On a trip to Germany to visit my wife’s family, we discovered a clever, very practical and attractive gardening idea: a spiral of herbs. Back home, we decided to build one of our own.
A herb spiral has a number of advantages: it can be built inexpensively from readily available materials, it is a good way in limited space to grow a variety of herbs that have need different growing conditions, it is easy to plant, care for and harvest, and it is very attractive. Considering the high cost of culinary herbs, an herb spiral can pay off in its first season, and imagine having an abundance of delicious and aromatic herbs in your garden!
This herb garden also allows us to create a variety of microclimates. Some plants, such as many Mediterranean herbs, need dry, sandy soils, while others require moist shallow-type soil. The herb spiral meets these needs because it is designed to have different soil conditions at different parts of the spiral. The top is a hot, dry area that gets a lot of sun. The background is cool, shady and humid. The middle is, well, in between. Herbs that need drier soil drain easily, and plants that want wetter conditions receive water flowing from above.
Building our herb spiral was pretty straightforward. First, we marked the shape of the spiral on the ground with small stones. Next, we started stacking stones and cinder blocks to create a solid wall that supported the infill soil. We used fieldstones for ours because we thought they would be the most attractive. As the wall began to take shape, we gradually began to fill it with the mixture of earth and soil.
We have divided our spiral into three areas. The lowest part is the topsoil enriched with compost. It’s good for parsley, chives, and other herbs that like richer soil. The middle area consists of two parts of land and one part of sand. It’s good for cilantro and hyssop. The top layer contains gravel and even more sand added to the soil. This is the driest, sunniest part of the garden, and is ideal for Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, thyme, lavender, and rosemary.
This is the basic plan, and from there you can plant whatever suits your needs and enjoy the convenience of aromatic and delicious herbs.
Originally published: June / July 2011