how to build a herb spiral

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Many people seem to be interested in herb spirals, and rightly so if done properly they need little maintenance and can keep you in herbs all year round. For me they encompass all manner of permaculture principles from how close to house you can get it to including a a small pond so frogs can do some of the slug hunting for you.

Basically the idea behind them is to get as many different herbs as possible in a confined area. The spiral and the subsequent hight differences mean that you create a number of different environmental conditions which normally would not be possible in a small space. The small area also means that they are ideal for a small garden and harvesting and watering is easy.

How it works is that you have a spiral bed in which to plant, this is held together with a structure of rock, brick or anything really that can absorb the heat of the sun through the day which in turn heats the soil. The top of the spiral gets more sun and has significanly more drainage than the lower parts, which informs your choice of planting. This means that you are able have thyme gowing almost next to mint or ramsons. The bottom of the spiral often incorporates a small pond allowing frogs and toads to breed and creating a wetter moist environment.

To build your spiral you first need to select a site, about 2m across, this ideally wants to be close to the kitcken but if this means that you have to site it in the shade then you will have to settle for a longer walk. This is at the heart of permaculture principles the siting of your spiral will depend on finding an area which recieves enough sun light to keep mediteranian herbs happy and is not so far away from the house that does not get any use. If you have to pass the veg patch and a green house before you get to it then there will be so many distractions that you will have forgot what you went out there for, or is that just me?

When you have found an ideal compromise between the two measure your circle by estimating the middle and sticking a stick in with a piece of string 1m in length attached to it. This will give you the arc of the circle, use a knife or something which makes a mark to mark this out. There is no reason for it being exactly round but I like it that way, you may just want to do it by eye. Around the outer circle lay a thick layer of cardboard with all the plastic removed, or newspaper, this simply stops weeds growing up through the rocks. Try and face the end of the spiral towards north so as to improve the efficiency, this will make sure that the microclimates you are trying to create are in an ideal situation. However with mine the end does not face north but is slightly in the shade more of the time, like I have said before it will all depend on your site.

Now is the fun part get your rock or what ever you can lay your hands upon, mine is made from rocks and bricks as I did not have enough of either. Start by laying out the shape of the spiral on the ground this will be your foundation. A tip here is to keep the better more attractive rocks for the top, it’s permaculture but it still can be pretty. The rocks around the edge need be only one deep, it’s the middle that you need height. Try and aim for about one meter but again this is not a rule.

As the wall gets higher start to infill with gravel this is for drainage but will also stop a collapse as it gets higher. The type of gravel is up to you use what you have to hand rather than buying something specific. Remember to leave enough space for compost and top soil. You can then treat it as a raised bed. The top of mine has a little more gravel mixed in with the compost to aid drainage. Traditionalists will have you believe that the spiral should go clockwise in the northern hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the south, you can make up your own minds.

Finally the end of the spiral can just be capped with rocks or if you decide for a pond try to make it level with the soil, no lip and have something that creatures can crawl in and out of. Think of it as more of a wet damp area than a conventional pond.

When it’s finished, water it well and allow it to settle. Then you can start to plant it up, the choice of herbs is up to you just bare in mind that the ones which require more drainage go at the top while ones which prefer wetter conditions go at the bottom. One thing to remember is bare in mind the final hight of the herb to be planted as this will effect what can be planted next to it due to the shade it will cast. I would say to leave out things like bay as it grows large and could take over but use common sence. Like with veg growing there is no point filling it with rare and beautiful herbs that you never use, think of what you like and use then find a place for it.

They make an attractive addition to the garden as well as being very productive.

Image taken from


46 thoughts on “how to build a herb spiral

  1. bewing says:

    I have built several herb spirals over the years along with mandala gardens, bopth are a great use of space.

  2. dibnah says:

    Yes I’ve done a couple before and am always pleased with them, I just hope the explanation makes sense.

  3. dibnah says:

    If anybody would like to know more about the process please feel free to ask.

  4. dibnah says:

    thanks to everybody who visits from the downsizer forum

  5. Wellness says:


    I was surfing the web and i saw this site, pretty cool.
    Currently im running and adult site:Wellness
    k, just want to say hi 🙂
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  6. Bral says:

    Hi all. Cool site Google

  7. Naomi says:

    Hi, I am hoping to soon build my first herb spiral – but I’m a bit unclear on exactly how to do this. Do you build up the whole spiral with rocks/bricks right from ground level, or do you build to a certain height, fill with gravel/dirt, and then continue building the spiral from on top of the fill?

  8. dibnah says:

    thats a good question. I feel it’s better to build from the ground with rocks or whatever you have. Fill in halfway up if you are worried about collapse.

    This is my most popular post I think I should do another one with more detail, seen as everyone asks me to make them one. Any ideas what I should add.

  9. Q says:

    Hi – thanks for the instructions. How do you build the pond at the bottom?


  10. dibnah says:

    Just with a small liner as you would a large one or you could even use an old washing up bowl or something similar with some stones in. I used to use an old washing up bowl to try and attract frogs an toads into the garden as free labour on slug patrol. I don’t have a pond at the end of mine as when I built it my son was two and the temptation would have been too great!!

  11. Alice says:

    Best instructions and illustration I’ve found so far on web. Thanks so much. The illustration at wiki on permaculture looks good, but it is too faint for me to see clearly.

  12. claire says:

    I live in Germany, for those of you that don´t know, in Germany it rains a lot, and the winters are wet and cold. Can you give me any tips on how I should take care of my herbs over the winter? Can I leave them outside, or should I bring some in? I want to plant Basil, Mint, Lavender, Dill, Parsly, oregeno, rosmary, lauch, and garlic. Also could you tell me what the best time of year is to plant? I have heard that I should plant only in the spring and fall.


  13. […] For our second day we’ll be building an herb spiral.  An herb spiral is a raised spiraling planting bed that hosts a diversity of herbs – drought tolerant on the top and water loving near the bottom.  The herb spiral will be the focal point of the “cultivation garden” near the front of the park.  Here is a link to learn more about herb spirals: […]

  14. […] there’s the three annual garden beds I want to plant at the front of my warren, and the herb spiral I want to stick in somewhere. And then there’s the pepper bed I want to plant in front of my […]

  15. […] putting in a path, and also a raised bed in the middle. We are still deciding between putting in a herb spiral (I think that it might be difficult getting the right kinds of stackable rocks for it–my mom […]

  16. Karen says:

    Nice ideas.
    Would you mind posting a photo to go with the explanation you gave about solving your pole lathe mechanism problem ? I’m having a similar hiccup but I can’t picture in my head what you have described.

  17. dibnah says:

    can you be a bit more specific sorry I can’t remember which one of the many problems I have with most things.

  18. sweetlocal says:

    Here are some great pictures of an herb spiral at Sweet Local Farm in Ludlow, MA.

    Herb Spiral Pictures

  19. […] made a herb spiral! whee! Here’s more on herb spirals – what are they? How do you make […]

  20. […] seguente, volo d’angelo sulla progettazione integrata attraverso la realizzazione di una spirale per la coltivazione delle aromatiche…. potevamo fare un “giardino dei semplici” ma non sempre è progettazione […]

  21. […] giorno seguente, volo d’angelo sulla progettazione integrata attraverso la realizzazione di una spirale per la coltivazione delle aromatiche…. potevamo fare un “giardino dei semplici” ma non sempre è progettazione […]

  22. […] put some plants in the herb spiral yesterday and covered them with ugly green netting to keep the chickens […]

  23. Ruth Anne says:

    Wonderful idea! Thanks

  24. dibnah says:

    Glad you like it, I must start blogging again!

  25. […] “How to Build an Herb Spiral” by […]

  26. […] can read about the whys and wherefores of herb spirals at Voluntary Simplicity. You may also […]

  27. […] method of planting herbs is becoming common practice. You can see how to make one of these here;  and here;  […]

  28. […] or other materials to create a spiral with plants added between the lines of the spiral. See one here from another blogger, The Kale […]

  29. Iviiria Vari says:

    I’ve been trying to google an answer, but I think it’s getting buried by all the Herb Spiral pages. Can this be done with vegetables as well? I’m picturing a patch corn in the middle taking advantage of the height. I’ve seen this question asked a couple of times in random places, but have yet to see an answer. Cheers. ^_^

  30. sami says:

    if i want to make one on a big terrace/roof area, but the ground is tile, how can i do that? i’m worried about the water drainage since it won’t just drain into the soil right beneath it.

  31. […] And how can these structured shapes be incorporated into the free flowing wild forest garden?   Well;  creatively.   Its true you wouldn’t want to be trimming your shrubs or trees Edward Scissorhands’ fashion into any forced shapes, but the structure of the garden could be shaped in various ways…   A  pond could be created in the round with a center focal point to start.  Any structure you would use, a statue, an arbor, a gazebo can be shaped accordingly or incorporate various geometric shape–the top of a gazebo usually is by nature in the shape of wheel. Pathways can spiral around the garden ending up at a well positioned bench under your favorite Cherry tree.  Also the Spiral lends itself so well to the herb family. This you may already know is a very powerful shape to focus energy by its very form—pulling energies around and into a center vortex point. The ‘herb spiral’ method of planting herbs is becoming common practice. You can see how to make one of these here; how to build a herb spiral […]

  32. Poppy says:

    I hope you don’t mind that I added this link to our NPO facebook page Abundance? I have also posted a picture of our first herb spiral. Thank you your post was very helpful.

  33. […] or other materials to create a spiral with plants added between the lines of the spiral. See onehere from another blogger, The Kale […]

  34. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Thank youu for providing this information.

  35. Alfie says:

    Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A theme lik yours with a few simple adjustements would really make
    my blog jump out. Please let me know where yyou got your theme.
    With thanks

  36. Legolas says:

    u knead a proof reeder

  37. […] How to built a herb spiral garden [] How to built a herb spiral [] […]

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