What’s A Keyhole Water-Wise Garden?
Back in March I posted that I’d be gardening with a keyhole this summer. You can see my keyhole in the above photo, a kit by Vita Gardens. It’s a 24″ raised bed made with a food-grade BPA-free polymer extrusion that you fill lasagna-style with layers of cardboard, twigs, and dried leaves (brown) then a layer of grass clippings (green), repeat the brown and green layers, top it off with 6 inches of compost/soil, and then plant. The premise is a self-sustaining/compost-driven method inspired by keyhole water-wise gardening systems used in drought struggling areas like Africa.
My Keyhole Gardening Experience
Like most new garden projects, getting it going is always an adventure. There are highs and lows, but once it’s up and running, this garden is quickly becoming an integral part of my veggie garden. Since I knew in March that I would have this extra space, I started more tomatoes, peppers and basil from seed than I usually would. One keyhole garden advantage is plants can be arranged much closer than normal. In fact, Deb Tolman, Texas Keyhole Garden expert, instructs users to “pack them in” to get the best out of the keyhole method. Closer plants enable the keyhole container to conserve water by creating a vegetative canopy throughout the growing season.
Tolman says this even works with tomatoes and peppers, vegetables traditionally planted further apart for needed air circulation. Now, it’s a long way from Texas to Minnesota and the climates are far different, BUT we both have high summer temps with lots of humidity. So after much consideration, I decided to take her advice and plant mine closely. I planted 10 tomatoes, 8 peppers and 10 basil in my 6 x 6 foot keyhole! Three days after planting the garden got it’s first high-heat test. Temperatures soared into the 90’s. Typically my newly planted tomatoes would have been droopy and worn out after a day like that….
but they survived the test just fine! Thankfully, the peppers and basil are also doing well after such high heat followed by wind.
I mentioned earlier that growing a vegetative canopy allows the keyhole to retain moisture. This moisture retention also comes from all those compostable layers of brown and green packed inside. The basket featured inside the walk-in or keyhole portion is also intended for vegetative table scraps. This is what “feeds” the garden all season long. Additionally, should I need to water, I’ll water through the grated basket.
As the season progresses, I’ll be back with more posts about my keyhole. Also, there are a few things that I would change in our set-up process. I’ll write more on that later, too. If you have questions or have used a keyhole in the past, please let me know by leaving a comment!
Come back tomorrow when we’ll be featuring a special guest on the Growing NOW Garden Tour 2015! We are busy growing this season. I hope you are, too!
More Than Oregano
Spicing Up Your Garden Life!
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