This eye-catching herb garden can be home to plants with much different growing needs thanks to its multiple levels.
A spiral-shaped garden is an easy way to accommodate herbs that need a variety of growing conditions.
PHOTO: MARTIN BELLMAN
On a trip to Germany to visit my wife’s family, we learned about a clever gardening idea that is very practical and attractive: an herb spiral. When we returned home, we decided to build one of our own.
An herb spiral has a number of benefits: It can be built at little or no cost from readily available materials, it’s a good way in a limited amount of space to grow a variety of herbs that need different growing conditions, it’s easy to plant, tend and harvest, and it’s very attractive. Considering the high cost of culinary herbs, an herb spiral can pay for itself in its first season, and imagine having an abundance of delicious and aromatic herbs right in your yard!
This herb garden also lets us create a variety of microclimates. Some plants, such as many of the Mediterranean herbs, need dry, sandy soil conditions, while others require a moist, bottomland type of soil. The herb spiral accommodates these needs, as it is designed to have different soil conditions at different parts of the spiral. The top is a warm, dry area that gets plenty of sun. The bottom is cool, shady and moist. The middle is, well, in between the two. Herbs that need drier soil drain easily, and plants that desire moister conditions receive water that flows from above.
Construction of our herb spiral was fairly simple. First, we marked the shape of the spiral on the ground with small stones. Then, we began to stack rocks and cinder blocks to make a sturdy wall that supported the infill dirt. We used fieldstones for ours, because we thought they would be the most attractive. As the wall began to take shape, we gradually started to fill it in with the dirt and soil mixture.
We divided our spiral into three zones. The lowest part is topsoil enriched with compost. This is good for parsley, chives and other herbs that like the richer soil. The middle zone consists of two parts soil and one part sand. This is good for coriander and hyssop. The topmost layer has pea gravel and even more sand added to the soil. This is the driest, sunniest part of the garden, and it’s ideal for Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, thyme, lavender and rosemary.
That’s the basic plan, and from there, you can plant whatever suits your needs and enjoy the convenience of aromatic and delicious herbs.
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