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4 Step Guide to Building a Herb Spiral

Want to make your own vertical herb spiral garden? This compact space saving design can be made with just a few basic steps.

Construction materials and methods vary so after deciding on the best position and gathering your materials, you can have one built the same day.

 

Stone filled gabion walls are an elegant twist on this herb spiral | The Micro Gardener

Depending on your budget and taste, herb spirals can be made very economically or be quite elaborate like this one with stone filled gabion walls.

 * [The original link to this image (via Cara-Ornamentals) is no longer available. I have no control over this & apologise for any inconvenience but you'll find alternative resources below.]

If you like this particular design and want to learn to make the curved wire baskets, see the end of this post for videos & wire basket suppliers for Gabion Herb Spirals. Here are some basic instructions for making a gabion wall or visit BlondeMafia or Garden Drum. More instructional videos for gabions are here and here. For the tutorial steps, read on!

Think of this as a typical ‘recipe’ you can follow, substituting ‘ingredients’ you have handy.

Materials you’ll need

 

  • Cardboard (without ink or tape), weed mat or gravel – optional but useful to kill weeds if building your spiral straight on top of lawn. (I avoid carpet because it’s likely been treated with chemicals that will leach into the soil as it breaks down). Alternatively, you may need a drill for drainage holes if building on concrete.
  • Long stake. Secure a 1m length of string to the stake and tie at the other end with a lightweight stake, bamboo cane or chalk. Use this to draw a line on the ground to measure out the circle.

 

Assemble all materials ready to make the herb spiral | The Micro Gardener

Gather edging materials e.g. bricks, pavers, stones, rocks – choose long-lasting materials for a permanent structure.

 

  • Organic matter such as mushroom compost, worm castings, lucerne, mulch, straw and garden soil to build fertility to feed your garden long term (quantity depends on diameter of your spiral).
  • Compost (for planting your herbs into – preferably homemade so it will be full of living microorganisms or alternately, a certified organic compost).
  • Rock minerals and organic fertiliser (to add nutrients to your soil).
  • Mulch (whatever you have available) e.g. lucerne, sugarcane, baled grassy mulch hay, pea straw, grass clippings, leaves, etc.
  • Herb seedlings; bay tree and vegetable seedlings if planting.
  • (Optional) pond materials and irrigation fittings if including.

 

Location

 

Locate your herb spiral close to the kitchen for easy harvesting. | The Micro Gardener

Choose a spot that ideally receives 5 full hours sun/day and is close to your kitchen for easy access.

 

Orientate your pond or bottom of the spiral on the southern side in the Southern Hemisphere and northern side in the Northern Hemisphere. When it comes to planting, this will allow you to position your plants according to their sun, shade and water requirements.

 

Herb spiral with compass points. | The Micro Gardener

Herb spiral with compass points.

 

How to Build Your Spiral

 

STEP 1: Measuring up – Have someone hold or bang the stake into the central point of the ground where you want to position your herb spiral. To determine the perimeter, stretch out the string attached to the centre stake to mark out your circle, drawing a line in the soil with the other stake or bamboo cane tied on the end of it (or use chalk if you are marking out a hard surface).

 

Measuring out a herb spiral | The Micro Gardener

An alternative method for marking out your spiral.

 

The diameter averages between 1.5 – 2m (5 – 6.5 ft) or 750cm – 1m (2.5 – 3.25 ft) from the centre. 

Tip: If building straight on top of concrete, make sure you drill holes or have adequate drainage.

 

STEP 2:  Your base – if starting on lawn you will need to stop weeds from growing. Cardboard can be used for this purpose to sheet mulch and build the spiral on top. No light = no weeds! Some people use newspapers or thick phone books instead but I choose to avoid adding anything to my organic garden with inks that may be based on genetically modified soy beans. Cardboard edges need to be well overlapped to block all light.

 

Cardboard base laid for a herb spiral to block weeds. | The Micro Gardener

Cardboard is easily accessible for free from most businesses that pay to have it taken away and recycled + we can tread a little lighter on the planet at the same time!

 

Lay your weed mat or wet cardboard (soak with a hose or in a wheelbarrow) to cover the circle you have marked out. Cardboard will breakdown and add carbon to your soil and provides a food source for microorganisms. You may also choose to add some organic matter under this to accelerate breakdown of the cardboard such as chopped vegetable scraps and other green waste from your garden.

 

Herb spiral base pegged out, laid with drainage gravel & pond positioned. | The Micro Gardener

The base for this site has been pegged out, a gravel base laid and pond positioned.

 

STEP 3: Construct the wall structure – Using your edging material of choice, start laying your bricks/rocks on the outer edge and working inwards to create a spiral shape, allowing about 0.5m (1.6 ft) width to plant into or adjust if making a smaller spiral.

 

Laying out the basic shape of the spiral on top of the gravel base. | The Micro Gardener

To minimise your cost and time, use the dry stone wall method where rocks or bricks are laid on top of each other, overlapping for stability.

 

For a more formal look, use mortar or cement between your bricks or stones.

Tip: Save your best looking materials for the outside ‘face’ and those that will not be seen on the inside of the spiral.

If using heavy rocks or stone, you may prefer to dig a shallow trench around the circumference of the circle and lay these into it on top of a layer of cardboard or weed mat to prevent weeds. If using the dry stone wall method, you may find it easier to add your organic materials as you go to provide support rather than adding these at the end for the mortar method.

 

Building a spiral - the width may vary depending on your requirements and space. | The Micro Gardener

A small herb spiral being constructed with bricks inside a raised garden bed with cardboard and gravel added at the base.

 

Once you have your basic shape laid out around the circumference, add a second tier of bricks, remembering the outside ‘wall’ of your spiral is lowest (e.g. 2 bricks high or perhaps 1-2 rocks depending on size – enough to retain your soil).

 

Pavers have blocked off the end and laid gradually rising to the centre ready for adding organic materials. | The Micro Gardener

Use more bricks or rocks to build the internal spiral walls, gradually increasing the height as you work your way into the centre.

 

The middle will usually end up about 1m (2.5 ft) high with a central planting area, gradually tapering down in height on a light slope to the bottom. You can block it off or add your bog/pond at the base if using.

 

Filling up base with rubble | The Micro Gardener

To minimise the quantity of organic materials required, you may prefer to add some rubble to the centre where the depth is greatest before adding your organic matter.

 

STEP 4: Add your organic materials & nutrition – for each of us this will be different, depending on what you have easy access to. Some people only add mulch or straw to their herb spiral and plant into pockets of compost. If you’re on a tight budget or this is all you have access to, then this system of ‘growing soil’ will work fine but ‘dead dirt’ is unlikely to bring you a successful outcome!

 

Like humans, plants thrive on good nutrition.”

 

Rather than buying in a trailer load of soil from your landscape yard, you can make your own soil teaming with living microorganisms. Soil that has a good structure (a crumbly fine texture that holds moisture well) is ideal for healthy productive plants.

 

Layering organic matter into the spiral. | The Micro Gardener

To achieve this, add different kinds of organic matter that will break down over time, feeding your plants rather than just garden ‘dirt’ which tends to compact & provides little nutrition.

 

These organic ingredients are likely much cheaper than buying in soil too!

Click below for more vertical garden resources

Your support of this site is appreciated!

 

Good sources of organic matter that will build soil fertility include:

  • well rotted manure
  • mushroom compost or even better, your own compost

 

Organic lucerne and sugar cane bales | The Micro Gardener

Lucerne, sugarcane mulch and straw mulches all add organic matter to build soil.

 

  • worm castings from your worm farm
  • moistened coconut fibre; and
  • for lower layers use materials like leaf litter, well chopped prunings and dry grass clippings.

 

Collect & bag leaf litter from gutters - it will breakdown into beautiful humus. | The Micro Gardener

Leaves from gutters are rich in nutrients & a free resource you can use to build your garden.

 

Sprinkle rock minerals (crusher dust from your landscapers is also suitable and very economical) and organic fertilisers as you add the organic matter to build in nutrients as a food source.

 

Certified organic powdered fertiliser with trace elements and minerals | The Micro Gardener

Soil Nutrition: Adding plant food that will release nutrients slowly while you build the spiral will reduce maintenance to a minimum.

 

If you have access to biodynamic preps you may choose to add these too. To assist breakdown and ensure there is enough moisture, water in each layer with liquid seaweed. Expect some natural settling to occur.

 

pH Testers are a low cost tool every gardener should use. | The Micro Gardener

Tip: It’s a good idea to check the pH balance of your organic matter – it may be necessary to sweeten the soil with some dolomite lime if the pH is too high.

 

Moisture loving plants at the bottom of the spiral will thrive if you include some (optional) additional moisture holding ingredients like coconut fibre (coir peat), sphagnum moss, worm castings or some well aged compost (humus).

 

Herb spiral planted out with a pond. | The Micro Gardener

Once your herb spiral is built, you will be ready to plant it out.

 

How to Videos & Resources

 

These videos focus more on constructing the spiral structure than building the soil but I think you will get a better idea watching several spirals being built – they all offer different perspectives and insights!

 

 Watch how to build your soil to feed your plants in a herb spiral, to meet their individual needs (the video quality is not great but the information is helpful!)

 YouTube Preview Image

 

This video covers a Permaculture group building a spiral with straw and planting into pockets of compost.

YouTube Preview Image

 

This video shows a spiral made using rocks and soil.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Dean Chichelli from The Nature Learning Center shows how to build a Spiral Herb Garden – he mainly uses straw and then plants into pockets of compost at the end.

YouTube Preview Image

 

This last video shows how to build a very compact herb spiral with bricks.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Diagramatic technical specifications plan – Full size printable.

 

Herb Spiral Diagramatic Plan with Specifications

 

Tips for Building Your Herb Spiral

 

  • To fill gaps in the perimeter curves of your spiral, use small, cut or broken bricks and stones.
  • You can fill niches with ground covers like oregano or pennyroyal. Sphagnum moss can be pushed into gaps up the wall and a small amount of compost tucked inside to plant into. Or make a seed ball with some compost, a little clay and moist coconut fibre (coir peat) rolled up with seeds inside and push against the wall into the crevice. When the seeds are moist they will germinate and grow into the gaps.
  • Finish with decorative and smaller stones, rocks or bricks at the top.

 

Giant herb spiral with 50m pathway. | The Micro Gardener

For parks, playgrounds, schools and community gardens where you may want to build a larger spiral, adapt the design to build it on ground level instead. Allow enough space for a pathway alongside the planting area so instead of reaching in to the centre for easy access, you can walk around the spiral to pick your herbs.

 

  • To add a water garden at the base, dig out a hole and add black plastic to line it. You can use any container that will hold sufficient water and grow water loving species like water chestnuts and cress. Alternatively if you live in a dry climate, use the ‘pond’ as a reservoir to water the garden from.

 

Before & After – Some Inspiration!

 

Check out the Herb Spiral photo album on Facebook for more inspiring ideas.

 

A herb spiral - before & after 12 months | The Micro Gardener

LEFT: When spiral was first planted | RIGHT: After 12 months – depending what plants you grow, the edging may not matter!

 

 Really cramped for space? You can still design a mini sized herb spiral!

Herb spiral within a raised bed. | The Micro Gardener

Compact herb spiral in a raised garden bed.

 

Herb spiral on a small allotment. | The Micro Gardener

A clever way to maximise space on a small allotment garden!

 

Bamboo & rock herb spiral - before & after | The Micro Gardener

An alternative building method – with a pile of soil in the centre, then adding bamboo stakes & rock borders.

 More herb spiral photos

 

Gabion Herb Spirals

 
Since first posting the gabion herb spiral design, there has been incredible interest from all over the world in building them. The original image at the top that linked to Cara-Ornamentals is no longer working so below I’ve listed some suppliers and resources that may be helpful if you’re interested in sourcing materials to build your own or search on “gabion wire baskets” or “wire mesh:

 

Tutorial Videos on Gabions

 

Learn how to make a narrow wire basket you can cut to size for your design using these techniques

YouTube Preview Image

Learn how to use free form galvanized wire to form a basket you can fill with stones

YouTube Preview Image

Learn how to assemble a gabion basket step by step

YouTube Preview Image

 

In How to Plant out a Herb Garden, I share a herb plant list to make it easy for you to know what to plant where in your herb spiral and tips for laying it out.

Click below for more vertical garden resources

Your support of this site is appreciated!

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

44 responses so far

44 Responses to “4 Step Guide to Building a Herb Spiral”

  1. [...] is so much more to garlic and I thoroughly recommend you read ‘How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life?‘ to learn and apply how to use it to boost your health and well-being, as well as 500 other [...]

  2. [...] Low cost to build. Use whatever materials you have easy access to or can use to retain the soil. If you make your own [...]

  3. Jean Burkeon 17 Jul 2012 at 12:19 pm

    A great idea, and easy to follow.

  4. The Micro Gardeneron 17 Jul 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks Jean! Hope this will inspire a whole new generation of gardeners enthralled with herb spirals. As a permanent garden feature, they also add value to property! :)

  5. How to Plant out a Herb Garden |on 15 Aug 2012 at 2:59 pm

    [...] Or herbs that rotted and drowned due to waterlogged roots?  Whether you’re planting out a herb spiral, a pot or garden bed, I hope you enjoy my 5 Step Guide to Planting Herbs plus tips on where to [...]

  6. caronon 10 Sep 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Make your own 4 step guide vertical herb spiral garden – can you send me the instructions how to build the vertical one made out of chicken wiring please? I be very grateful as I would like to build one for my garden.

  7. The Micro Gardeneron 11 Sep 2012 at 7:02 am

    Hi Caron
    If you click the image (http://www.caras-ornamentals.com/id2.html) in the post, it will link you to the website that sells the materials for this design. You can buy direct if you are in this location or otherwise perhaps source the same materials in your area and make your own. This style of herb spiral is made with Gabion (or stone filled) walls. It is a more expensive design but a permanent feature and looks amazing.
    Here are some basic instructions for making a gabion wall – you can curve the wire to the shape of a herb spiral. There are also good instructions in these other posts:
    http://blondemafia.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/how-do-you-make-gabion.html
    http://gardendrum.com/2012/04/21/how-to-build-a-gabion-wall/
    Hope this helps! Have fun. :)

  8. caronon 11 Sep 2012 at 6:36 pm

    thank you i will do x:)

  9. narf7on 31 Oct 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Hi Annie, another fantastic post and one that is particularly pertinent to what we are doing on Serendipity Farm at the moment. Steve is going to build me a gabion walled herb spiral to grow next to our new veggie beds and this was an incredible find! Cheers for the idea and for the prototype to work from :)

  10. The Micro Gardeneron 31 Oct 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Great that the timing and info is useful Fran. As mentioned in the comment to Caron, here are some basic instructions for making a gabion wall – you can just curve the wire to the shape of a herb spiral. Your place must be amazing now! If I ever get to Tassie I’d definitely love to catch up and see all the brilliant projects you and Steve are doing.

  11. [...] get inspiration during the colder months I won’t have plans set when the weather warms.  How to build an herb spiral.  This looks natural and gorgeous at the same [...]

  12. [...] found this on Pinterest (of course) and followed the link to an amazing blog post. on how to build your own Herb spiral. It has so so so much information. I am in my full blown [...]

  13. [...] Learn how to build a Herb Spiral in 4 easy steps. This clever vertical garden design is a highly productive, energy efficient way to grow food & maximise space.  [...]

  14. chuckon 07 Mar 2013 at 3:59 am

    Thank you for the inspiring site. My wife wants one now so I guess i have my work cut out for me this spring. lol

  15. The Micro Gardeneron 07 Mar 2013 at 11:07 am

    Glad you have been inspired Chuck! Wives have a way of encouraging their husbands to manifest great ideas. I’m sure your herb spiral will be a feature for many years to come and an enjoyable project. Every one I’ve been involved in has been different which is why they are so fascinating! Have fun and please share a pic when it’s done.

  16. Lylaon 08 Mar 2013 at 3:37 am

    I saw the gabion walled herb spiral on Facebook and I must say, it’s amazing! A friend and I want to make them for our yards, but she has a concern about the top plant not getting enough water. Is this a problem we need to be concerned with? Also, I read through the instructions for making the other varieties of spiral gardens. They said to put uninked cardboard down as a base. Is this what we would need for the smaller one we are considering making? Is there anything inside the tall section other than soil? We want to make sure we do it correctly! Thank you so much for your help and your website! Have a MARVELOUS day!

  17. The Micro Gardeneron 08 Mar 2013 at 6:48 am

    Hi Lyla
    Thanks for your feedback. I would suggest also reading the first article in this series ‘15 Benefits of a Herb Spiral in Your Garden‘ as this explains how the watering works in this design. The idea is to select plants for the top that enjoy a sunny dry micro climate and those that need more moisture at the bottom (see part 3 article ‘How to Plant out a Herb Garden‘) for more tips on choosing specific herbs.
    The idea of the cardboard is simply as a natural weed suppressant so you can build straight on top of lawn. If you are building on a hard surface, there’s no need for this. Alternatively you could use weed mat, gravel or another material of your choice. This is just a basic ‘recipe’ you can amend. In the centre of the spiral, to minimise the need for a lot of soil if you only want to plant fairly shallow rooted herbs or perennials, you can also add rubble to the bottom and just fill the top 30cm (1 ft) or so with soil/compost. This keeps the cost down. If however you want to plant say a bay tree in the top, I’d leave more room for the roots so would add the nutrition up the centre. It all depends on your plant choice and budget! Hope this helps. If you haven’t already, check out the categories on the left of the page for more design ideas and subscribe to my free newsletter for future tips. Hope you enjoy your herb spiral project.

  18. [...] http://themicrogardener.com/4-step-guide-to-building-a-herb-spiral/ [...]

  19. Jillon 07 Apr 2013 at 2:32 am

    How do the unsupported walls do in northern climates? Do the walls tend to get pushed outwards with frost heaves? Also shouldn’t you plan to make the spirals small enough that you can reach the top tier without having to tread on the lower tiers? I love this idea!!

  20. The Micro Gardeneron 07 Apr 2013 at 7:38 am

    Hi Jill

    Herb spirals use a raised garden bed design and plants tend to be more vulnerable to frost damage where cold air is in depressions or close to the ground – so they are in fact one way to help protect your plants by insulating them up higher! Spiral gardens are also easy to cover by throwing a sheet or other lightweight material over the top during the night and removing in the morning so the plants can get the warmth of the sun during the day. If you are concerned about the wall strength, rather than using the dry stone wall method, you could use cement to lock your rocks, pavers or materials into place.

    Regarding frost heaves, there are a number of factors that cause this including the amount of soil moisture and soil type. However, you can also take some preventative actions including adding compost, sand and mulch as amendments but also reduce soil moisture when frost is due by managing your watering (See ‘How to Protect Your Plants from Frost Damage‘). “Wet soil will hold more heat than soil that is dry. However, do not saturate the plants while the temperatures are extremely low, as this will result in frost heave and ultimately injure the plants. Light watering in the evening hours, before temperatures drop, will help raise humidity levels and reduce frost damage.”

    There’s also a good article that explains in more detail ‘Protecting against frost heave‘ and this may help you plan your project by taking some additional precautions in your climate.

    Finally, yes the design details are outlined in Part 1 of this series of 3 articles on Herb Spirals. You can check out the full details on width so you can reach easily in Part 1. Part 3 provides you with tips on planting.

    Hope this helps Jill! :)

  21. [...] How to Build an Herb Spiral – These are a fantastic way to make the most of a small space, because they are built vertically in a spiral shape. They are beautiful and can be built in such a way that they require very little watering. [...]

  22. Joeyon 12 Apr 2013 at 6:01 am

    I was wondering if there were instructions for making the small one on top?

  23. The Micro Gardeneron 12 Apr 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Joey
    The construction method is the same for all herb spirals but if you are referring to the first pic with gabion stone walls, there are links just below the photo to how to construct these specifically. That particular design comes as a kit however you can make your own gabion walls for your herb spiral following the other links and video tutorials. Hope this helps. Let me know if you need further assistance! :)

  24. [...] This blog post at http://www.themicrogardener.com is what got me thinking about herb spirals! [...]

  25. [...] 4 Step Guide to Building a Herb Spiral | – The Micro Gardener … [...]

  26. Home, Yard, Garden | Pearltreeson 22 Jun 2013 at 3:56 pm

    [...] 4 Step Guide to Building a Herb Spiral | Growing apple trees in the home garden can be fun and rewarding. [...]

  27. [...] Learn how to build a Herb Spiral in 4 easy steps. This clever vertical garden design is a highly productive, energy efficient way to grow food & maximise space.  [...]

  28. Judyon 16 Aug 2013 at 3:20 am

    I was wondering…I have a air conditioner hose that spews water outside. Could I put this hose so it drains on my herbs or is there something in there that would harm them. It seems like a great way to use the water.

    Thanks!

  29. [...] Learn how to build a Herb Spiral in 4 easy steps. This clever vertical garden design is a highly productive, energy efficient way to grow food & maximise space.  [...]

  30. The Micro Gardeneron 17 Aug 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Judy

    Thanks for your question! We collect the water from our air conditioner hose outlet in a small container and reuse on the adjacent garden (as we do with the outlet on our hot water heater). The water is from internal moisture (humidity) from your home – I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t reuse this valuable resource! Great thinking. :)

  31. Francineon 15 Sep 2013 at 6:22 am

    What a beautiful website, I spent some time clicking around this afternoon and fell in love, thank you Judy

  32. The Micro Gardeneron 15 Sep 2013 at 7:42 am

    Thanks so much for your feedback – I hope you found what you’re looking for. Let me know if you need help with something specific. :)

  33. [...]  Build Your Very Own Herb Spiral In Just 4 Easy Steps [...]

  34. [...] Image Credit: Themicrogardener.com [...]

  35. [...] the seeds when you see wild herbs, to help them reproduce. Propagate rare herbs in your backyard herb spiral. Share this:TwitterFacebookGooglePinterestEmailRedditStumbleUponPrintLike this:Like [...]

  36. Aaron's Spot | Spiral Herb Gardenon 05 Jan 2014 at 9:30 am

    […] Link […]

  37. […] 1. It’s easy to plan but can get costly and time consuming to make.  There are a few different ways to make a spiral too.   View instructions here. […]

  38. […] Learn how to build a Herb Spiral in 4 easy steps. This clever vertical garden design is a highly productive, energy efficient way to grow food & maximise space.  […]

  39. […] Here’s the link to the full tutorial…TheMicroGardener – 4 Steps To Build A Herbal Spiral […]

  40. How To Build A Herb Spiral Garden!on 11 Mar 2014 at 5:29 am

    […] For full instructions go here: http://themicrogardener.com/4-step-guide-to-building-a-herb-spiral/ […]

  41. […] TheMicroGardener – 4 Steps To Build A Herbal Spiral […]

  42. […] Here’s the link to the full tutorial…TheMicroGardener – 4 Steps To Build A Herbal Spiral […]

  43. 19 Creative Flower Planters »on 15 Apr 2014 at 8:05 am

    […] 8. Herb spiral garden via the Micro Gardener. […]

  44. Permaculture | Pearltreeson 15 Apr 2014 at 6:37 pm

    […] 4 Step Guide to Building a Herb Spiral | […]

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