Keyhole gardens

RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

I might try on of these. having a compost pile in the middle of it sounds like a winner.


  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 951 ✭✭✭✭

    Keyhole gardens are easy to care for and water since there is a narrow path as most of the Earth is busy growing your ground covers, herbs, plants and flowers and veggies! I learned about this concept in a Permaculture Design course. It takes planning like all gardens, and is enjoyable.

  • ltwickey
    ltwickey Posts: 369 ✭✭✭

    Seems like this is a good solution for someone short on space.

    Thank you for the link.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very easy to take care of, great use of space and the combination planting has great benefits. You can also easily adjust it to fit your needs.

    Its a great look and gets comments. I highly recommend it

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I would put a removable screen on it. With some sort of method to secure it, like dog leash clips,

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    I built two of these, each about 8 feet across, with cement blocks four years ago, and have used them since. Probably because I used the cement blocks (three blocks high) the soil dries out pretty quickly, even though I put some old chunks of wood and such in the bottom to help retain moisture. All the same, plants that don't mind drier conditions do very well in mine. I generally grow okra and beans in them; squash does well too. Last year the cow peas went totally crazy, like they were bent on world domination.

    The one problem that I haven't figured out how to deal with is the raccoons attracted to the compost tower (mine are chicken wire around a frame of saplings that had to be cleared about the time I was building the beds.) They trample and tear up whatever is growing in the beds to get at the stuff in the compost tower. So instead of throwing fresh stuff like kitchen scraps in, I now generally use half-finished compost from a compost heap, and let it finish up in the keyhole compost tower. That seems to be much less interesting to the coons, who have likely already long since ransacked the compost heap it came from.....

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    ---and I meant to add....a really good feature of the keyhole beds is that they are easy to cover with a simple frame of anything you have handy and some plastic. If you have used stone, bricks, cement blocks or something like that to build them, it helps keep the soil in them warm. I don't have luck growing greens in mine through the summer heat, but I can get an early crop of greens before I plant the summer vegetables, also a late crop of something quick and hardy after the summer vegetables are done.

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 968 ✭✭✭✭

    That's a really cool and convenient design!

  • VickiP
    VickiP Posts: 586 ✭✭✭✭

    Great concept! Thanks for the link.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,116 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What a wonderful idea. I had never really heard of keyhole gardens other than just a passing word. After reading some of these articles, I will be looking into them much more. Though not for high heat areas since I am in the frozen north. But I think making the walls from stone will help provide heat to the "raised bed" Thank you for sharing.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @monica197 Don't see why not. Although I'd probably add a bungee cord stretching from one side handle to the other going through the lid handle.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    The only problem with a standard trash can would be the size. In a typical size keyhole bed of 6 to 9 feet diameter, you'd probably want your compost tower somewhere between 12" and 18" diameter, otherwise it takes up too much planting space. And in a keyhole bed large enough to accommodate a trash-can size compost tower and still give you enough growing space to be worthwhile, the outer area probably wouldn't get much benefit from the seepage from the compost tower. If you could find a tall, skinny trash can with a tight-fitting lid though, I'd sure be willing to give it a try.

  • happy-trails
    happy-trails Posts: 170 ✭✭✭

    Interesting concept for sure! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Acequiamadre
    Acequiamadre Posts: 269 ✭✭✭

    I wonder about the practicality of the small compost pile. I prefer larger piles that can heat up or a three-bin one that allows for turning. When I lived in the city, pests were an issue, so we kept our compost somewhat separated.

    I have experimented with keyhole a bit, but now have a combination of bio-intensive raised beds and row beds--with drip irrigation. The ease of watering and hoeing for weeds is a timesaver. Sometimes (and this is a musing), I wonder if some of the permaculture structures are more idealistic than practical. I love experimenting but have also appreciated Richard Perkin's experiences as he runs a farm at scale.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    I've found my two keyhole beds quite practical for growing a range of things--some vegetables grow better than others, or grow better at different times of the season, but you figure it out after a few tries. The vegetables that grow well in this type of bed grow REALLY well, require less watering, and being raised, it's easier to keep track of and deal with insect pests if they show up. But overall I think I have had fewer and less serious insect problems in the keyhole beds than in the traditional beds. I also have less problem with weeds than in my other beds, and what weeding I have to do is easier in the keyhole beds.

    The point of the compost tower is not really to produce a lot of compost as such, in the same way that a traditional compost pile does. It's just a steady. slow release of nutrients into this little patch of soil as the stuff in the compost tower breaks down, so that, just as you don't have to water as much, you don't have to fertilize as much either to keep the bed productive. Yes, as I noted in a previous post, raccoons are just a plague if you put kitchen scraps and such in the compost tower, but if you use stuff they don't like, such as grass clippings, shredded leaves, chicken coop cleanings, or half-finished compost from your compost pile, they only come for your vegetables as they do in the rest of the garden, not for the compost too.....and my keyhole beds being higher, they seem less likely to notice the growing vegetables there when not tempted up by savory scents from the compost tower.

    I do wish I had used rocks or something else to build them, because the cement blocks I used do cause the beds to dry out quicker than they should in hot weather. But I have rectangular beds built of cement blocks too, and those dry out even quicker than the keyhole beds. It does take some effort to build the beds--I've been planning on more, just haven't got around to it because of that. But overall my experiment with keyhole beds has been well worth the effort.