Keyhole Gardening

Keyhole gardening is an affordable and less labor-intensive method of permaculture gardening that is taking the world by storm. This unique and simple approach can save you time and money, and it provides an environmentally friendly way to grow your own food. Check out all that keyhole gardening can offer you!

What Is a Keyhole Garden?

It’s a type of raised bed (no-dig), permaculture garden shaped like a circle with a notch or keyhole cut out. At the center, a round basket holds compost materials (vegetable scraps and other yard clippings) that you add regularly. The hard work in this garden is done by the microorganisms that convert the compost to healthy soil, which then feeds the bed’s plant materials. Whenever it rains or you water, the center basket’s nutrients leach out into the surrounding soil. First made popular in Africa, this unique approach is great for areas where droughts are common, but it’s perfect anywhere for improving growing conditions and conserving water.

The Benefits of Keyhole Gardening

This is a great alternative for people who want to grow their own food, but don’t have the time to commit to it on a traditional platform. It’s also perfect for people who don’t have the money to invest in bags of potting soil and other expensive soil amendments. This type of gardening produces compost quickly, using water and materials from your own yard and kitchen to create a rich growing base. And, since the platform is raised, it’s easier on your back and legs and resistant to many natural enemies of ground-level gardens. If you add a support structure overhead, you can shade your garden during the harsh summer or protect it, greenhouse-style, during the colder months.

How to Construct Your Keyhole Bed

Many backyard gardening enthusiasts prefer recycled or natural materials for the bed’s walls, but you can use whatever materials you prefer. Start with a circle approximately 10 feet in diameter and construct a Pac-Man-shaped bed. The secret to the keyhole method is to make the keyhole large enough to provide easy access to the central basket, which you can make out of chicken wire. The center basket should be 1 foot in diameter and extend vertically from ground to about 18 inches above the soil. Fill the bed with alternating layers of kitchen scraps, garden clippings, and dirt, and watch the magic happen!

The Recipe for a Successful Keyhole Garden

Experts say that a successful keyhole garden works best with a ratio of 3:1 in the composition of brown and green material in the soil. This forms the core of the garden and breaks down rapidly, thanks to the heat created by the natural decomposition process. Some brown materials that are recommended for use include brown or yellow leaves and grass, paper and wood products like phone books and newspapers, straw, sawdust, dead plants, lint from your dryer or vacuum cleaner debris, cardboard and wood ash. The green materials you can use include kitchen scraps such as vegetables, fruits and eggshells, coffee grounds, manure, tea bags and fresh green grass clippings.

For all of your northern Utah gardening needs, call on the experts at Millcreek Gardens in Salt Lake City. They carry all the plants and accessories you need, but the real value lies in their experience. Visit Millcreek Gardens today and let them help you get started with your keyhole gardening project.