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tutorial: spiral herb garden | household sustainable living

The Spiral Garden, a sustainable home garden design.

Lets talk about the spiral garden and why its shape and building materials are so beneficial, aesthetically pleasing, and why it is a functionally sustainable home garden design. In a 6 by 6 ft square space, when utilizing the vertical aspect of the spirals potential, you gain about 22ft of plant-able space that is easy to reach without the worry of trampling under foot other plants in the time of planting, watering, or harvest.

The Spiral:  Natures Perfect Design

When constructing the spiral garden keep in mind the location of the sun and try and coordinate the best place and direction to have the tail of the spiral face. Usually it is best to have the tail of the spiral be a shady spot. Equally important, choose the right plants for each micro climate, as the sun moves its way through out the day, the sun hits different areas of the spiral garden. The center of the spiral garden is the highest elevation point on the spiral and receives the most sun, place a full sun plant there.

As for the materials to build a spiral garden, I suggest attempting to recycle or barter for your materials if possible, especially because new bricks can be 3 dollars apiece and you need 200-300 depending on your space available and how vertical you want to go. We found a gentleman on Craigslist who wanted bricks gone from his property and by having us do the labor to remove them from his land, we both benefited. The gentleman also did not have to pay for the bricks to be hauled to a landfill. Straw is the second of the five materials you need to build the spiral garden. Use oat or wheat straw and what ever you do, do not use hay because hay has seeds and seeds mean unwanted weeds in your garden. Farmers use hay as feed and straw for bedding. The third material is soil. I recommend making the soil on your own threw worm castings and composting but if you are not set up for that yet, get some good organic potting soil from your local fertilizer shop. The fourth ingredient to the spiral garden is mulch. Use a medium to large size wood mulch ground cover to surround the spiral for great weed control and aesthetics. The final piece of the spiral garden is the first piece you begin with…..cardboard. Cardboard is everywhere, recyclable, and practically free. Before putting the bricks down on the ground why not place them on some decomposing matter that will eventually feed the roots of your plants while at the same time kill off and keep out all the weeds beneath it. I like to place old vegetables and fruit peals under the cardboard to create a microbial salad to help the decomposition process as well as adding good nutrients and life to the surrounding soil.

The Bricks:

The bricks are thermal dynamic, holding in heat from the day to warm the plant roots at night. The bricks also use the thermal dynamics of the cold of night and early morning, cooling the bricks, which in turn keep the plant roots cool later on in the day when it is hot out.


Oat or Wheat straw has many uses. Straw retains water, reflects light, keeps weeds out, creates a great aerated medium for roots to grow around taking moisture as needed. Straw is a great insulator and as it decomposes into compost it releases beneficial gases and heat to the surrounding plants in the spiral garden. Straw can act to maintain cool temperatures as well because it is such a great insulator, most plant roots like it the way humans do, around 76 C to 78 C.

Soil is expensive to buy, especially several bags of good organic soil. Just a few handfuls of soil per plant is all you need to get started. Most of the spiral’s growing medium is straw. Just make a hole in the straw in the spiral about two times the size of the root-ball of the plant you are planting, spaced about a foot apart. Fill the whole with a few handful’s of soil, place the plant in, cover with a handful of soil, and then cover with straw as mulch garden cover.

Cardboard and Ground cover:

Use large strips of thick recycled cardboard. Place down and overlap strips of cardboard to form a large area over which the spiral garden will set. Cover cardboard with brick spiral then cover the cardboard that surrounds the spiral with a ground cover mulch, I used medium sized pine wood chips.

Herbs, Tubers, grasses, peppers, berries, and flowers:

Plants of The Garden Spiral:

Flowers: These flowers are edible, attract bees, repel bugs, and are very beautiful also!

1. Indian Chief Nasturtium
2. Blue Borage
3. Violas

1. Strawberries

1. Holy Mole capsicum Annuum
2. Chili Tepin Hot Cayenne
3. Jalapeno Heirloom
4. Serrano

1. Lemon Grass

1. Garlic Chives

1. Greek Columnar Basil
2. African Blue Basil
3. Berggarten Sage
4. Cilantro
5. Italian Parsley
6. French Thyme
7. Greek Oregano
8. Tuscan Blue Rosemary


1. Lay down cardboard over the area the spiral bricks will set upon, make sure it is a few feet larger than the spiral’s circumference.
2. In the center of the cardboard you have just placed down, create a spiral with the bricks starting from the center of the spiral and working your way outward one level at a time. Bricks need to be stagger spaced to create strength in the structure. Remove 3-5 bricks off the end of each layer from the top down or bottom up until you find the spirals best design as it goes from higher elevation to lower elevation. Also, use straw to make surfaces even and stable between brick layers if ground is uneven or bricks are different size.
3. Slightly spray/moisten the cardboard with a hose just prior to placing the straw. The straw needs to be sprayed as well because you want everything to be damp during the construction.
4. Drop loose handfuls of straw into the spiral fissures. Do not pack down the straw but make sure the fissures are full and not to loose. Water each layer of straw you place down, you want the straw to always stay moist. Fill spiral with straw all the way to the top of the bricks.
5. Make holes in the straw twice the size of the root ball of the plant you are planting and keep each hole about a foot apart.
6. Place a few handfuls of soil in each hole, place root ball in, then cover with 1 more handful of soil.
7. Cover plant base with straw and water plants.
8. Lay down wood mulch chips around the spiral herb garden perimeter.

I wanted to add mint to the spiral garden, however mint is a plant that likes to take over after a while. Try to select plants that will work well next to each other in some kind of a symbiotic way. Remove plants that don’t work well with others. Observe and interact. I would like a nitrogen fixing leguminous plant at some point to intermingle with the root system of the spiral garden, I know of a few plants off hand.

A big thanks to Amy at a boring photo for snapping these sweet pics of the process.

Happy planting,

Dean Chichelli
Sustainable Home Garden Designs


WOW! This is fantastic! I love the spiral design. I would also love to link to your tutorial if you didn’t mind.

[...] my friend Brian showed us this spiral herb garden, my husband and I were smitten. Our yard has been chock full of bricks since we moved in for [...]

[...] Spiral Herb Garden Tutorial :: The Nature Learning Center [...]

[...] Well here is a project that finally came into fruition, thanks to the beautiful spring weather and my eagerness to get into the garden.  I got the idea from this website when I came across it on Pinterest:  tutorial:  spiral herb garden.  [...]

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