Another Volume from the Annual Keyhole Garden Tour April 25 - Clifton Texas

Leon Smith and his brother Lyndell of Keyhole Farm have manufactured the first semi-portable keyhole gardens.  Their lightweight and colorful keyhole garden kits are said to take approximately an hour to assemble.  They can be ordered online from, called in, emailed in, or even self-delivered. 

I was especially interested to see Leon and his brother's operations.  A couple of weeks ago Leon donated one of these kits to Loving Garland Green.  We will be installing it this Saturday, May 3, at 1PM--4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland.  Come on down and watch the installation, but be prepared as we are likely to put you to work.  The following week we hope to install a cement block keyhole garden also at the Garland Community Garden.  While you are there you can also take a look at our square foot garden and the beginning of our tribute to Ruth Stout (1884 -1980), a colorful American organic gardener known to many as "the mulch queen."


Keyhole Farm 

At first I was surprised to see that Keyhole Farm is located in a residential area of Clifton (1503 W 11th Street)--yet on second thought:  what a appropriate location for the manufacture of garden kits designed to be used in back yards and parks of cities all over the USA.

Leon's home is located on what appears to be about half an acre.  The back yard is filled with about 20 keyhole gardens in many shapes, sizes and colors.  

For those of you who may be disappointed to have missed the once-a-year keyhole garden tour in Clifton, don't despair as I'm almost certain that Leon would find time to show you around if you gave him a call and asked him.  Clifton is a lovely drive located only about two hours away from the DFW area (southwest toward Waco).



In the photo above Leon is showing one of the visitors the stalk of an Okra grown last year in one of his keyhole gardens.  The speed at which plants grow in a keyhole garden is amazing--even more amazing when one knows what goes into the "soil" which is a mixture of wet cardboard, leaves, grass clippings, small tree branches, newspaper, old telephone books, old clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton and wool, and kitchen scraps--all topped off with a mixture of compost and garden soil that is about 4 inches deep.  The total height of the wall of a garden is approximately 27 inches. 

Keyhole gardens are keyhole-shaped:  The shape of its six-foot diameter circle looks much like a pie with one wedge slice removed.  The walls of the garden are from 27 to 36 inches high.  The materials of the walls vary from one gardener to the next.  Traditionally most of the walls are constructed of stone or wood; however, just about anything can be used as long as it is strong enough to hold the soil--bricks, concrete blocks, stone branches, corrugated metal, etc.  The center of the circle features a wire cylinder (typically chicken wire) about a foot in diameter and extending one foot above the soil in the bed.  One feeds the garden by walking into the wedge and depositing vegetable scraps, grass clippings, etc into the wire cylinder.  Since vegetable are about 90% water, this process reduces the amount of water needed by the plants.  In addition, of course, this process feeds the plants.

Like most of the new processes for growing plants, Keyhole gardening stresses jamming as many plants as possible into the space available.  I was shocked to learn that Deb Tolman had planted 70 tomato plants in one six foot diameter bed last year.  They grew profusely and the only issues they had were with harvesting.  Apparently plants love nestling together.  Below is an example of just how lush these keyhole gardens become.  The photos below were taken of a bed at Keyhole Farm. Consider the plants in the bed on the right were planted from seed 23 days ago.   The Planting Worksheet signs are similar to the ones we plan to hang in the beds at the Garland Community Garden.  In addition to these worksheets we will also be recording our crop yields for each bed at the garden.  


Common elements among the keyhole gardeners of Clifton include their creative imaginations and apparent love of things whimsical and light-hearted.  Deb Tolman has her wall sculptures made of old bed springs and women's high-heel shoes.  Leon and his brother name their gardens.  Below we have "Lucky" and "Bee Mine".  These two are designs from The Keyhole Farm's keyhole garden kits.  They come in two sizes:  The larger one on the left is about six feet in diameter and the one on the right is approximately three feet in diameter.  Both designs are wheelchair accessible and easy to manage.  The smaller design is circular.



Often keyhole gardens are constructed from concrete blocks and then stone is mortared around the blocks.  Wood may also be used to construct the walls of the garden as shown in the photo on the right featuring a garden constructed by Jerry Crockett of Clifton.  Note:  Soil does not sift through the cracks in the blocks because prior to building the soil, the insides of the walls are lined with wet cardboard.  While the basics of the design of a keyhole garden are the same, the materials and appearance of the outer walls are as varied as the gardeners who build these gardens.


If you live in the DFW area and don't want to drive to Clifton to see a keyhole garden, stop by the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road any time after May 3.  We will be installing the bed donated to us by Leon Smith of Keyhole Farm.  The following Saturday we will be installing our own hand made concrete block keyhole garden.

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