Herb garden design- how to build one and what to plant
Styles & Tips - Garden Styles & Tips

Herb spiral or herbs in pots- herbs are versatile and easy to grow 

Herb garden is easy and can be planted within a few hours. We rather like a herb spiral – why not try it. If you don’t have the space then use pots. And don’t forget Herbs are food for wildlife.

The herbs we know come from the Mediterranean region. They prefer a sunny position with a well-drained soil so choose the sunniest place you can. If the herb garden is in an enclosed area, choose a south-facing site. 

Further on you will see an easy design for a herb spiral for you to try in your garden.

Soil & some tips

  • Generally, a light open soil/compost mix is best. Just an ordinary potting compost, with perhaps a little grit or garden soil mixed in - to give it body.
  • No need to feed the soil and pots on a regular basis, most herbs are used to growing on weak soils anyway.
  • I always add a little 'long term' fertiliser, such as good compost or work cast for potted herbs. This will feed the herbs in their pots and keep them growing well for a whole season.
  • Another good idea, would be to incorporate a little water retentive gel to the compost before you plant up your containers, which will vastly increase the water holding capacity of the compost.
  • Do not plant too many herbs per container - use more pots! They do tend to increase quite rapidly in size. If planting the herb spiral, do not plant too close together.
  • If the soil is heavy - which means it can become too waterlogged or too dry - add compost and grit to help drainage. 
  • Do not add more peat for two reasons:
    • It makes the soil acidic.  Most herbs don't like acid soil
    • the John Innes compost probably already has some, so don't add to it
    • The world's peat bogs are being used up, so do your bit to save the planet


  • Almost any container is suitable provided it has:
    • drainage holes
    • a wide base to prevent it falling over
    • it is big enough and suitable for the plant
    • Some herbs can be grown in hanging baskets, but you must prepare the basket well and choose the site to hang it carefully. 
    • Hanging baskets do not like full sun all day or high winds.  As herbs grow quickly they can become root-bound and dry out.  The herb must also be picked regularly to stop it straggling

Which compost????

The best compost for growing herbs is John Innes No. 3 because it is soil based and contains longer-lasting nutrients.  This means less feeding.  It also holds moisture well.  If it does dry out, it absorbs water quickly.  However, take care not to over-water!
John Innes No. 2 will also do.  The higher the number, the more added nutrients.  Use different compost for hanging baskets because John Innes composts are too heavy for them

The different composts….
  • Multipurpose = potting compost, widely available, light, clean and easy to use, needs frequent watering and feeding, do not let it dry out as it does not take up water well.
  • Peat-free composts =Coir - made from the fibers found between the husk and the outer shell of coconuts, and then you have composted tree bark which is not suitable for herbs.
There are a variety of composts out there which do not use peat. Three were awarded Best Buy by Which? in February 2010:
  • Vital Earth Tub and Basket Compos
  • New Horizon Multi-Purpose Compost
  • Vital Earth Multi-Purpose Compost 

Filling and planting

  • Wash any pots that have been used before. Check the drainage holes.
  • Place gravel or broken pots in the bottom. This prevents the holes from filling with soil and aids drainage
  • Some herbs like grit so you may want to mix soil and grit
  • Fill the container three-quarters full with compost
  • Or if planting int e ground, ensure the hole is as deep as the pot
  • Remove the herb very carefully from its pot and plant up
  • Gently firm the soil around the plant, adding more compost, leaving a 2-3cm rim
  • Water the plant well


  • Some of your herbs herbs may need re-potting if their roots are spreading from the bottom of the container.
  • Use the next size up pot or you can root prune
  • Remove dead leaves and prune the straggly shoots and cut the growing tip of perennial herbs - this encourages bushy growth
  • Begin feeding when new shoots appear - try worm cast


  • Water regularly - do not let the pots dry out
  • Plants newly planted into the ground will need water too
  • Move out of the noonday sun if south facing and if in pots
  • Dead-head any flowers (or pick them for drying)
  • Feed weekly, preferably with an organic liquid feed (seaweed or worm cast liquid) 
  • Cut off any pest damaged leaves 


  • Cut back perennial herbs - the ones that grown every year
  • Weed and feed the containers, after removing the top few centimetres of soil or the borders
  • Bring indoors (or put in a cold greenhouse) any tender plants before the first frost such as Basil
  • Do not water so often – leave it to nature if in the ground


  • It is best to put all container herbs indoors, or at least cover them to protect them from severe weather unless you are happy to plant up again in spring!
  • Minimum watering only to none


  • In summer, take tip cuttings from any non-flowering shoot
  • If possible, to aid rooting, gently tear a short sideshoot from the main plant with a ‘heel’ of older wood
  • Remove its lower leaves and insert it into well-drained loam-based compost
  • Put in a propagator, or pull a plastic bag loosely over the cutting to retain moisture, seal it and place on a warm windowsill (not in full sun)
  • Roots should form in six weeks
  • Pot on or plant out into free-draining soil
  • Try with Rosemary, Thyme and Marjoram

Culinary herbs

  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Chives
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint
  • Coriander
  • Sorrel
  • Bay Leaf
  • Tarragon
  • Feverfew
  • Chervil 
  • Chamomile
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Fennel

 Bouquet garni…….is parsley, thyme, marjoram and bay leaf

  • Tie loosely in muslin square and dip into....
  • Broths, soups and casseroles

Aromatic Herbs

  • Lavender
  • Rue
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Chamomile
  • Mint
  • Santolina
  • Evening Primrose
  • Rosemary
  • Anise
  • Hyssop 
  • Sweet Woodruff
So now you have decided which herbs to grow, let's build a Herb Spiral! See below for instructions:
  • Choose a sunny site
  • Best to put cardboard down before you build - this stops weeds
  • It might be easier to go for a clockwise pattern so you don't get confused with levels
  • You can build rock or brick walls or just have a ground level spiral
  • Remember though not to build too high- soil is heavy and without proper wall construction it will fall down and might injure someone
  • Place the rocks or bricks in a spiral formation from large to small in the area you have chosen
  • Put the soil between the spirals and plant the herbs - if building in levels, fill as if it were a pot
  • Plant herbs such as rosemary, thyme and tarragon in the inner part of the spiral. They require less water and therefore need less attention
  • Plant the other more tender herbs on the outer rims of your spiral.
  • Chives, parsley, chamomile, mint, coriander and fennel will do very well here
  • These herbs need more water and as you water in the middle the water will trickle down to the plants which need it more


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