Ecological garden in keyhole

We have already talked a little about the different methods of the raised garden to provide greater comfort when doing the tasks of caring for our vegetables. Well, today you are going to know a variant that, in addition to being very functional, is tremendously aesthetic. The Keyhole garden or ecological keyhole garden .

Looking at the title, you may be a bit puzzled by the system itself. Although it may seem something tremendously new, the truth is that it is not. It is a growing technique sourced from deep in Africa where irrigation efficiency and composting go hand in hand to create an incredibly efficient self-consumption growing system.

ECOLOGICAL GARDEN IN KEYHOLE: THE OBJECTIVES

In a simple way, the objectives of this system can be summarized in:

  • Irrigation efficiency
  • Work comfort
  • Making the most of waste

Irrigation efficiency because the evaporation of the irrigation water is minimal. Work comfort because the type of garden created has the work and vegetable handling area at waist height. Maximum use of waste because the compost pile is integrated into the construction of the garden and does not require transfer or transport of organic matter from the composter to the growing area.

We always talk about different forms of cultivation, the raised garden , the deep terrace , the Parades in Crestall . A whole host of forms of cultivation with their own characteristics and advantages, although each and every one of them has many similarities. The keyhole organic garden, however, is the most strikingly different thing I have seen in the management of self-consumption gardens. It changes everything, the way of adding the compost, the irrigation, the planting frames, the shape of the cultivation surface and even the perspective of the garden. It is something that has nothing to do with almost all the cultivation methods that we have proposed to this day. If you want to know how to make one, we will tell you step by step.

MAKE THE ECOLOGICAL KEYHOLE GARDEN STEP BY STEP

When we talk about an ecological keyhole garden, it is not something fortuitous. The final shape that it has, seen from above, can be similar to the element that gives it its name, and this is the first step that we must take, determine on the ground the figure of a keyhole that I now explain to you in what way.

1º DELIMIT ON THE GROUND, THE MARKS WHERE THE WALL OF THE TERRACE WILL BE FITTED

To begin, we have to mark two circumferences on the ground concentrically with a radius of 1.50 m the largest and 0.45 m the smallest. Once done, with the hoe, we peel and plow the earth from the central circumference (the small one). So far what we have drawn is a “donut” but to give it the shape of a keyhole we must eliminate a part of the circumference. As if we cut a slice of pizza,so now we have that keyhole shape. Removing this portion will allow convenient access to the center circumference for watering and adding materials to the compost pile. There are those who also wall the part that corresponds to the central basket (yellow part) and there are those who support it with wood. The second option allows the compost basket to be emptied more comfortably if necessary and a better aeration of the compost.

2ND CREATE THE CENTRAL BASKET WHERE THE COMPOST WILL BE INCORPORATED

In the central circumference of 0.45 m radius is where all the waste destined for compost will be added as a vertical cylindrical compost bin. To shape that central cylinder we must put a perimeter net or mesh as shown in the photo to make a compost basket. The height of the mesh will be approximately 1.5 m, so that the compost column protrudes above the level of the soil of the bed (you can see how it looks at the end). In the lower part it is advisable to add pieces of wood, stones, cardboard to allow adequate drainage and aeration in the composting process

3º START THE WALL OF THE TERRACE

We must make the wall of the terrace with bricks, stones, concrete blocks, metallic structure, etc. Whatever we want, but with enough resistance to sustain the thrust of having the terrace full of wet earth, since it is during periods of irrigation or rain that it will have to bear the most weight. As heights are placed in the construction of the wall, soil will be added.

4TH FILL THE BASKET FOR COMPOST

Remember that we have a pile of earth removed, aerated and draining elements (sticks, stones, straw, etc.) at the base of the basket. Gradually fill the compost basket with layers of litter or straw, some firewood ashes (mineral contribution), compost and some soil. Once the basket is full, we continue with the creation of the substrate for the bed.

5TH CREATE THE SUBSTRATE OF THE TERRACE AND GRADUALLY INCREASE THE WALL IN HEIGHT

As the wall gains height, layers of straw, compost and soil must be put in layers, so that it is enriched. The soil that works best is garden soil (airy, soft, rich and stable). The proportions obviously should not be the same. The percentage of soil must be high. Thin layers of compost of a couple of centimeters between layers of about 10 cm of soil.

In both cases we must irrigate with water to settle the materials properly, both in the basket and on the terrace.

Terrace under construction.
Source: The Valhalla project

6TH ROOF FOR THE COMPOST BASKET (OPTIONAL)

small tejavan can be created to protect the compost bin. The type of protection generated by this roof depends on the climate in which the organic garden is located:

  • In hot climates it provides shade and prevents the compost and part of the bed from becoming too dry. We save water.
  • In rainy climates, we protect the compost basket from excess water in the mix, also diverting the water to the growing area.

Finished keyhole orchard
Source: Sendacow.org

7º GROW YOUR VEGETABLES AND ENRICH THE COMPOST PILE

Once we have the finished garden we will start to cultivate. Planting margins can change. Some make radial planting frames. They can be made by sectors (like pizza slices), following the circumference making concentric crops. There are multiple options.

The mulching technique with straw or other materials is highly recommended in this type of garden. As the plants grow, it is advisable to pad the bare areas to avoid any adventitious plants and save more water if possible.

As the materials are composted, the central basket will decrease in volume. We will simply have to replace with the usual compost materials at the top , maintaining the structure of layers of materials and it will gradually decompose and join the organic garden.

8º ENJOY ALL YOUR CULTIVATED PRODUCTS!

Now you just have to enjoy your crops and show yourself what you are capable of as a horticulturist. The initial work is expensive but the reward will surely be worth it considering that the compost pile is already incorporated and you do not have to do it in another place and move the compost to the garden (saving a lot of work).

FINAL CONCLUSIONS OF THE METHOD

With this last paragraph I would like to conclude by summarizing the characteristics that make this organic garden system unique.

  • Compactness It is clear that the spatial savings of having the compost directly in the structure leaves room for other things
  • Irrigation efficiency . Without being technologically advanced (localized irrigation, drippers …) we obtain a high irrigation efficiency.
  • Work efficiency . Although the initial work is expensive, the long-term advantage of not having to move compost from one site to another is highly valuable.
  • Work comfort . Having the garden between 40 and 60cm above the ground in its highest parts leads to a much more upright work posture.
  • “Walks in the garden” : By having the crop in a radial way, we avoid many round trips as in rectangular cultivation systems.
  • As a slight disadvantage, I can intuit that we cannot select more mature and decomposed or less decomposed compost phases according to which crops.

ADAPTATION OF THE KEYHOLE GARDEN ORGANIC GARDEN SYSTEM TO ORNAMENTAL OR AROMATIC GARDENS

This Keyhole Garden system has also been an aesthetic and comfortable way to create ornamental or aromatic gardens, in an elevated and above all orderly way. Work comfort is even greater in this type of garden, since the central part does not require a compost basket, so a hole can be left from which the person can operate all the plants from the central point, leaving everything at fingertips. At Gardenprue we wanted to simulate with a 3D program how this adaptation would look.

Well, here we finish the treatise on the ecological keyhole garden, and as they say: An image is worth a thousand words and a video has more than a thousand images … I do not see a better way to see the process of building a garden of this type than to show the creators themselves in Africa, through this video. It is brought to us by the Sendacow.org organization  . It is worth seeing.

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

Ryan Heagle

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

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