Herb Spiral - How-to build one for your home and what to plant

Raised beds can be all sizes and shapes, including circles, rectangles, squares and half-moons. While visiting Germany last month we saw our first Herb Spiral, a semi-circular raised bed where a wide variety of herbs can be grown in a small space.

Our cousin Inge Bonfert said she built the one at her new apartment six months before moving to Morlenbach Germany. Hers holds over a dozen herbs in a 6-foot raised and sloping bed.
“After I located the apartment where I wanted to move, I told the landlady what I wanted to do and she not only agreed that I could build it, her family helped with the construction,” said Bonfert.

Herb spirals are built to resemble a snail shell, with each spiral moving downward, supporting plants that require more and more moisture. At the bottom a small pond is placed where water-loving herbs can thrive.  

The growing environment at the top is constructed to have drainage for plants such as rosemary, thyme and lavender. In and around the pond, watercress and Water Mint thrive.

The spiral bed can be held together with a structure of rock, brick, or wire. The heat of the sun is absorbed by the outer rocks or bricks and gravel is used for drainage in the upper portion.

Bonfert said she wanted to build the herb spiral because she uses quite a lot of fresh herbs in the kitchen every day.
“Also, it is the smallest unit of permaculture possible, making it an ideal, attractive, addition to small garden spaces,” Bonfert said.
The whole idea behind permaculture is to find a sunny spot for your mini-garden close to the kitchen so you can leave it in the same place for years.

Measure the size you want your finished garden to be. In the middle of the planned space, put a stake with a string attached and mark the finished size with stakes, flour or garden hose. The finished garden does not have to be perfectly round but the pond will ideally face some shade to keep it cooler in the summer.  
Over the area of the planned bed, lay down newspaper or old cardboard (with any tape or plastic stripped off) to act as a building site and weed barrier.
Use rocks to lay out the foundation of the spiral. The outer edge is only one rock deep and you will need to stack several rocks to make the highest point. As the wall grows taller, fill in with gravel and/or sand to add drainage and to hold the structure in place. The compost and soil will go on top, creating a raised bed. Your spiral can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, and can be as tall or compact as you want it to be.
At the end of the spiral where the small pond goes, cap the soil with flat rocks that frogs could use to gain access to the pond.
When construction is complete and the soil is in place, water the entire bed and allow it to settle. Add more soil where it is needed and plant the herbs or seeds.
Bonfert said, “The place I went to buy the stones gave them to me and the sand I needed to mix with the soil was from a local construction site. My only purchase was potting soil and plants.”

There are several methods and materials that can be used to build spiral herb beds.
Internet resources
Well-illustrated rock wall Herb Spiral - http://bit.ly/17FOIU8
Helpful video of process, starting with compost and cardboard on the bottom - http://bit.ly/16SOoF
Rock – double -spiral design - http://bit.ly/az4IIE

Basic rock construction - http://bit.ly/aMhTw
Wire and rock method - http://bit.ly/MC0imK


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