Keyhole gardens originated in southern Africa about 30 years ago. They now provide food for thousands of people there. Keyhole gardens are especially beneficial in areas with poor soil and undependable rainfall. This page provides a brief overview of how keyhole gardens work and how to how build one plus several links to additional information. The image above is from Sage's Acre.
How Keyhole Gardens Work and How to Build One
Keyhole gardens are raised bed gardens, with a compost basket and watering place in the center. The rounded shape allows easy reach to plants, and the "keyhole" provides access to the compost basket and watering place.
Dr. Deb Tolman is a landscape architect and environmental scientist in Clifton, Texas. She has built and inspired others to build scores of keyhole gardens. Clifton is located about 35 miles northwest of Waco, in the Lampasas Cut Plain region, similar to the Edwards Plateau of the Texas "Hill Country." Annual rainfall "averages" about 36 inches, but we all know there is no real average year and rainfall is usually widely dispersed between long hot dry periods and torrential rainstorms -- not hospitable to standard gardens.
"Dr. Deb" builds keyhole garden structures out of whatever material is available, from rocks to old boats. In the bottom of the structure she places wood scraps, cardboard, newspapers, and old phone books which are then covered with composted soil. Water applied through the compost basket hastens nature's decomposition of the wood and paper which before long become productive soil and good things to eat!
Information and illustration are from Texas Co-op Power Magazine
Dr. Tolman is Director of of the SILO Project (Sustainable Information and Learning Opportunities).