All Things Gardening forum: Keyhole Garden

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picklehopper
Jan 31, 2014 9:45 PM CST
Hi, I have been doing research on the keyhole Garden concept and find it rather interesting and something I want to try. Has anybody ever tried this? Also, when it is layered, how many layers do I need and of what? This part has been vague on the sites I looked at. I have even seen sites that have old clothes layered in. After a couple seasons when everything is decomposed and used up (the layers), would I need to empty it out and refill it again? Any help would be appreciated!
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Jan 31, 2014 10:12 PM CST
@dave has a keyhole garden. He has written an article about it. I'm sure he can give you some good information.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 31, 2014 10:12 PM CST
I will enjoy reading anyone's replay who has actually done this, just looking at it I am not convinced anything but the plants right next to the compost would actually get much in the way of nutrients, but I have never done it. I have seen old jeans and even shoes thrown in a compost pile, just a novelty trick in my opinion, just to say it can be done. I can not imagine actually working such a pile, I like my piles to be easy to work and the less screening the better. I do believe such material thrown in the pile would limit the amount of space for good material that would benefit the plants as they break down. With the plants so far away, those on the outside, I would think you would have to have things in the pile that would provide the three basic elements and the micro elements the plants need. Old cloths are not going to do much along those lines it would take two or three years I would think for them to rot away, and I have never seen the nutrients of a pair of jeans or a shirt listed.
Name: Sandi
Austin, Tx (Zone 8b)
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Bubbles
Jan 31, 2014 10:20 PM CST
This is one thread about the keyhole garden. i'm sure someone will chime in.

The thread "Keyhole Bed Design In Small Scale Permaculture" in Permaculture forum
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 31, 2014 10:27 PM CST
I really hope Dave replies, I looked at a dozen or so Keyhole gardens and I just don't get it. Some of them looked like they were built of brick and stone, looked like four feet or so high. What was the purpose of that, drainage? In a dry desert? To increase the planting area? In Texas? Really, I just don't get it. The effort used in building such a garden could grow four normal crops it looks like to me.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Feb 1, 2014 8:41 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

I'm a big fan of the shape of a keyhole garden. It's a shape that really helps exploit a lot of permaculture principles. I had a mandala shaped bed, which was actually 5 or 6 different keyhole beds all touching each other. It was really neat and very productive for us. I took it apart and used all the material to build a butterfly garden for Trish.

The height question @Seedfork mentioned is also something that has always puzzled me. My herb spiral is really tall and filled with mostly wood and good soil and compost in just the top 12 inches or so. Most of the keyhole beds I've seen are lower to the ground, like any other traditional raised bed. But occasionally someone puts together a bed that's 3 or 4 feet tall and I don't really know why they do it except to make it more accessible to people.

Check out my hugelkultur article for photos of my mandala bed:
http://garden.org/ideas/view/dave/41/Building-a-Hugelkultur-...
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Feb 1, 2014 9:06 AM CST
I noticed Dave said he "had" a mandala shaped bed. I like the idea of a bed down in the ground for dry areas, with as much water running into the bed from the surrounding area as possible. Raised beds are normally suggested for good drainage, and faster warming of the beds! I am not sure about how the keyhole gardens are constructed but when raising them up so high it looks like the growing zone or root zone would be placed way to far above the food and moisture sources, and I just don't buy the idea of a bed so high being more accessible to people unless they are disabled in some way, or unless the bed is so small you could almost reach across it, not very practical unless you are feeding one person who is not all that hungry. Maybe that is something I am overlooking, the size of these beds may be very small, that would allow the crops to get more even feeding, and explain a lot of the deficiencies I am thinking of. I don't see how they could be over three or four feet out from the center compost container.
Ok, enough ranting, it just does not look practical to me. I did notice in some of the pictures of key hole gardens raised up high, with beautiful greens growing in them that in the back ground were conventional looking gardens with beautiful greens growing in them also. The keyhole garden looks like something to highlight a flower garden, not a primary source of food. Hey, I grow a few tomatoes, a few peppers, and a little lettuce, if I am lucky I might slip in some onions and carrots, so my view is not derived from experience .
[Last edited by Seedfork - Feb 1, 2014 9:11 AM (+)]
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Name: Sandra Williams
Corpus Christi, TX (Zone 9a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
rositoes
Feb 1, 2014 1:43 PM CST
There is a good article on keyhole gardens (Keyhole Gardening
Unlocking the secrets of drought-hardy gardens
By G. Elaine AckerIssue: February 2012) in the Texas Co-op Power Magagazine which is on line. If you google "keyhole gardening" it will come up. One reason for the shape is to allow easy access to the center where your compost "bin" is. You water through the compost, hopefully sending nutrients into the soil. A neighbor I had once used a somewhat similar concept which she said was a Japanese style of composting. Small composting wire structure place in center of small home garden into which kitchen scraps were tossed. Really simple, but I don't know how effective it was, or where the idea actually came from. The keyhole garden is supposed to be water efficient, nutrient rich and protects from some animal browsing. It's an intensive gardening method.
Sandra
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Feb 1, 2014 4:52 PM CST
https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+a+keyhole+garden&tbm...

picklehopper
Feb 1, 2014 11:53 PM CST
I think I am gonna try it. We live in a drought area and I have or can find the materials to do this. I may take lots of pictures when I build and then again as things grow. sometimes doing is the best learning, right? It would be neat if someone else wanted to do this and compare notes as we go along. Any takers?
Name: Carole
Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b)
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SongofJoy
Feb 2, 2014 6:04 AM CST
Good link, Frillylily. I was fascinated by some of the construction - especially the one made from bottles.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Feb 2, 2014 7:47 AM CST
picklehopper,
I watched several videos about this on youtube, a couple of them were (let me say there are a lot of different interpretations of what keyhole gardening is about), this one at least seems too have some science behind it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hobrYWufEN0

I can see how they might work by limiting the size to only six feet in diameter as she stresses in the video.
[Last edited by Seedfork - Feb 2, 2014 7:52 AM (+)]
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Name: Jonna
Mérida, Yucatán, México (Zone 13a)
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extranjera
Feb 4, 2014 2:59 PM CST
Really interesting, thanks for the links. I would love to make one of these on my flat roof. I wonder if I had some type of drain on the bottom if it would work. I'm going to put in raised beds around the perimeter of the roof, a keyhole in the middle would be great as well.
A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.
Name: David Paul
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DavidofDeLand
Feb 4, 2014 4:06 PM CST
I want to see your roof before its started so as to appreciate the after. Sounds great! Thumbs up

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