Keyhole gardening can be a perfect solution for growing plants in small spaces, poor soils, or harsh climates. This innovative raised bed garden design originated in southern Africa and has since gained popularity worldwide for growing all sorts of delicious and nutritious veggies or gorgeous ornamental flowers.
In contrast to traditional garden bed layouts that group plants in rows, keyhole gardens are typically circular and have a slice taken out for easy access to the entire bed. Learn all about keyhole gardening and get some ideas and inspiration for building your keyhole garden bed.
What Is Keyhole Gardening?
Keyhole gardening is a practical solution for many different locations. The gardens are compact and eliminate space otherwise taken up by pathways between rows. They also fit well in small areas like a patio or balcony.
The basic principle involves creating a raised garden bed built around a central compost basket. Furthermore, most keyhole garden designs utilize repurposed materials, which minimizes building costs.
After building the walls, line the bottom with large materials like sticks, rocks, or broken pottery to facilitate drainage. Next, add layers of composting materials like leaves, grass clippings, wood ash, and newspaper. Finally, top it off with compost and topsoil.
The keyhole garden’s shape allows gardeners to conveniently access all parts of the bed from a single point. Meanwhile, the composting bin continually enriches the soil and provides nutrients for the plants. The soil slopes away from the compost basket toward the outer edges of the bed, facilitating efficient water retention and reducing the need for frequent watering.
Keyhole Garden Design Ideas
There are several crucial elements to consider when designing a keyhole garden to ensure its success. First, choose a suitable location. Look for a spot that gets ample sunlight and is close to a water source. The bed’s size will depend on your available space and the plants you want to grow. Most keyhole gardens measure at least 4 to 6 feet wide.
The materials you use to build the garden walls will vary. Here are some ideas
Stone is a durable material that won’t rot or decay. A keyhole garden made with stone will likely last for many years with proper care. Also, stone provides a natural, rustic aesthetic and blends well with various landscape styles.
However, building with stone requires more time and labor than other materials. But the long-term durability and low maintenance of a stone keyhole garden make it worth the extra effort.
Like stone, brick keyhole gardens can withstand extreme temperatures and aren’t affected by changes in humidity. In addition, brick adds a classic, refined look to your garden. It’s also a cost-effective option since leftover bricks from home or commercial construction projects are often inexpensive or free.
Another sturdy, low-maintenance option for your keyhole garden wall is cinder blocks. Cinder blocks are a versatile building material that gives your design a modern, industrial feel. You can frequently find them at a low cost or free from a local construction company or on community pages like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Reclaimed lumber is recycled wood salvaged from old buildings, barns, or other structures. It’s often less expensive than new materials, making it a budget-friendly choice for building a keyhole garden.
Using reclaimed lumber helps reduce waste and is a highly sustainable option. Additionally, reclaimed lumber is often more durable than new lumber, as it has already been seasoned and cured over time. Its unique appearance gives your garden a rustic, vintage character.
Pallets are often available from local stores for free or low cost. They’re lightweight and adaptable, making them an excellent choice for urban keyhole gardens. However, pallets aren’t as durable as other materials and may not last as long.
Buy a Kit
If you don’t have repurposed materials to make your keyhole garden, don’t worry! Keyhole garden kits are available at many home and garden stores or online.
Creating Your Garden
After selecting your wall materials, it’s time to choose the materials for the other necessary parts of your garden.
Making Your Compost Basket
The composting bin goes in the center of the keyhole garden. You can use various materials that allow for water drainage, including wood, chicken wire, plastic or wire mesh, or woven sticks. Remember that natural materials break down over time and eventually need replacing.
What to Plant in a Keyhole Garden
The circular design of keyhole gardens maximizes growing space and allows for high-density planting. When planning your layout, essential considerations include light, drainage, and accessibility.
It’s beneficial to place taller plants on the north-facing side so they trap heat and don’t block light. Also, moisture-loving species should go around the edges where the most water drains, with plants that prefer drier conditions upslope.
Finally, consider how often you need to access each type of plant. Place the ones that require regular maintenance or get harvested regularly towards the front for easy access, with less frequently used plants toward the back.
The Sky Is the Limit
Keyhole gardening is an excellent option for areas with limited space or soil quality. It’s a sustainable, low-maintenance way to grow your favorite plants. Using these ideas for inspiration, all you need to do is decide which design works best for you and start building your keyhole garden.
Have you ever tried keyhole gardening? Share how it’s going, or ask any questions you may have in the comments below!