Herb Spiral

March 31st, 2010
Willow Springs Farm | Blog

An herb spiral is a unique permaculture technique that creates a bunch of microclimates in a small space. This allows for planting sun and shade loving herbs all together. I first heard about herb spirals last summer when Matt attended a permaculture course with Toby Hemenway. I knew I wanted to incorporate one into our farm.

A few weeks ago, my best friend Jessica was here and it seemed like a good idea to build an herb spiral in our “kitchen garden” area. Luckily for me, she agreed. (I must admit it was better than taking apart pallets or shoveling manure…can’t imagine she would have wanted to come back if we worked her too hard!)

We selected a site that was about 6’ feet in diameter (arms length to the center all the way around for ease of harvesting) and began laying out rocks from the center outward in a spiraling counter-clockwise pattern with the entrance facing north to maximize sunlight.

We had done some research and ran across this video tutorial for building soil in an herb spiral. Instead of purchasing dirt or compost, we decided to create our own “9 layer soil dip” that will provide nutrients to the plants for years to come. This was an important consideration for a perenial bed that would be extremely difficult to dig out or amend based on its structure.

9 LAYER SOIL DIP:
1. Dry leaves
2. Cheap soil (just dig a hole in your yard, no need to buy soil)
3. More dry leaves
4. Compost
5. Water (if hot outside)
6. Coco Peat (only at the very bottom of the spiral to hold more moisture)
7. Straw
8. Llama Manure (or cow or horse -anything you have access to)
9. Water
10.More straw
11.Compost
12.Water

We alternated layering rocks and adding to our “soil dip” so that the rocks would have support. Jessica spent a lot of time filling in gaps in the rocks with manure and compost. We built our spiral up to 3’ in the center. It was mostly guesswork to figure out how much of each layer to add.

Matt and I will plant the bed with rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, cilantro, parsley, chives, chamomile, basil, and marjoram. Each herb will be planted in a different area based on it’s needs. For example, rosemary requires good drainage & full sun so will take it’s place at the top our our spiral. Chamomile on the other hand needs a cool shady spot and will sit at the bottom of the spiral in the shade of the rocks and taller herbs.

My hope is that home gardeners will be inspired when they visit our farm and be interested in creating herb spirals and building soil in their own yards.

3 Responses to “Herb Spiral”

Drew Says:
Mar 31st, 2010 at 10:59 am

That sounds like a very cool project, Vanessa.  I bet I could talk Dan into it pretty easily.  We even have a few handy llamas nearby.

Laura Says:
Apr 21st, 2010 at 9:32 am

Is there a Web site you could direct me to in order to find out more about this practice? I would like to know where each herb should be placed on the spiral.

Vanessa Says:
Apr 22nd, 2010 at 5:22 pm

@Laura: The best website I found to figure out where to plant each herb was http://welcometovoluntarysimplicity.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/how-to-build-a-herb-spiral/ I eve.n printed out the diagram. For herbs that weren’t on the diagram, I researched their specific growing needs such as full sun or shade to determine approximate placement. Hope that helps. Best of luck with your own spiral.

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