Thursday, May 5, 2011

No-Till Keyhole Garden Bed

A keyhole bed is a circle with a path to the middle and widened into a circle at the center of the bed.  Basically, it is a rectangle curved at the middle to bring together the ends.  It is supposed to be space saving, but I just like circles better than sharp edges. The path into the center is shaped like a keyhole so that you can ideally reach all of your garden from the inside path or the outside of the circle without stepping on the soil.

I am creating a series of keyhole beds that will loosely resemble a mandala garden when I'm finished.  I take my time and build only about 1 or 2 keyhole beds a year.   Here's how I do it:

Hose, stick, tape measure, string and scissors.

Build your keyhole garden you will need the following:
  • flexible hose or suitable substitute for laying out bed
  • a stick, pipe or pole to place in the center of the circle
  • string to tie to the pole
  • scissors to cut the string
  • tape measure
  • shovel
  • lots of newspaper or cardboard
  • compost or soil (or do the lasagna method and use leaves, straw, compost, etc...)
  • water hose
  • straw

Decide on the general area...

You can use your tape measure to get a basic idea for placement of your new garden bed.  I measure mine at about 12-13 feet across, then place my pole in the ground at the middle so that my radius is about 6 ft.

String tied to pole

Tie your string to the pole and measure a little over 6ft and cut your string.  I tie a loop in mine so that the edge doesn't fray.

String stretched from center pole to guide placement of the hose

Lay your hose loosely in a circle around the pole so that it is easier to guide into your more precise circle. Now begin stretching the string to the edge and guide your hose into the circle as you walk all the way around.  This is the general shape and placement of your keyhole bed.

Hose guide in place for digging in edges.

Next, I like to dig in my edges in order to prevent vines, weeds or grass from growing into the garden bed.  Plus, this part of my yard is wet and soggy.  Edging in allows for better drainage and raises my bed slightly.  Follow the hose guide and dig in all the way around the bed.

Edges and part of path dug in (pole is still in the middle)

Now dig in a path from the edge to about 1 foot from your center pole.  My path is quite narrow...maybe 1-1.5 feet wide.  I put the soil from the path and the edges into the garden bed and loosen them up a bit so they aren't too clumpy.

Full path and keyhole dug into center.

Now dig out the circle in the middle.  I would ideally use mulch to cover my path but all I had was straw and it works fine.

Path covered with straw

Next get all of your newspaper or cardboard and your water hose.  Begin laying your newspaper, overlapping and using several layers at once.  Continuously soak the newspaper and the soil in the bed as you go, especially if it's windy outside!  Eventually, your whole garden bed should be covered in several layers of wet newspaper...


whole bed covered in wet newspaper.

Now carefully begin moving your soil building materials onto the newspaper, continuously soaking as you go.  This is important to encourage the worms and other soil creatures to eat all the grass and plant material under the paper layer and eventually come up to the top layer.  I just used compost to cover my newspaper.

keyhole bed with compost

Next I watered it in again and covered with straw to suppress weeds on the top layer and to protect the newspaper while it is breaking down.  I also put up barriers to keep the chickens from scratching it.

Would be easier to see the path if it was mulched!

1 comment:

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