Herbal spiral find more and more lovers. It is relatively easy to build and maintain. Through the different floors, a variety of herbs can be planted in a relatively small space. We give some hints and tips for planning and building a herbal spiral.
Building instructions – build a herbal spiral yourself, put on properly and plant it
If you love fresh herbs and do not always want to depend on the offer on the market or in the supermarket, you should consider building a herbal spiral or herbal snail or placing it in your garden. The materials for a herbal spiral are varied and also depend on whether you want to build them yourself or purchase a finished product. This article contains a construction manual, if you want to build the herb spiral yourself and information, how to create and plant them correctly.
The advantage in any case is always that the herbs are grown in a three-dimensional bed. This makes it possible to meet the requirements of plants from different climates in the smallest of spaces.
A herbal spiral is considered an example of permaculture design. Ultimately, this means that this concept aims at creating permanently functioning, sustainable and natural cycles.
The structure of a herbal spiral
As the name implies, it is a spiraling upwards formation. The replenished soil should be mixed with sand as much as possible to make it permeable. The ideal location for a herbal spiral is sunny and protected from the wind. The sun’s rays allow the herbs to optimally develop their content and aroma. A good place for the herbal spiral is characterized by the proximity to your house. You will then have the opportunity to bring fresh herbs into your kitchen at any time of year and in any weather.
The zones of a herbal spiral
A herbal spiral or herbal snail can be divided into four zones. The transition of the individual zones, however, is fluent, resulting in a variety of different growth conditions.
Ideally, the herbal spiral begins with a small pond on the south side. Such a water surface ensures a moist microclimate. In addition, light and heat are reflected against the south wall and support the roots of heat-loving herbs. At high heat, the pond is mitigating the temperature.
Wet zone or fresh zone
This area is adjacent to the water zone and in the higher part corresponds to the typical temperate climate growth conditions. The soil is still humus rich, but is becoming more permeable. Also there are areas in the partial shade.
The soil in this zone should be humus and be in partial shade. It is advisable to enrich this soil with compost soil. The herbs, which you know from the local garden, find their place here.
Dry zone or Mediterranean zone
In this area of the herbal spiral, the soil is permeable and poor. It is very good if you add lime to the soil. The inner structure of the herbal spiral ensures a good drainage, which can be supported by filling material (tree cuttings, shrubcuttings, hedge trimming). These are ideal conditions for numerous culinary herbs of the Mediterranean.
Build herbal spiral yourself
You want to build your herbal spiral yourself? Well, at first you need a full sunny location in your garden. Most herbs need a lot of light and warmth. The site should not be too small, so that the various herbs can develop well. Depending on the size of your garden, you should plan at least 3 to 7 square meters of space (30 to 75 ft²). From the base of your spiral then the height depends.
The required materials
First of all you need enough stones for the drywall. Gravel or grit is best for drainage and construction debris helps fill the Mediterranean zone. Now to the pond: Here you simply take a prefabricated pond, pond liner or use a bucket. To fill the spiral, you need mixtures of soil, sand and compost or straw. Also used are a spade or a shovel, pegs, a string and possibly a hammer. Once you have all the materials you need, you can start.
In 4 steps to your own herbal spiral
Step 1: Prepare the ground
You have set the place for your herb spiral in the garden? Then first you put off with the pegs and a taut string the floor plan of the structure. You may need to use the hammer to knock the pegs into the ground. Another variant to create a floor plan is a circle. This consists of a string with the length corresponding to the diameter, with a peg at both ends. The one peg (or you can use a bucket as well) is placed approximately in the future center of the herbal spiral and with the other peg draw a circle in the earth with tense cord. Then mark the dry zone or Mediterranean zone with a small circle in the middle.
Both approaches are based on the shape of a snail shell. The spiral should later open to the south. Within the staked area or circle lift the earth deep. The water hole is dug about 40 centimeters deep (15 inches).
If the dug-out material is sandy, you can even use it later as a mixture for the herbal soil.
Step 2: Lay foundation and build drywall
For the wall you need a foundation. To do this you can fill the removed area with a layer of roughly 10 cm (4 inches) thick coarse gravel or stone chippings. However, this does not apply to the pond area. The gravel or the stone chippings serve as a foundation for the wall and serve as a drainage, so that later no waterlogging can occur.
Now the first row of stones is laid. This should be done in the form of a spiral with two turns. Build the wall as a drywall, that is without the use of mortar. Such a wall looks more natural and there is room for herbs and animals between the joints. To form a spiral, pull the stones up in a staircase. More specifically, starting at the humid zone, save one stone on each outer row. This will give you a sloping gradient. The herbal spiral remains flatter in the area of the wet zone and grows upwards with the curves. The resulting area has the advantage that on the one hand the incidence of light is better and you can also accommodate more plants. And you achieve that at the end of the dry zone is the highest range.
Natural stones look very nice for the drywall. These should be at least fist-sized. But also clinker bricks can be used well. It is important that you pay attention to a level substructure to avoid an imbalance of your spiral.
Step 3: Fill the spiral and continue building
Next, fill the area with a layer of coarse gravel, which should reach a height of 50 cm (20 inches) in the inner core. Towards the water point, the strength of the gravel layer decreases progressively. Then build the spiral of stones and earth gradually until you reach the highest point of the spiral. Do not use normal garden soil for backfilling, but use mixtures of soil, sand and compost for the different moisture areas. The composition of the soil should be varied to suit the needs of the plants. The soil must contain these required ingredients to a certain extent and the water must be able to seep in well.
Basically, to the top, dry zone the soil is added halfway through with sand. Strongly loamy soil can be mixed with chalk. At the bottom, the amount of sand decreases steadily and the proportion of humus soil and compost increases. On the pond bank, the mixture consists only of soil and compost.
Step 4: Create a pond
The small pond, which is finally placed at the foot of the herb spiral, should be aligned so the moisture can suck into the designated area. If you are using a ready-made pond or a mortar pot, fill it with pebbles – up to approx. 10 cm (4 inches) below the edge. For a pond liner, you should first fill in a 5 centimeter-thick layer of sand (2 inches), then insert the foil and protect it from damage with a layer of sand. After you have filled the pond with water, the edge of the foil can be hidden with large stones.
As advantageous as a waterhole is, it does not necessarily have to be created. If you make sure that the right conditions are met in the moisture zone, a herbal spiral will work without a pond. Admittedly, having a pond is a nicer sight.
Summary in cross section
If we take a look at the structure of a herbal spiral summarizing in cross section, this has the following structure:
The pond should be about 40 centimeters deep (15 inches), depending on the materials used. Fill a five-centimeter-thick layer of sand (2 inches) into the previously excavated hollow. Using a pond liner add another layer of sand. An approximately 10 cm (4 inches) thick layer of coarse gravel forms the base of the spiral and the stacked stones form the housing. The coarse gravel is used inside the spiral. This layer should have a core strength of approx. 50 cm (20 inches). According to the requirements of the respective zones, the mixtures of soil, sand, humus soil and compost are added. Then the water – and done!
It is done: You’ve built your own herbal spiral. However, you should wait a bit longer before planting, until the soil has sagged and the soil has settled. You may have to top up some more soil. Ideally, let it pass in a few rainy days – the whole structure is thus more stable.
Buy herbal spirals
If you have no desire, no time or no passion to build a herbal spiral yourself, but do not want to do without fresh herbs, you will find now a rich offer of kits from different manufacturers. Also in the choice of the used materials, various alternatives are available. Wood, stone, terracotta or even Corten steel with rust – all these materials are offered as kits.
Gabion herbal spirals are as indestructible as home-made models, and they look good too. The herbal spiral is assembled by means of connectors spirally. A good quality can be recognized by the fact that the grids are available with a zinc-aluminum coating. Using a special process, 5% aluminum is fed into the galvanizing process, resulting in a 50% longer life expectancy than conventional hot-dip galvanizing. For grid filling, all stone types with a grain size between 20 mm and 40 mm (1 and 2 inches) are suitable. A size that prevents the stones from falling through the grids. Furthermore, it is possible to fill the grid with coarse bark mulch or pine bark.
But also the wooden models last 15 years and more, with good care. In the wood variants, however, it is important that they have no direct contact with earth and are lined with foil inside. The construction of these spirals is relatively easy as the boards are all nicely threaded on a wire. You can then easily bring the spiral into the desired form.
The kits made of heat-insulating, weatherproof and frost-resistant, rounded building blocks are particularly suitable for small gardens. Organic cultivation conditions should guarantee rapid growth. Due to the plug-in system, the individual elements are very variable to install and leave room for individual creations.
For lovers of something more unusual variants, the kits are made of Corten steel. These are easy to assemble and are sure to quickly become an eye-catcher in the garden. Corten steel is characterized by its special alloy with stainless-steel-alloy-additives. This forms under the actual rust layer a particularly dense barrier, which protects the steel from rapid corrosion. Models made of this material are very insensitive to the weather and the characteristic patina develops outdoors after a short time.
If you want it even more exclusive, then decide for a premium granite herbal spiral. Also in this version, different climatic zones are imitated in order to create perfect growth conditions for the plants.
The individual granite slabs are composed all around and have a flamed surface. The slabs are joined together with stainless steel connection elements. Once set up, this is certainly the eye-catcher in the garden.
In addition, you will find a whole range of other ideas that illustrate the creativity of the manufacturer. Thus, this offer of different designs guaranteed something for every taste.
Plant a herbal spiral
The ideal planting time for herbs is the spring, especially Mediterranean species are slightly frost-sensitive after the autumn planting. Purchased plants, however, can constantly be planted in the spiral. But only if the ground is frost-free.
The right cooperation is important
Pay attention to a balanced and tolerable ratio of herbs among each other. Some herbs tend to suppress others. Also belongs to the herbal knowledge that there are annual, biennial and perennial herbs. It is about the right cooperation, which is very important in a small space.
Everything you need for your kitchen can grow in a herbal spiral. In the center or tower, the dry zone, ideally the Mediterranean herbs such as sage, rosemary or thyme are located. The central circle of the spiral is inhabited by herbs, such as coriander, lemon balm or chives, which you would also plant in the garden bed. In the lower area belong herbs that like it a bit fresher like mint, basil or parsley.
Since the tall plants can take away the light from the small plants, they should be put in the back. There are types of herbs that tend to proliferate, like mint. These are planted best in vessels without bottom. The water can continue to drain and proliferation is inhibited.
The planting of a herbal spiral is always a very individual matter that reflects your personal preferences. So nobody else can tell you which plants belong in your herb cultivation.
Possible plants for your herb spiral:
Riparian zone of the pond
Water-nut (directly on the water)
Sunny, between the stones
Ideally you put the herbs together that have the same growth and care conditions. For example, while chives and garlic herbs complement each other well, the constellation parsley and chives looks quite different. If you plant them together, you can almost see the parsley vestigial.
Peppermint tends to multiply very much. With the garden calamint an alternative is available. Parsley needs growing time and has to be planted again and again.
Basil, marjoram and dill are incompatible with each other. The same applies to borage and parsley. Also not good neighbors are dill and sage, caraway and fennel or chervil and coriander.
Sage is characterized by high growth. The diameter is 60 to 80 cm. (23 to 30 inches) Therefore, it makes sense to plant sage in corners. This limits this plant on two sides.
Basil is best used to a herbal spiral, if you use seeds that can adapt to the circumstances. Ideally sow in the upper part of the middle zone. The same applies to the watercress, which is sown in the lower area.
Lemon balm is very vigorous and spreads quickly underground. These is prevented with a rhizome barrier or a plastic pot without soil.
The right watering
A newly created herb spiral needs a little more attention for proper watering at the beginning, later less and less. So in the beginning you should definitely pour about once a week year. You always start from the top. In the second year, water only when needed, adding more water to the lower area. Then the easy-care phase begins, because you only have to pour now and then the bottom. The required water pulls up by itself.
Loosen soil regularly
When watering, make sure that the soil surface of your herb bed is always evenly loose. Encrusted surfaces no longer allow enough water to run through the herbal roots, even if they are very frugal. With a small garden rake, the soil surface can be loosen up a bit.
For herbs, you should definitively do without chemical fertilizers. These can greatly influence the taste of individual herbs. Mostly, a single compost fertilization in spring and autumn is quite sufficient.
The right care in winter
There are perennial herbs that are not hardy. These hibernate best in pots in a sheltered place in the house. Even the herbs from the water zone, which are in pots, feel much better in a sheltered place. If there is no room in the house, protect the roots of these plants from the cold by placing the pails on styrofoam or similar material. A garden fleece is also used here.
You should wrap the hardy herbs with a garden fleece or with brushwood to protect them from the cold. Then you will enjoy your herb bed again next spring.
Believe it or not, in winter, drying up the plants is more common than freezing. Even in winter, it is therefore necessary to water on frost-free days.
In case of heavy snowfall, you release the fleece from the snow load, so that the plants are not damaged.
A few final words …
So much for building instructions for a herbal spiral and how to build, properly create and plant. The contribution does not claim to be complete.
And now have fun with your own herb spiral in the garden – no matter if you build it yourself or buy it. Enjoy the freshness and the wonderful flavors that make their way into your kitchen and give the food an amazing finesse.