How did Keyhole Gardening Originate
The keyhole gardens are the brainchild of humanitarian charities and missionaries for use in impoverished countries with poor soil, bad weather, and starving people. At least one organization teaches the schoolchildren how to construct the gardens from available recycled materials and to care for the vegetables. The schools then have nutritious vegetables for lunches. The children are encouraged to build a keyhole garden at home to educate their parents, thus enabling families to feed themselves. Advisers visit with the families to trouble-shoot garden problems.
Keyhole Garden Concept
The Keyhole Garden concept is brilliantly simple. A circular raised bed has a centre compost basket that distributes nutrients to the surrounding lasagne-style garden bed. A small pie-slice section of the bed is used for easy access to the centre compost basket forming the keyhole design.
Keyhole gardens are a mix between square-foot gardening and herb spirals, blending the best of both practices to create something far more practical. In a word, the keyhole garden could be distilled down to ‘accessibility’. It allows gardeners to access their garden bed from within a small radius located in the centre of the plot.
A keyhole garden offers as its main advantages the ability to tend your beds from the one position. You literally work from within the bed and rotate to access every inch of it. Plus, the bed is raised so you don’t need to get on your knees when conducting your gardening tasks.
Kitchen and garden waste, along with household grey water, are added to the centre basket. The soil bed layers are slightly sloped away from the centre to aid water and "compost tea" distribution. As the materials decompose, soil, composting materials, and amendments are added to the bed in later growing seasons.
For people with physical disabilities, and the elderly, the keyhole garden is the ultimate way to enjoy this recreational hobby.
Why would you build one of these?
- A keyhole garden occupies less space and is more accessible and uses techniques that are environmentally friendly and require fewer resources. Another advantage is it looks beautiful.
- Keyhole gardens fit in with the permaculture concept of creating gardens that are permanent and blend in with the landscape, unlike traditional gardens that are turned or ploughed under after the growing season.
Keyhole Garden Benefits
- Centre compost basket provides a steady supply of plant nutrients and amendments
- Uses less water with mulching and moisture from centre basket; drought-tolerance
- Depending on outer wall materials, soil can be warmer than traditional raised beds
- Garden can be modified per owner's needs, like child or handicap accessibility
- The short bed distance (from outer wall to centre basket) is easy to tend
- Gardens require a small area, a maximum of 2 meters diameter
- Recycled material use makes the gardens inexpensive, or free, to build
- The raised design removes threat of trampling by pets and humans
- Saves steps by adding garden waste to the handy centre compost basket
- Keyhole Gardens can be made temporary or permanent
- Keyhole Gardens can be an attractive feature with a good aesthetic design plan
How do you build a Keyhole Garden
Start by driving a stake into the ground as your pivot point. Then attach a piece of string to the stake with a marker measured out at 50cm and draw your inner circle. This is where you will stand while performing your gardening tasks.
Then, move the marker 1.5m away from the stake along the piece of string and draw another circle on the ground. This will become the outer perimeter of your garden bed and will allow you to reach all areas from your inner pivot position.
You will need to allow an access point of at least 50cm to get into the centre of the garden once it’s been built.
Once this has been done then it’s time to build the raised bed. For drainage you can use rocks, broken tiles or pots, rusty cans, twigs, small branches, or old critter bones can be used for the bottom drainage layer. The height required will be at least 1m so it will need to be constructed well enough to hold all that soil.
Finally, once the bed has been built fill it with soil, compost and animal manures to create your gardening plot.
Compost Basket: A tube, 0.5 meters in diameter and tall enough to extend well above the centre of the bed, can be fashioned from anything that will allow water to pass through into the surrounding bed like chicken wire, fencing, or sticks (think in terms of a woven basket). Supports to hold the basket in place, such as strong branches, boards, or rebar, and wire or strong twine to hold everything together, also, will be needed.