Keyhole Gardens

First made popular in Africa, keyhole gardens are catching on in Texas and other hot, dry places. Keyhole gardens hold moisture and nutrients due to an active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed. Although most helpful in hot and dry locations a keyhole garden will improve growing conditions in just about any climate.

From a bird's eye view the garden is shaped as a keyhole. A notch is cut into a round garden bed, the notch makes for easy access to the center compost well. (Note the first diagram below; to see keyhole.)



keyhole garden

Keyhole Garden in Central Texas, Deb Tolman uses keyhole gardens as the main source of her own food supply, and is working on ways to keep them producing throughout multiple seasons and conditions. Dr. Tolman incorporates a frame into most of her designs to support a shade cloth during the hottest months. The frame might also be covered in early spring with plastic sheeting to create a greenhouse. Dr. Tolman is available for workshops, consultation, and seminars. Photo: Dr. Deb Tolman. www.debtolman.com


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Lesotho by Send a Cow, who first popularized keyhole gardens in Africa. Send a Cow has helped countless families and schools build keyhole gardens. www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden. This one looks easy enough to set up, but the bricks do not look like they will take another level if you desire the height to increase with time. The compost adds more and more soil year after year. www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden by Send a Cow. Line the center well with sticks or chicken wire lined with straw to initially separate the two areas.The center well is used to irrigate the whole garden bringing nutrients from the compost into the surrounding soil. www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

A keyhole garden in Ethiopia. Keeping a lid on the center well will retain heat and reduce evaporation. dsnyderphotography.com


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Uganda by Send a Cow.
This sustainable gardening method uses kitchen and garden waste and gray water (or wash water) as food for your garden. www.sendacow.org.uk



keyhole garden

Keyhole garden scheme. Layering is proven to enhance soil health. Layering sugestions: wood on very bottom, next cardboard, next a bit of compost, next petroleum-free newspaper, manure, worms, wood ash, straw, topsoil. Repeat, compost, straw, topsoil or some such combination until you reach desired height. texascooppower.com


keyhole garden

When it rains or when you water your compost, the nutrients will seep into the surrounding bed. During rainy spells you might wish to cover the compost so the nutrients in the compost do not leach out too rapidly.


keyhole garden

Step by step photos of a keyhole garden build.
libertygarden.us


keyhole garden

Sloping the soil away from the center well allows better transfer of water and nutrients and adds to surface area. www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Students building a keyhole garden.
Students Living a Mission = slamweb.org/SLAM


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Rwanda by Send a Cow.
www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Lesotho by Send a Cow.
www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Uganda by Send a Cow.
www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden with a surround of sticks in Uganda by Send a Cow. www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden by Send a Cow.
www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

Keyhole gardens with wood surround by Deb Tolman, Texas. In the winter the compost in the center of the keyhole garden generates heat and holds moisture. www.facebook.com/keyholegardens


keyhole garden

Keyhole Vegetable Garden by Anne Hars lined with straw wattle.
www.rootsimple.com


keyhole garden
 

Keyhole garden by sixth grade students in the UK who had been learning about sustainability and the soil conditions in Africa. The children used a combination of bricks and stones to create the garden. They surrounded the center compost with a piece of willow fencing. A garden sieve was then placed on top of the compost area to allow the rain water to seep through the compost and into the garden to help enrich the soil. Each day children throughout the school place their fruit scraps and more into the compost. The children decided to use the proceeds from selling their produce to help buy a goat for a third world country through OXFAM. rootsnshoots.org.uk



keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Florida by Melissa Contreras. This garden can grow in height, as the compost adds volume, more bricks can be stacked as in the image below. foodshed.greatereverglades.org


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden by Freddy Hill of Oklahoma.
www.garden-share.com


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Texas by Deb Tolman. "If all the layering guidelines have been followed, watering is at a minimum, evaporation is at a minimum, all plants look nutrient fed, and productivity is high." Deb Tolman.  www.facebook.com/keyholegardens


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden by Morena Hockley.
www.morenascorner.com


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden in Texas.
'Layered in the bed are bones of two cows, ash from one brush pile, aged dried poop from a dozen cows, five bags of clover, a pile of forest floor mulch, cardboard, rusty items, and 15 buckets of two year old compost.' www.tractorbynet.com



keyhole garden

Wine bottle keyhole garden. The reuse ideas could be endless, cans, metal, old row boats...earthbags...logs. "800 wine bottles, one year from conception to completion, and a lot of faith that this crazy idea would work. The diameter of the circle is approximately 7 feet." By Mary Martine, Pheonix, Arizona. phoenixpermaculture.org


keyhole garden

Beer bottles in cement. No keyhole. Love the bottle reuse, looks sturdy. Frame is for a shade cloth. www.facebook.com/keyholegardens


keyhole garden

Keyhole garden by Jim.
Via: www.organicgreendoctor.com


keyhole garden

Keyhole gardens have been made popular by Send a Cow, a humanitarian aid organization who builds keyhole gardens for families thoughout subsahara Africa. Three keyhole gardens can supply a large family with all their vegetables, year round. www.sendacow.org.uk


keyhole garden

A keyhole garden built by students in the UK.
Flowers surround the vegetables.
www.sendacow.org.uk







How to:

Send a Cow pdf: sendacow.org.uk.pdf

Baker Institute pdf: bakerinstitute.org

Texas Coop: texascooppower.com

Teca: teca.fao.org
 
Kits: keyholefarm.com  

 

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Hilary
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole Gardening
Reply #26 on : Sat August 30, 2014, 13:18:16
This is an excellent idea; ridding oneself of unsightly compost areas in the garden and incorporating into the garden in a more attractive and efficient manner. I'm hoping to have a garden again in the next 2 years and I'm definitely going to design a garden like this.
Renee
Posts: 26
Comment
Re: Keyhole Gardens
Reply #25 on : Tue July 29, 2014, 17:51:37
I've NEVER seen vegetable gardens designed in this way, it is FANTASTIC! The use of recycled materials and also incorporating composting into the design is really really clever. Have shared :)
Deborah
Posts: 26
Comment
Re: Keyhole Gardens
Reply #24 on : Sun July 13, 2014, 08:27:53
This is a wonderful idea for recycling and repurposing materials to create a garden. I am going to make one for herbs and medicinal plants at my home.
Barbara Moss
Posts: 26
Comment
keyhole gardens
Reply #23 on : Sun June 08, 2014, 14:39:16
I am so pleased that Stumbleupon recommended your beautiful web-site to me. The keyhole gardens are amazing. I just cannot understand why I have never come across them before. I shall tell everyone and share it on my FB page. Thank you so much. Oh - The post on Hugelkultur is great also. That I am familiar with.
Barbara from clevercomposting.
AMit
Posts: 26
Comment
Singapore holiday packages, singapore tour packages, honeymoon packages in singapore, singapore fami
Reply #22 on : Sat May 24, 2014, 02:35:45
This is truly a unique piece of article post i found.. and for that i hearty thank you.. from the entire team of (www.packngo.in)
and we appreciate the effort you made.. and taught us very unique and creative idea to have a small garden like this..
Thank you..
Hank Conijn
Posts: 26
Comment
feasibility Keyhole gardens in Zambia
Reply #21 on : Tue May 20, 2014, 05:48:13
This an amazing idea. I would like to sort out whether we can use it for for our community. I'm member of a Dutch Charity (www.projectsnow.nl) helping a very poor community on the border of the Zambezi in Southern Zambia (just 25 km north of the Kariba dam). Can someone help me out with some kind of checklist to see whether the locations are suitable for this kind of gardens? In june we will visit the villages again and we will be able to check this out.
Jamala
Posts: 26
Comment
keyhole garden
Reply #20 on : Mon May 19, 2014, 01:38:32
I'm amazed at the beauty of these. I love the creativity and seeing the gardens flourishing is absolutely wonderful
Tina Feliciano
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole Gardening Question
Reply #19 on : Sun March 23, 2014, 12:15:50
In the instructions I've seen it says that the compost leaches out and you can continue to build higher and higher. Does that mean that it does so naturally or does the person need to physically spread the compost out to build up the bed after each growing season?
cynthia
Posts: 26
Comment
keyhole gardens
Reply #18 on : Sun March 23, 2014, 02:27:50
This is great. I love the height, so no need to bend. You can makeit with any thing and grow what ever you want. Great concept, will pass it along. Thanks to whom ever thought this one up.
nadine
Posts: 26
Comment
.
Reply #17 on : Wed March 12, 2014, 09:34:54
This is a great idea. Especially for people with bad backs and inexpensive to build. I just love it.
Toni
Posts: 26
Comment
keyhole gardens
Reply #16 on : Mon March 10, 2014, 20:37:17
I love this idea so much. Cheap to build, the right height and no need to bend, and you can reach everything.
Jo Dancingtree
Posts: 26
Comment
To "My Limited Options"
Reply #15 on : Sat January 25, 2014, 17:58:04
Re: your situation of only being allowed to grow flowerbeds - You might not be able to build a tall keyhole garden, but I used to grow a "camouflaged" veggie garden in my front yard. A mix of flowers: marigolds to deter pests, alyssum to draw beneficial insects, plus carrots (pretty fernlike foliage, tucked in among the flowers), potatoes (they flower & look pretty, & most people don't recognize the plant), rainbow chard, ruffled kale, etc are beautiful background to the flowers, etc. You could grow berry bushes, too: look like landscaping, but provide food. Blueberries in the sun, currants in the shade. Best of luck to you!
Janet Hammill
Posts: 26
Comment
keyhole gradens
Reply #14 on : Thu December 26, 2013, 05:55:40
Great idea
ALICE HARPER
Posts: 26
Comment
keyhole gardens
Reply #13 on : Mon December 02, 2013, 13:49:20
What a concept! I will pass this on to all my gardening friends.
I can see this in the front yard with beautiful flowers and some veggies hidden among them.

If you have a blender you could blend all your kitchen scraps, minus any meat or dairy, and pour on the compost. Cuts down on decomposing time.
Pamela Lioce
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole gardens
Reply #12 on : Sun December 01, 2013, 14:03:42
I like that the composting is incorporated into the garden rather than being a separate activity.
nagesh
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole Garden
Reply #11 on : Fri November 29, 2013, 02:52:48
Novel and very interesting concept; we need to spread this across globe.
Nagesh,
Bangalore,
India
abdulaziznorat
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole Garden
Reply #10 on : Sun November 17, 2013, 04:28:33
It is very informative and interesting post.
esma
Posts: 26
Comment
tebrikler
Reply #9 on : Thu October 31, 2013, 09:38:50
muhteşem yaptıklarınız bende denemek istiyorum küçük bahçemde teşekkürler
Sam
Posts: 26
Comment
My limited options
Reply #8 on : Wed October 23, 2013, 20:14:10
All this stuff is amazing, but where I live I'm only allowed a "flower bed" type garden around my house. What kind of ideas do you guys have for This?
M
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole gardens
Reply #7 on : Mon October 14, 2013, 18:11:08
These are so wonderful! Never heard of them and been a gardener all my life! Love them!
Laura Rodriguez
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole gardens
Reply #6 on : Wed October 09, 2013, 03:41:32
Awesome idea for best use of limited space and adaptability to extreme weather, thank you!
Anonymous
Posts: 26
Comment
Re: Keyhole Gardens
Reply #5 on : Mon September 30, 2013, 17:32:23
Non ho capito niente o forse ho compreso tutto perché mi pare ottimo, oltreche' molto valido sul piano estetico
Stefano
marge mayo
Posts: 26
Comment
Keyhole Gardens
Reply #4 on : Fri September 13, 2013, 13:47:41
Wonderful idea.
dale rego
Posts: 26
Comment
Re: Keyhole Gardens
Reply #3 on : Thu September 12, 2013, 12:45:05
I'm totally blown away by this concept! Great Idea, Good Job! Thanks for sharing it
Silverhawk Irvine
Posts: 26
Comment
Gardens
Reply #2 on : Fri August 30, 2013, 15:22:58
Looking to improve our gardening skills. This whols keyhole format looks do-able. Thanx Much-o
Prof. Bansi Lal Puttoo
Posts: 26
Comment
Key hole gardening concept
Reply #1 on : Thu August 29, 2013, 02:34:33
I am delighted to see beautiful key hole gardening pictures growing different vegetables,flowers etc using the locally available waste /junk material. It is a novel method of recycling the domestic wastes and built up of clean surroundings. I wish to extend this concept in my area of residence and recommend it to others for adoption . It is simple and least expensive.
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