Thursday, 17 May 2012

How to create a spiral garden, part 1

Frugaldom's Herb Spiral
The idea of having a spiral herb garden was introduced when reading about permaculture and, more recently, discussing the garden with a friend who had done the permaculture course.

Microholding fits nicely with the theories of permaculture, as we want low maintenance and high productivity, but with plenty of nooks and crannies for encouraging wildlife to visit our garden. It also lends itself quite well to frugal living and a level of self-sufficiency.

The following is a step-by-step pictorial guide to how we created our first herb spiral. It isn't quite 2 metres in diameter, as the stick I used to mark it out was only 3' long.

Armed with two sticks, one measuring about 3' (or a metre) in length and then find yourself a fairly level patch of ground. Keep the 3'/1m stick for measuring and push the other one into the ground to mark the centre point of your circle. It is then a simple process to lean the second stick across the ground perpendicular to the upright one and gradually work your way around, marking the outer edge of your circle as you go. I scraped out the outer edge and wedged stones into the groove.

As soon as you have your circle, you can do one of two things, depending on where you have sited your new garden: you can either cover the whole area in thick cardboard and then fill it with soil or you can dig out the weeds, gravel and grass to get at the earth underneath, which is what I chose to do. This choice was mainly on accounts of not having a budget for such things as top soil.

Our ground is very rocky, so digging up the surface of my circle uncovered plenty more stones, all of which were being set aside for later use.

The main reason I was happy to dig to the earth rather than use cardboard was that it would instantly give me a little more depth, rather than the metre height these spirals are supposed to be.

After a couple of hours of scraping, weeding, digging and raking out more stones, I was left with a fairly accurate circle. At this point, I was looking at a template on a permaculture site, one which made it look really simple. Let me tell you, it is not simple trying to create a metre high, geometrically correct, artistic spiral while working with practically no soil and only stones and rocks found lying around the garden. Some slight changes had to be introduced to compensate for not buying nice, uniform blocks or an extra ton of fresh top soil!

Raking what soil I had from the edges into the centre of the circle, it was a case of replacing the smaller stones with larger rocks, gradually creating and following a contour upwards, while raking more and more of the earth up the spiral path until it was heaped in the centre.

As you can plainly see, the centre of this is about one third of the height it is meant to be, according to the recommendations of the 'proper' permaculture gurus.

The whole idea of the spiral is that it starts at its highest point and winds downwards, creating a natural flow for excess surface water and excellent drainage.

No amount of raking this was going to raise it to a metre high, that was for sure! Meanwhile, H was busy digging elsewhere, trying to salvage some extra soil to pile in, but it certainly wasn't looking anything like the one in the diagram. Still, it looked quite pretty.

By this point, it was beginning to get dark and I had forgotten about making any dinner. The chickens and ducks had got fed up waiting and had all put themselves to bed! Moral of this story is that if you want your spiral created quickly, then starting it late afternoon probably isn't the best of ideas. We had to down tools and leave it for another day.


  1. to read part 2!!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Sue, it was fun making the spiral, despite a few essential modifications. :)


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