Ready to spend some quality time outdoors? If you have access to a nice pile of large stones and a mound of dirt, you can use those to make your own spiral herb garden. I first read about spiral herb gardens in Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden, a book about using permaculture principles in your own yard.
Much of what I know about permaculture comes from this book. In chapter three, Hemenway explains the structure of the spiral garden and its benefits. One is that it makes thirty linear feet of garden bed fit into a space that is much less than thirty feet long. The thirty feet are coiled like a snail shell up the mound of soil.
The mound is tall enough (if made correctly) to create lengths of bed that vary in sun exposure. The north side of the tall-enough mound will be shadier than the south side, and the highest point will be drier than the lowest section. These differences in microclimate allow the gardener to grow plants with fairly different light-and-moisture needs all together in a small space.
The spiral herb garden shown in the pictures is at Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, TX. When I visited there last fall, I was very happy to see this in person; line drawings in a book do not always reveal how something will work in the real world!
Hemenway’s book lists suggested herbs to grow in a spiral garden, and the example at Zilker does include many kinds of herbs, such as parsley, basil, and sage. Other small plants besides herbs, though, could go into a spiral garden. Small-rooted crops like lettuce, spinach, bush-type green beans, and strawberries all would be good choices.
For the Southeastern US, this garden seems like a great way to grow. We usually get enough rain that even the driest parts of a spiral garden would not need much supplemental water. In very-wet years, we could have a garden that didn’t drown. Bringing in soil for the mound could also would help those of us whose native soil is less-than-perfect.
One of my friends whose yard is underlain by that especially-awful gray clay gave up on planting in the ground long ago. All her new plants go onto mounds of purchased soil — her roses, annual flowers, vegetables, all of it. She already is a master at forming soil mounds!
This permaculture technique shows a lot of promise as a way to use space in the yard more efficiently, especially in yards that have difficult soil conditions.
Ready to move some rocks?