Herb spirals are a uniquely beautiful and efficient form for a garden and come from the field of permaculture. Permaculture believes that design should follow natural principles, that nothing should be wasted, and that landscapes should consider human needs.

Since learning about herb spirals several years ago I have seen many and read a lot about them, but never built one. Until this past June that is, when I got to work with Michael Gaines and his team on his Eagle Scout project– constructing an herb spiral at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA. The fresh herbs will be used by the W-L cooking classes.

It was surprisingly simple and came together quickly, mostly because of Michael and his crew of energetic, hard-working teens.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Choose a spot with 6 hours of sun. Mark the center and use a string to layout the outer circle. Remove the outer circle of grass to prevent it from growing through the edging. (Notice how the sun moves across our courtyard site in these building day photos.)


2. Lay a PVC “L” from the edge to the center for future irrigation.

3. Set the outer circle of stone. We used wall stone. You can also use bricks, small boulders, or cubes of urbanite (recycled concrete).

4. Line the inside with newspaper to help keep grass from growing through. Cover the newspaper with topsoil.

5. Layout the spiral in a counterclockwise direction (to honor the Coriolis effect.)

6. Stack the stone, backfilling as you go. Keep building the wall higher towards the center of the spiral so the mound can be as steep as possible. Grade the soil smooth for good water flow and be sure it is tamped down to avoid erosion.

7. Use PVC glue to attach a hose connector to the lower end of the pipe.

8. Cut the PVC to be level with the top of the mound. and glue a sprayer to the end.

9. Plant the herbs– waterlovers near the bottom, most heat tolerant on the south side.

10. You did it! Get ready to enjoy delicious fresh herbs.

(Congratulations to Michael and his hard working volunteers!)

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