Last summer, my salads never had quite enough radishes, basil, parsley or arugula. The cucumbers and zucchini vines always spread their wings just enough to pipe down the shoots of my salad seedlings so that the little veggies could never take off and spread out and stand up like proper vegetable soldiers.
Photo, my future garden, courtesy of Sunset Magazine: For the names of plants, click here:
So, that exciting day when I planted my garlic last fall, I spread out more newspaper and leaves and expanded my garden. Still, I wanted more space, but I didn’t want the place to look like a farm. Since then, I’ve learned that the problem with garden space lies in the rows. Straight vegetable beds, with rows for walking, take valuable space away from the plants. For example, a traditional row garden of 13 square feet only provides 3 feet of plantable area (when factoring walkways) – a waste of 75 percent of the garden space.
A keyhole garden, is a circular garden, with a walkway up the middle, and has no rows. This consolidated garden allows you to harvest your plants from one spot, as you work your way around from the circle in the middle. If a keyhole garden takes up over 29 square feet, (size is up to you – this is for an example) it has a plantable area of more than 19 feet – 75 percent productive land, versus only 25% plantable land with a row garden.
In addition, the keyhole garden design lends itself to planting your seedlings densely, which does minimize weeds, allowing you to plant more, and encourages the roots to go down deep to the water, rather than spreading out. In short, it’s for the lazy gardener.
I was worried about having enough stones and rocks to build up the walls. Then, I found this simple efficient design from the Urban Oasis Project.
I can certainly find enough rocks for this garden. Besides, the rocks are an excellent way to help build up heat in the garden for the vegetables.
It’s not that I am a lazy gardener – far from it – because working the soil is relaxing for me. But, I am unable to be there to tend to my garden as often as I like. This brings me to the next feature that I love about the keyhole garden. It’s self-sufficient.
The key (no pun) to this keyhole garden is its inner fuel tank – a constant source of water and fertilizer is the compost bin that sits in the inner basket of the garden. This is where you put kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and leaves, and organic material (no meat or dairy). As this material decomposes, it provides water and fertilizer as the material turns into compost. The compact design of the keyhole makes the turnover from potato peel to dirt happen very quickly.
The central basket means the garden survives with no to low watering and no fertilizing. In fact, this is a method specifically designed for those in parts of the world who suffer from low rainfall. The keyhole garden takes all of the effort of watering and when-to-fertilize out of the equation for me – perfect for those who say they can’t grow anything. I might be able to grow two gardens. One for the lake, and one for home.
Traditionally, the keyhole garden is a circle, with a path cut into the middle in one place to give you access to the garden. But, mowing around circles is a problem. My solution will be to keep the garden bed in its rectangular shape, and to fill those triangular pockets around the corners of the circle with something else. Such as bean fort teepees, or tomatoes in cages, or dry herbs, such as rosemary. The possibilities are simply endless.
Instructions for this keyhole garden are coming.