Keyhole Raised Beds

David Trammel's picture

Interesting shape for a raised bed.

Why You Should Consider Building a Keyhole Garden

"Anybody who’s ever grown vegetables in a raised bed garden knows how awesome they are at producing an incredible yield that eclipses that of a traditional garden. But no matter how productive your design has been, chances are that it’s not as productive as the one I’m about to share with you. What’s it called? A keyhole garden. Intrigued? Read on.

A keyhole garden is round, roughly six feet across and has waist-high walls. The name comes from the distinctive shape of the garden, which has a round column in the center and a slot jutting out on one side, making it resemble a keyhole. As much as I’d love to say I came up with this method of raised-bed gardening, it is believed to have originated in areas of Africa in which communities had very poor soil and a long dry season and, as such, were seeking a means of growing fresh veggies as economically as they could."


I like how its waist high, good for someone like me that's older and has trouble bending. I'm guessing that the wire cylinder in the center is a composting pile.

The circular design does waste some floor space but there are square designs too. Might be a way to camouflage your composting piles in a urban setting too, where neighbors might gripe about any imagined smells.

ClareBroommaker's picture

When I first started my backyard double dug, intensively planted raised beds, it was sort of a keyhole rectangular design. My point was to use as much available space as possible in a narrow (25 ft) space, and to have good access to tend to the beds. I did not put the compost heap at the center, but moved it every few years. The beds were only raised something like 10-12 inches. Sometimes they were unbordered, sometimes they had scavenged boards securing them.

I did not bring in other soil from outside the garden but used what was there. We have really deep, nicely textured nearly rockless soil with a great balance of clay, silt, and sand. My main tasks were to fluff up the soil, bring up nutrients from deep below, and add humus and nutrients via compost, mulch, and occasional buried fish guts and bones.

The paths (except the pre-existing concrete one) were dug down a little in order to add soil to the raised bed. The paths were just wide enough to have space to squat between the beds. Sometimes the paths were mulched with wood chips. Sometimes I just let whatever wanted to grow there do so.

Here is the plan. This represents half the backyard garden now. More plantings continued over the years in the direction opposite the grape arbor. The unsketched portion looks more like an ornamental garden, but includes more cooking herbs, shrubs, alliums, spots to tuck in chiles, figs, gooseberries, and formerly quite a few roses (lost forever to rose rosette disease.)

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