Testing New Garden Designs
I truly love all aspects of gardening. (Except maybe weeding…) But, one of my favorite parts of running my farm and garden is experimenting with new ideas. …or at least new to me. This year I am trying a few new things, one of which is a keyhole garden.
The Idea Behind Keyhole Gardens
Keyhole gardens operate in similar fashion to Hugelkultur Gardens (which I am also currently building) in that the natural fertilization is going on throughout the process within the bed.
Keyholes can be designed in many ways, the most popular being a circle – somewhat like a pie with a slice missing. The missing slice is what allows you to walk up close to the center…which is important. You will understand why shortly.
They can also be constructed of a variety of materials, depending on your tastes or, in my case, what I had on hand. Last summer we unearthed some beautiful stones from one side of our property and we’ve had them piled up out here ever since, just waiting for me to decide on their use. I decided.
Constructing the Keyhole Garden
I got the boys up the other morning and had them help me move all these rocks to my chosen area. Some of them were quite heavy, it’s a good thing I raise strong kids! Once they were moved it was time for me to start building. My littlest loves to help momma so we did this thing together. (I love working with him too!)
We began by dry-stacking the rocks, making sure that we sized the bed well enough to make good use of the them. When we were satisfied with the design, we began unstacking one small section at a time and using mortar to tie them together. I didn’t go overboard on the use of the mortar. It is basically filling in gaps and keeping the rocks from slipping. That way if I decide to change it, it won’t be that hard.
Prepping the Growing Area
The first thing that I did, once the stones were mortared in is to lay down a good layer of landscape fabric. I then added a considerable amount of cardboard on top of that as well as going up the inside walls of the bed, soaking it as I went.
Mason and I decided to take a nature walk to the back of our property looking for downed limbs and sticks to add to the bottom of the bed. This does a couple of different things. For one, it acts as a filler in the bed so that I don’t need as much soil but it also works in the same idea as is behind the Hugelkultur beds. The wood retains moisture, helping the beds not to dry out as quickly and it also, over time, breaks down, adding nutrients into the growing medium.
The ‘Key’ feature of the keyhole garden is the compost area directly in the center of the bed itself. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a composting spot in the center of the growing bed. It can be constructed in a variety of ways. We are opting for a piece of excess roll fencing that I had on hand and stakes. The stakes serve 2 purposes; 1-to hold the fencing in place and 2-to narrow the holes in the fencing.
The idea is that you continuously add compost materials (kitchen scraps, etc) to the compost spot and you water the bed through the compost area, pushing the nutrients out into your growing area where the roots of your plants really need it. See how efficient that is? Composting and growing all in one spot!
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