don't forget to water.... water it heaps and heaps .... that's the trigger that will start your lovely decomposing state and allow for great soil to be built.  qualifier here.  there are several different materials you can use in the building of the bed matter for your spiral ... the key is that they all should be materials that will decompose and allow for the building up of the soil material.

the rosemary standing tall and
majestic in the herb spiral.
but what?  yeah ... how do plants grow in it with no soil to start off with?  well .... here is the trick!  you push the straw aside and create lovely little pockets where you put a hand full of good and yummy compost material and plant your plants in that!  remembering sun conditions for your spiral and what your plants need. i have planted my rosemary that was really struggling at the very top as it is a more mediterranean type of plant, along with thyme and oregano -- this is the dryer part of the bed.  on the north facing side i have place my coriander ... which enjoys partial shade.  parsley will go everywhere .... because it survives everything ... and as we all know ... you can never have too much parsley!  i'll be splitting my lemon grass and putting a heap of it in there too.  i've got chives and marjoram seeding now and my latest diggers order includes sorrel, tarragon, a couple of varieties of sage and some funky new basil.  this thing will be packed come spring!  <g>

Resources.  i thot it would be helpful to provide resources from other folks and see how they do it.  you can google "how to build an herb spiral" and you'll get these along with heaps of others too .... i always find it is really good to see how others are doing it, and then adapt it to what works for my location and lifestyle.

How To Build and Herb Spiral
YouTube Video on how to build
Great PDF Resource
Alternate Uses of an Herb Spiral
Another Good Resource


  1. Very interesting , Maggie. I like the idea. I have heard of people planting strawberries in these too and letting the plants cascade down. I am just looking at all the spare bricks we have and thinking this could be a good idea at our place too.Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. kim -- strawberries! yes! and it would look really nice too! i was going to put my lemon grass at the top, because it would look nice, but realised that it would actually overwhelm most of everything else it's so huge! so it will go on the back side i think .... where it gets morning northerly sun.

  3. Very interesting ... looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

  4. Just found your blog on Blotanical...looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  5. Wow, very cool! Looking forward to seeing how it grows! Just found you through Blotanical, I'm always so excited to find other Aussie gardeners, helps on those days when I am homesick and gardening in rainy Seattle. Looking forward to following you...cheers Julia

  6. thanks all! promise i'll keep pics up-to-date with the progress! have planted out a bit of oregano and some lemon grass in it now .... so it is slowly getting there. we are in the dead of winter here in australia ... so i imagine springtime will see some great stuff happening in my spiral! maggs