5 Benefits of Keyhole Gardening - Backyard Boss
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5 Benefits of Keyhole Gardening

Have you discovered the joys of keyhole gardening yet? The name “keyhole” describes how this garden looks from above due to its famous circular shape. This type of garden has a pathway open to the center of the circle where there’s a compost “basket” to encourage nutritional soil. The unique shape also provides more accessibility for the gardener.

Take a look at these five benefits as to why keyhole gardening should be in your future!

What Is a Keyhole Garden?

Keyhole gardens began in Zimbabwe to help people grow their food. The idea was to use available materials, such as sticks and stones, to build the garden and then use compostable materials to develop nutrient-rich soil. Additionally, this nutrient-packed soil produces a healthy food source.

When constructing a keyhole garden, the basics remain the same. The shape resembles a keyhole from above, a circle with a hole in the middle, and a path from the outside to the middle. A basket at the center of the garden houses the organic material, and soil slopes slightly down and outward from the basket to the outer walls of the garden.

From low to the ground to hip height, the height of the garden bed can fluctuate depending on the gardener. Check out how to DIY a raised garden bed so your keyhole gardening journey can begin; Just remember to keep that general circle shape for optimal results.

Benefits of Keyhole Gardens

1. Nutrient-dense Soil

Woman hand holding soil in heart shape for planting
Image credits: A3pfamily via Shutterstock

The basic design of the keyhole garden centers around a basket made to receive organic waste. Watering this basket soaks the compost material, which releases nutrients into the soil.

Using compost in a garden provides a whole host of benefits to the soil. Gardens with compost material have better soil structure, allowing them to flourish in places where the soil does not. Compost helps strengthen sandy soil to retain water and nutrients while doing the opposite for clay soil! In clay soil, compost loosens up the particles to allow roots and water to spread throughout.

2. Reduce Waste

hands holding compost above the composter with organic waste
Image credits: Jerome.Romme via Shutterstock

Organic waste, such as kitchen scraps, fallen leaves, and straws, is full of nutrients — Why not put that to good use? Placing the organic matter into the keyhole garden basket improves the soil and reduces waste. Think of it as a small compost bin. 

Another way these gardens reduce waste is in the construction materials. For this style of garden, common materials, such as stones, bricks, wood, cardboard, and other around-the-house building materials work great for keyhole gardens. 

3. Better For Our Planet

Fertilizing a Plant
Image credits: Julia Filirovska via Pexels

Keyhole gardens and the unique way they use composting material to improve the soil reduce the need for fertilizer. Fertilizer, often found in the runoff of soil, contributes to pollution in water systems. Composting material acts similarly to a slow-releasing fertilizer, providing micro and macronutrients without synthetic chemicals.

Keyhole gardening and its compost provides essential plant nutrients to help your garden thrive, inviting life like worms, fungi, and bacteria, all of which aid in plant health.

4. Water Retention

Watering your rubber plant
Image credits: Creative2USA via Pexels

When a garden has healthy soil, the ability to retain water and nutrients is much higher. An increase of only 5 percent in compost material will quadruple the soil’s ability to retain water! Proper water retention will give you a hydrated garden and prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. If you live in an exceptionally hot climate, you’ll need to water more often.

5. Accessibility

Image credits: Crowing Hen via Shutterstock

With the pathway up the middle, keyhole garden designs account for gardeners who cannot crouch down to low-laying gardens, or those who have other mobility limitations. The unique access points enable the gardener to reach all the plants in the garden with relative ease.

Best Plants for a Keyhole Garden

Harvesting carrots
Image credits: Jonathan Kemper via Unsplash

Choosing plants for your keyhole garden ultimately depends on the goal of the gardener! Whether it’s as a food source or your planning a perennial garden, determining the purpose of the space is the first step.

Generally, planting at least four root vegetables helps assist in keeping the garden fertile and soil loose. A good companion plant for root vegetables are leafy ones! So consider using root vegetables like carrots, onions, and garlic with leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and herbs.

Garlic is exceptionally good at repelling pests and rabbits. Also, growing plants like peas will amend your soil with nitrogen!

The Key to Success!

There you have it — keyhole gardens have many benefits to people and to the earth itself! The nutrient-dense soil provides the perfect foundation for a healthy, thriving food source. From reducing waste and water consumption to improving soil structure and food quality, keyhole gardens can be a joy for all.

Do you use a keyhole garden to grow food? Share your experience in the comment section below!