All these years that we have had Aanandaa, we had never made a herb spiral. This was something I felt bad about, because all permaculture books call out an herb spiral as a must have! In February, when a permie from Goa, Mohnish Lahir, was visiting the farm, we decided to build an herb spiral bang in front of our outhouse, to show it off to all visitors!
The idea behind the herb spiral is to stack plants vertically in space, and be able to plant a guild of plants having different water and light requirements. The plants requiring less water are planted at the top of the spiral, and those requiring more water right at the bottom where the water drains out into the tiny pond.
We started by levelling the ground and piling up stones from around the farm as a base approximately 5-6 feet in diameter. Since we are in the northern hemisphere, the water will drain our in a clockwise direction. To provide soil for the spiral, we dug a small pond at the base of it, and used that soil to build the spiral.
We started at the bottom, and piled up the soil on the edge of the circle, supporting its edge with rocks, as we curved towards the centre. To give the spiral height we piled up more stones as we climbed towards the centre, finally topping it up with soil. The centre of the spiral should be about 3 feet high, but we only reached a height of a little over two feet. Piling up more stones higher up, and keeping the spiral stable was proving to be a challenge.
Finally, we topped up the soil with some wood chips as mulch. We lined the tiny pond at the base of the spiral with black plastic, and placed rocks on the edge to keep it from flying. On watering the spiral at the top of its centre, we found the water flowing naturally in a clock wise direction, finally emptying out into the pond.
We planted a bunch of plants on the spiral, ranging from tomatoes, brinjals, lemongrass and mint. Getting into the hot summer, didn’t allow us to plant anything else, but we will add more herbs when the weather gets cooler.