By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Keyhole garden beds are commonly seen in permaculture gardens. These beautiful, productive gardens are ideal for small spaces and can accommodate a variety of plants like vegetables, herbs, flowers, etc. In addition, permaculture keyhole gardening can be easily adapted to fit the individual needs of the gardener.
How to Make a Keyhole Garden
In a permaculture keyhole garden, plants that are used on a regular basis (and those that require the most upkeep) are placed nearest the home quick and easy access. By using creative patterns and designs, gardeners can increase productivity, especially with the use of keyhole garden beds.
These beds can be designed in a number of ways, depending on the gardener’s needs and preferences. Typically, however, keyhole gardens are horseshoe shaped or circular (like a keyhole) so they can be easily reached from all sides. As for how to make a keyhole garden, there are various methods for its construction.
Design and Build Keyhole Raised Beds
One of the best and most common methods for keyhole gardening construction is the use of raised beds. Raised beds are most preferred, as they reduce the need for bending or stooping while performing garden maintenance. They’re well suited for nearly any plant, especially perennials, which have deeper root systems and require less water.
Place a stake in the ground to measure the center, attaching a string and measuring out about 24 inches around. Then, measure out about 5-6 feet from the stake, which will become the outer perimeter of your garden bed. You can then build keyhole raised beds by building up the soil with stones, boards, or anything that will hold dirt in your desired shape to a height of about 3-4 feet.
Sheet mulching is another method for implementing keyhole garden beds. These beds are placed on existing lawn or dirt without the need for digging and can eventually be built up into raised designs as well. Wet newspaper or cardboard is placed on the chosen site (in the desired shape). A layer of straw is then added over top with a layer of compost and soil applied along the outer edges (for plantings), with an opening left for entry. Larger keyhole gardens can also be constructed with a center planting or focal point such as a small ornamental tree, shrub, or water feature.
Another method for building a keyhole garden involves the construction of a rock wall around a center water-catching basket. Find or level off an area of ground about 6 ½ feet in diameter, near the home is best for easy access to water.
Mark the perimeter of the center water catch basket with four sticks, which will be about 16 inches wide and 5 feet tall. However, it’s important to note that measurement is flexible and can be changed to fit your needs. Tie the four sticks together with string and line the basket with a permeable lining. The outer edges will consist of a wall of flat stones that will gradually be built up to 4 feet high (again, this is up to you). Don’t forget to leave a keyhole opening about 1 ½ – 2 feet wide.
The floor of the keyhole garden is made up of compost that includes a layer of kitchen scraps, followed by a layer of sticks, twigs, and dry leaves, followed by soil and repeated.
Keyhole gardening is perfect for anyone who wants to grow productive, organic plants in any climate, in any space with little effort.