Thursday 17 May 2012

How to create a spiral garden, part 2

Frugaldom's Herb Spiral

In part 1, we'd got as far as creating a pretty, spiral looking garden that, other than the general shape, didn't really resemble anything shown in permaculture books or on the websites, so we had to improvise and frugalise our herb spiral, enabling us to complete it on a budget of zero.

The following is the pictorial guide to how we got the project off the ground, so to speak.


As you can see, our herb garden has suddenly grown upwards in the centre and the spiral now has a fairly steep incline, hopefully making it entirely suitable for the purpose of drainage. This feat was achieved by raking all the soil from the centre back out to the edges and then piling logs and rocks into the middle, to create a platform for the top of the spiral. You could use straw, rubble or anything else, I guess.The rocks are the essential ingredient here, as it is those that will store the heat from the sun and bring added warmth to your soil.

Once again, from the top...

Fill the spiral path with soil and pile up whatever rocks you can find to create that much higher looking wall of heat absorbers. We had to dig a couple of barrows of soil from elsewhere in the garden just to achieve this much but all the extra rocks that came with it helped fill in gaps, which then get packed on both sides with the soil.

This spiral path means you have an 'empty' gap at the bottom of your horticultural helter skelter, which is where we are supposed to focus on collecting the run off water from heavy rain. I have seen some very pretty, artistically designed mini ponds built here, as displayed on many of the permaculture websites.

But this is Frugaldom, we need frugal alternatives that won't cost us our hard-earned cash.

I simply rounded off the end of my spiral with more rocks and then dug a hole approximately 30cm in diameter and about 10cm deep. This worked perfectly for the base cut from a 5kg / 5L plastic bucket. Any type bucket will do, as long as it's cleaned properly to free it from any traces of paint, for example. I filled my 'pond liner' with a layer of gravel, soil and then a little compost, then began planting my herbs.

There is a natural way of planting out your herb spiral. As it has planting space facing in all directions and graduating from fairly dry (at the top) to almost a pond at the bottom, you have plenty of choices. Rosemary is my top of the hill plant, then they graduate down the slope with thyme, basil, parsley, chives, coriander/cilantro and then the assorted mints, which like a fair bit of moisture. In between these, I have planted the surplus strawberry plants from last year's runners, along with a few marigolds. In the mini-pond at the bottom of my spiral, I am going to sow water cress seeds, something I have never tried before now.

My herb spiral is far from full, with plenty of space for cuttings and any 'reduced' potted herbs I might find. I would love some lemon thyme, but can't seem to find any at the moment, but I have seeds sown for more coriander, chives, basil and parsley. It's quite exciting waiting for everything to grow and spread, as I think this is a lovely feature in the Frugaldom garden, even if it does look like a cairn when viewed from my kitchen window! :)

Many years ago, these spirals were often refered to as medicine gardens, where healers (some would call them witches) grew all types of herbs and spices for their medicinal lotions and potions. Usually found near the back door for quick access during cooking, to ensure only the freshest of ingredients get used, I am sure there is much still to be learned from what can be grown within a specific space, especially when attention is paid to companion planting and which direction each plant faces. It's amazing how nature will soon dictate how well, or how badly, I have positioned the first of my plants.

Have fun creating your own spiral gardens. They needn't necessarily be used for herbs, they would make beautiful fruit gardens, vegetable gardens or flower gardens. Plenty of scope, too, as the loose formation of the basic building blocks means gaps could be filled with heathers, alpines, mosses or grasses, depending on what you have chosen to grow. For me, it will be herbs galore, as soon as I grow some more.



  1. I've never seen this before and it's fascinating. Apart from the dry to wet aspect of it, it also gives you additional planting room in what is really a pretty small space. It could be used to grow all sorts of veggies for instance in a small back garden and still look like a good garden feature when everything was harvested and it was left relatively bare over Winter.

    Something I will keep in mind for our next place.

    Sue xx

  2. Great inspiring gardening ideas Frugaldom. I like how it blends in with your dry-stone walls.

    I really like informal cottage gardens and perennials are brilliant for dividing and making new plants. If you lived near me I would give you some for free.

  3. Dave, if I lived near you, I'd probably be grazing livestock on your land, too. LOL I have great plans for the garden in an organised chaotic sort of a way. I also just got around to reading the book, 'Stones & Stars' by Denise Hall and her fixy-up at Likeen sounded a fantastic project. I loved the book, there's so much in it that hits home. (Apart from the ability to borrow money to buy anything in the first place, of course. LOL)

    I didn't read 'Home to Roost', as I'm not a fan of that style of writing. Only got a couple of pages into that and it was enough, I'm afraid.

  4. The Stones and Stars book reminded me of the story of your place Frugaldom.

  5. When reading the book, I found many similarities in the basic concept. I was ready to go out and start chipping out the old mortar and rendering by the time I'd read the first couple of chapters, but managed to restrain myself, as I know this can't be done here until we know we can reach the top of the cottage without landing on the neighbour's conservatory. LOL

    Is Likeen the fictional name for an actual property in Glengariff Forest? More importantly, did Denise Hall ever write a follow-up book?

  6. Sue, I'll let you know how the spiral progresses. My only loss to date has been the Sweet Basil, which I transplanted out there last week only for the frost to return. I think it would look great packed full of flowers or various heathers, so I haven't a clue how mine will end up looking. All I do know is that it will be herbs, perennials and flowers that can self seed, as it is aimed at being extremely low maintenance. :)

  7. I think Lickeen is the townland (we don't have postcodes or road signsbut the postman knows every house)where the house is situated in Glengariff Forest. I have passed it a few times and it looks great. Yes Denise Hall did write more books.

    Our farmhouse is also made of rubble stone and earth or packed clay holds the stones together. The government gave people grants to render the houses in the 1930's to keep out the damp. Rural Ireland is full of painted vernacular farmhouses.

    Another good book recommendation for you is: The Garden in the Clouds. Money didn't seem to be a problem with this renovation. It's also full of pathos and humour. I still think your Frugaldom story would make a great book.

  8. I'm assuming the cottages here are stone and lime mortar, but at some time in the past, ours has been rendered and whitewashed. The downside is that it was done before it became a Listed Building, which makes the rendering part of the listing and, therefore, subject to planning permission if we want to remove it. I'll need to double check on this, but that's what I understood from what they said when I contacted them. CRAZY! Only the front has been done, so the whole of the gable end still needs picked out and repointed. A new coat of whitewash will certainly freshen the place up, that's for sure, but it's still a shame to have lost the original stone.

    Reading wise, the only reason I managed to get the booki under my reading belt was because of a combination of rain, joiners being here and no electricity. I read the entire book within one day. LOL Not so the Liz Kavanagh one, though. I am plopughing through it page by page, determined to finish it but really not liking it very much at all.

    Frugaldom story is more of a continuing saga available by monthly subscription. One never knows quite what will happen next, because it hasn't happened yet. A book is about looking back and recounting the most memorable parts of the story with the opportunity to embellish or tone down certain aspects. :)

  9. It looks amazing. Such a clever idea. You are transforming your garden. I'm so pleased you've got your forever home.

    Sft x

  10. Hi! Just found your blog & site and am really enjoying it. :-)
    I'm currently making a herb spiral myself and ran into the same problem - sadly without any access to stones I don't have to pay for (am stuck in the middle of suburbia outside London with no private transport). I am going to use bricks (freebie from my lovely neighbour) and a very large terracotta pot instead. The grass has almost finished dying off (I did the 'cover with newspapers' trick) so onto the construction part this weekend. Like yours, mine is going to be mainly for culinary herbs with a couple of medicinals (feverfew and soapwort) thrown in.
    Look forward to seeing how it goes!

  11. Does look fab and great instructions - I can't wait to have a 'forever' garden! Goodluck with it all - keeping a canny eye from the sidelines when time allows!

    Nice to see great progress!

  12. Welcome to the Frugaldom blog, thorngrove. Good luck with your herb spiral.

    Thanks for comment, Orkneyflowers, the spiral is doing really well and I'm very pleased with the results. :)


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