Spring is finally here, and it is time to plan for the upcoming gardening season. While it is easy to just get back into the routine of how you have typically gardened in the past, it is worth considering that there are now many techniques that can make your gardening easier, more productive and even require less space.
One of these making-gardening-easier techniques is known as an herb spiral, a specialized raised-bed gardening method that originated from permaculture.* An herb spiral is essentially a three-dimensional helix that coils up to 20-30 linear feet of growing space into a vertical spiral that measures approximately five feet across.
The mound shape of an herb spiral ensures that plants are growing in all directions and in a variety of microclimates. For example, the sunny south-facing slope creates hotter conditions than in the north-facing slope, and the soil at the top of the spiral will be higher than the soil at the bottom.
An herb spiral has many of the advantages of a raised bed garden, but with additional features:
- Herb spirals allow you to easily grow many different plants within arm’s reach without the need to bend over very far to access most of them. This is great for older and wiser folks and those with back problems!
- Because of its raised bed nature and the fact that you can add the best soil and materials to grow in, herb spirals allow you to grow a productive garden despite poor soil conditions on site, and to significantly reduce the opportunities of weed growth from seeds that are present in the soil on site.
- You can take advantage of the opportunity to grow different plant varieties in a variety of microclimates (e.g., hot and dry conditions at the top as well as moist and cooler conditions at the bottom).
There are other reasons you should consider an herb spiral. For example:
1. Grow a variety of plants. Although herb spirals are ideal places to grow herbs, you can grow many different types of small plants in them, such as strawberries, lettuce salad greens, and flowers. Both annual and perennial plants can be grown in herb spirals.
2. Build it within an afternoon. Because the process of building an herb spiral simply involves laying down bricks or rocks on top of one another into a spiral pattern, you don’t need any special carpentry or masonry skills to build one.
3. Save space. Because you are primarily growing vertically instead of horizontally, you can grow many plants within a much smaller garden space than a traditional herb garden.
4. They look beautiful. An herb spiral is a very attractive addition to your garden and yard. After your neighbors see your beautiful new herb spiral, they might want one of their own!
Read to get started? Then try these tips for successful construction and maintenance …
Add additional compostable substrate materials to your herb spiral at the beginning of each garden season if the growing substrate in your herb spiral is composed primarily of organic materials such as straw, twigs, logs and leaves that break down over the course of a gardening season.
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To help provide some bulk and support for the growing substrate in your spiral, you can place some rocks, concrete rubble or subsoil at the base and add your topsoil for growing in over that. Primarily using soil for the bulk of the substrate in your herb spiral will help to support your growing medium structurally, but you will want to regularly enrich the soil with organic matter or compost, just like you would in any other garden.
To build the structure of your herb spiral, you can certainly buy new rocks or bricks, but an herb spiral can also be constructed using extra rocks or bricks that you have lying around on your property.
You can also check with your neighbors or on websites like Craigslist to see if anyone is getting rid of these materials for free. This typically occurs in the spring, when people are doing landscaping projects in their yard. Access to a pickup truck or a trailer will come in very handy to haul these materials!
Put down a few layers of cardboard prior to laying down any stones or bricks to keep weeds from being able to grow through your spiral.
Build your herb spiral close to your back door, where you can easily access it and harvest fresh herbs and other plants for preparing meals in your kitchen.
Do you have any tips on building an herb spiral? Share them in the section below:
*Permaculture is an ecologically-inspired design system founded in Australia in the mid-1970s for sustainable living and land use that can be applied to many areas of our modern lives, including gardening, farming, building design and local economies. Permaculture design projects are being used today on both small and large scales around the world.