- Author: Jenni Dodini
Did you happen to read the "Home Seller" insert in the local paper on Sat/10/10? I tend to just flip through the pages and occasionally something will catch my attention besides the price of homes in our area. There is generally something pertaining to gardens or gardening in there that is well worth the time spent reading. Anyway, there was an article on "Keyhole gardens: A drought friendly twist on raised beds." This REALLY caught my attention and piqued my curiosity/ interest since I have been participating in the Master Gardener group that has been going places to speak about drought related topics.
I spent some time on the internet and looked at YouTube videos that others had posted. The two links that were the most informative were "Dave's Garden" and "Texas Co-op Power". The YouTube videos were what I needed to make what I read turn into something that I can (and probably will) do in my yard.
I guess that it would be appropriate to actually relay a bit of information at this point.
To quote Bev Walker, from the "Dave's Garden" site: "A keyhole garden is a raised bed, lasagna garden, composting and recycling system all rolled into one. The design creates a garden that uses recycled materials, less water and maintenance, and can be made handicap-accessible."
It was developed by humanitarian charities and missionaries for use in impoverished countries with poor soil, bad weather, and starving people. The process was started in the schools in Africa to teach the children so that they could take the knowledge home to their families. It became common in Texas after they experienced a prolonged drought there and somebody, not mentioned, heard about it and started making them. It is reported that three such gardens can feed a family of ten for a year!
Basically, what a keyhole garden is is a raised circular garden about 6 feet in diameter with a hole in the center about 1 1/2 feet diameter in which the compost bin is made. There is a "wedge" in the circle that provides access to the composting area. The outside edge of the big circle can be made with just about any thing imaginable that will create a wall to hold the soil in. One picture showed a wall that looked like it was created from empty wine bottles! Another was built into an old boat. The outside wall is built to about waist level, 3 - 4 feet tall, depending on where one's waist might be. The base of the composting area is built up a bit with rocks and the edges are made with wire mesh or some type of water permeable material in the shape of a tube that is about 1 foot higher that what the soil level in the bed will be. The inside of the wall in the bedding area is then lined with cardboard and then twigs, small branches, cardboard, old newspapers, etc are used to create the "lasagna" for the base of the bedding area. This layer is then watered to get the breakdown process started. Garden or topsoil is then placed on top of that and tamped down with the soil in the center around the compost tube higher and sloping toward the outer wall. The bed is then ready for planting. Once the plants are established and the composting area starts doing its thing, the watering is done solely via the composting tube where it wicks outward, thereby saving water, and providing nutrients to the soil from the compost. It is recommended to make a little roof over the composting tube to help prevent excessive drying during the really hot weather and too much water from getting in should it rain. Also trellises can be added so that shade cloth can be placed or a cover in the cold weather to create a little green house! If needed due to extreme heatwaves, drip irrigation can be incorporated to get the garden through the terrible heat.
This whole concept seems very exciting and pretty simple as well as self sustaining no matter what Mother Nature has in store for us. I will still pray that El Niño hits us, but we have all been through drought times and know that they will come again regardless. I hope that you will get online and learn more about this topic too.