How to Easily Build an Herb Spiral

woman harvesting from herb spiral

If you stopped by my garden for a visit one day and I gave you a tour of the front yard you’d likely stop, point and ask, “What’s that?”

“Oh, that’s my herb spiral!”, I’d reply.

And then you’d start asking me how I built it. (And I’d be happy to share!)

This scene plays out over and over again in my garden each year when friends, family, and neighbors get my two cent tour. My herb spiral is a conversation piece!

I decided to build it when I was expanding my front yard garden and was worried that too many square and rectangular beds would make the garden feel too linear.

Around that time I was reading The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture: Creating an Edible Ecosystem, which is packed with simple projects for the home gardener. An herb spiral was one of the things that caught my eye in the book and I thought it would be a perfect way to add a softer and more organic shape to my front yard garden.

Several years later it remains one of my most favorite things I’ve ever built in my garden (along with these easy DIY trellises) and it was so easy! You don’t need any special tools, talent, or know-how to build one in your own garden.

In fact, after teaching my herb class throughout the winter to garden clubs and Master Gardener groups, I often get a few emails in the spring from people who’ve taken on the project and built one themselves after being inspired by my class.

Here’s a quick overview on how to build an herb spiral, including a fun time-lapse video filmed by a PBS show that visited my garden while I was constructing mine.

Why You Should Build an Herb Spiral

First, let’s talk about the reasons why you might want to build an herb spiral.

Compact. You probably already know that growing up is an efficient way to fit more food in the same space in your garden. Besides growing plants on trellises and arbors, using an herb spiral, depending on its design, can help you grow more herbs in a smaller space.

Drains water naturally. Many of the common herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary originated in warm and dry Mediterranean climates. This means that they aren’t going to be happy in wet conditions. Because an herb spiral is elevated, it will shed water and keep those herbs happy and healthy.

Retains heat. Many herb spirals are made from bricks or stones. Their mass collects heat from the sun during the day and then release it all night long. This is great for northern gardens like mine, which often see cooler nighttime temperatures. I find that my heat-loving herbs grow like gangbusters in the herb spiral.

Adds structure and interest. Our vegetable gardens can easily turn into very linear environments with square and rectangular beds planted with straight rows of vegetables. Nature features lots of soft and rounded shapes, so why not include some in your vegetable garden design?

mint growing in herb spiral

How to Build an Herb Spiral

Step one of building an herb spiral is deciding on your design. I highly recommend using Pinterest for this research step. You can use it as a search engine and type in “herb spiral” to see lots of different designs and materials people have used to build theirs.

After some dreaming and inspiration on Pinterest, I decided to use reclaimed bricks for my herb spiral. So, I went to a local reuse store and loaded up my little hatchback. I wasn’t sure how many I needed, so I just bought about 80 bricks. I did end up needing to go back for another small load to complete my spiral.

bricks for an herb spiral

Next, you’ll want to decide on the location and size of your spiral. Pick a flat spot in your yard or clear an area to make it level. I wanted to incorporate it into my garden expansion, so I situated it between two curved, rectangular garden beds.

You can make your herb spiral any size you’d like. It really depends upon how much space you have and what fits with your overall garden design. Oh, and how many herbs you want to pack in there!

My herb spiral is 5 feet wide and 20 inches high. I used about 120 bricks. Make sure you have about 8 inches wide of planting space to give the plants room to grow.

building an herb spiral with bricks

Lay out your first course (that’s what each layer of stone is called). Take the time to get a shape you like. I drew it out with a stick before laying down the brick.

Once you get your design perfected, how you proceed will depend upon what kind of material you’re using to build your spiral. I’ll explain how to use bricks in this post.

When you get your first course laid, start the second course by counting in 2 1/2 bricks from the beginning (bottom) of the spiral and continue laying the bricks until you get all the way around the spiral. See the below photo (and video at end of the post for more explanation).

building an herb spiral with bricks

You’re going to continue to repeat this with every layer until you run out of bricks or get the spiral to your desired height. When starting each new course, count in 2 1/2 bricks and then start laying. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s all about how you want it to look.

After your infrastructure is finished, it’s time to add soil. I prefer a mix of half organic compost and half topsoil. I had a pile delivered for my garden expansion, so I used a portion of it for the herb spiral.

It’s not a good idea to leave bare soil in your garden because it will grow weeds and get eroded and compacted by rain and wind. After filling, you should mulch the soil in your spiral with hay, leaves, straw, or grass clippings. You can see in the below photo I used leaves.

herb spiral in vegetable garden

If you’re building your spiral in the spring you can start planting your herbs right away. I recommend taking a trip to your local farmers market for seedlings.

If it’s fall, simply mulch your spiral well to protect it over the winter and have fun dreaming about all of the fun things you’re going to plant the following spring!

You can grow pretty much any herb you want in your spiral. I have a mix of perennial herbs like thyme and mint that stay in the same place from year to year and then I intersperse annual herbs like lavendar, calendula, basil, and parsley. It’s fun to change up the design every season with different combinations!

herb spiral in garden

I’ve found there’s not much maintenance involved with the herb spiral. I keep it weeded and make sure to harvest the herbs on a regular basis. I mulch once a year and have added a little bit of soil to the top as its settled over the years.

While I was building my herb spiral a few years ago the PBS show, Victory Garden/Edible FEAST came for a visit to my garden. They shot a cool time-lapse video of the process and also invited me to talk about using row cover to extend the fall harvest season.

The whole episode is worth watching, but if you’re short on time you can skip to my segment which starts at minute 13. Click on the photo below!

Building an herb spiral is a simple project you can tackle any time of year! I hope this post proved to you that it doesn’t take any special tools, talents, or know-how to easily create an awesome spiral. Believe me, any gardener can do it!

And after you do, you’ll be rewarded with a dramatic focal point that will be the talk of your gardener friends!

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