Keyhole Garden Tutorial

          keyhole garden bed


          Keyhole Garden Tutorial

          Here’s another small space garden method to try. Dr. Deb Tolman is the original creator of this concept of rolling a garden bed and compost into one. It’s based on the lasagna garden method where layers of recyclable materials are used as well as being water conservative.

          Follow these simple steps to create your own and you’ll have a veggie bed that is a pretty as it is Eco sensitive.

          What is a Keyhole Garden?

          A Keyhole garden is a raised bed that uses minimal space, recycled materials and combines a compost system and garden bed into one.

          It’s a circular shape with a slice taken out to allow for easy access to the compost basket in the center creating the keyhole shape. Build the sides out of wood, cinder blocks or bricks. Any type of material could be used that would allow you to build up the sides.


          keyhole garden layoutkeyhole garden layout (1)









          Use two sticks with a 3′ string tied between them to measure out your shape. Place one in the center and draw a line turning around the center point. Build your sides with your chosen material up 2 feet. We used 48 cinder blocks in our example.


          keyhole garden layout (2)


          Similar to the lasagna style, a layer of rocks, twigs, branches and even old broken pots can be placed in the bottom to allow for drainage. Add layers of cardboard and the newsprint between compost and then fill the top half with straight soil/compost mix.


          keyhole garden layout (3)


          A ‘compost basket’ made of wire ( chicken wire or a more heavy duty gauge ) is at the center as you build your layers. We decided to use some old moss as a screen in our demonstration garden to create a permeable layer between soil and compost.


          keyhole garden layout (4)


          Slope your soil away from the basket towards the edge of your bed. The compost baskets gets watered, and this slope direct the moisture out from the basket and through the bed. The water carries nutrients from the decomposing compost material, thereby feeding the soil and irrigating it at the same time.


          gardens arts



          Plant your bed with any vegetables you desire. Have fun mixing edible flowers or even puttint a few poles curved over the bed for some climbers. Try planing in a twisting pattern to add more interest.


          keyhole garde


          A Keyhole garden is a simple method with many benefits including:

          • Save Space
          • Raised bed for ease of reach
          • Perfect for wheelchair accessibility
          • Recycled materials
          • Composting made easy
          • Cost effective
          • Water conservative
          • Feeds itself naturally
          • Easy to create yourself
          • Interesting and attractive bed

          Have fun putting your twist on this method and happy planting!

          Peace Love Garden


          12 Responses to Keyhole Garden Tutorial

          1. My mom used to put wire bins like that in her flower garden for her kitchen scraps. The flowers grew so lush around them that they disappeared. One year, some potato peelings fell out and started to grow. Dad laughed at first, but Mom’s volunteer potatoes did better than the ones he planted in his veggie garden on purpose. This was 50 years ago, before composting was cool.

            • LOVE IT! Composting is easy to do. A lot of ‘stuff’ out there makes it seem complicated, but Mother Nature has been doing it since the earth was formed with no special tricks at all.

          2. So you don’t put anything but compost materials in the middle? Just wondering if a bottom layer is needed 🙂 also, do you think this might work as just a quarter circle if we have access to the corner point?

            • Yep, just compost… no weeds. You can add grass clippings and other garden clippings as well. I don’t see there being a problem making a smaller slice 😉

            • Squirrels are a real pain! Sometimes it’s better to join them then to fight them. Buy bag of cheap plain peanuts in the shell or some other type of food they love and placing that in the opposite side of your garden will keep them away from the things you want them to leave alone, worth a shot.

          3. hi, we just finished building your typical rectangle raised beds, but made them out of used guard rails. i am trying to figure out how to incorporate this pie system into my beds. could i just put 2 or 3 compost wire containers evenly spaced down the middle of the raised beds. would this accomplish the same thing? i was going to put 2 plumming pipes with holes drilled all around them under the soil, wrapped in fabric to keep the soil out of the holes. attach a elbow and another pipe sticking up out of the soil so i could water directly into the pipe. now after reading your article i want to do this instead, for years i have always put my compost around the outside of my garden . i just dug a hole, when it was full i covered it and moved on. what are your suggestions. thank you in advance, sincerely, laura naab

            • Hi Laura, I think your on the right track. Certainly putting a few smaller compost bins down the center of the bed would work… once fall hits simply pull out the baskets and turn the compost into the rest of the bed. I wouldn’t bury the pipe watering method too deep as the roots of young plants will not be able to reach it. Perhaps lay down soil then the pipe mid way, then top with soil. The water will be closer to the roots but it will saturate the soil below the pipe as well forcing the roots to go deeper for a drink as they get more mature… this seems that it would result in healthy sturdy plants that don’t require a drink as often. Good Luck!

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