THIS is great weather for dreaming up projects.
BUILDING A KEYHOLE GARDEN
When the weather clears this weekend, I’ll be putting in another keyhole garden down at the Garland Community Garden. Keyhole gardens are great for those who have difficulty bending down to ground level. They are three-feet tall. You can make the sides from about anything--from corrugated tin, to bricks, to concrete blocks, to wire fencing. (If you use wire fencing, you’ll have to put a liner around the inside of the fencing to prevent the soil from falling through.) Weed prevention cloth makes a good liner.
Here are the materials I’ll be using:
- 27 feet of 14-gauge wire fencing
- Four 12-foot rebar (cut into 6-foot length) making 8 rebar poles
- Eight ¾ inch metal conduit pipes (5 feet long and 2 are 7 feet long)
- 27 feet long of 36-inch-tall plastic feed bags sown together
- 27 feet of clear environmental greenhouse plastic 4 feet wide
- 110 feet of 18-gauge galvanized steel wire
- Six feet of chicken wire 36 inches wide
- Wood chips and other organic matter--enough to fill 3/4s of the enclosure for the garden.
- About half a cubic yard of garden soil
- About 8 gallons of compost to top off the upper layer of soil for the garden
TOOLS: wire cutter and hammer for driving poles.
- Determine the location for your Key Hole Garden (flat with plenty of sun)
- Bend the 27 feet of wire fencing into a circle.
- Join the ends together with the 18-gauge wire. Make sure the ends of the wire are on the inside of the circle to you don’t have sharp edges sticking out of the fencing
- Make the keyhole, the indentation in the circle: At a point directly across from where you wired the two ends together, make a crease from the top of the wire fencing down to the ground. This will be the center of the “V”. (See photo of Keyhole Garden for clarification.)
- Measure out 3 feet on either side of the crease and make a crease. You should now have 3 creases in your circle. (See photo of keyhole garden for clarification.)
- Drive the six-foot rebars in the inside of the fencing at the points shown in the photo where you see the vertical poles. Drive them into the ground a little more than a foot. They will be sticking above the top edge of the fencing about 2 feet. Slide the 4-foot conduit pipes over the rebar. [Note I’m using materials I have on hand which are 12-foot 3/8 rebar that I’ll cut in half and various lengths of ¾ inch metal pipes. You could use half inch rebar and skip the pipes.]
- Using twine tie each rebar at about midway to the top of the fencing. You will eventually use wire to connect the poles to the fencing. The twine is temporary to stabilize the fencing as you install your side liner.
- Starting at the back seam where you joined the two ends of the fencing to make the circle. Place the liner along the side of the fencing. Make sure to allow about a foot of the liner to rest on the ground.
- Begin by untying the twine that secures the rebar to the fencing. Slide the conduit pipe over the rebar. Using the wire, secure the pole to the fencing at least at the places
- Unroll the liner until you come to the next rebar. Undo the twine and follow step 9 for each pole on the inside of your Keyhole Garden.
- When you get back to the seam, your starting point, be sure to overlap the liner about 18 inches.
MAKE THE COMPOST BASKET
Now your liner is attached and you are ready to make your compost basket.
The compost basket can be made of chicken wire fencing. You’ll need a length of 6 feet by 3 feet wide to make a basket that is 2 feet in diameter. Make a circle and attach the ends as you did for your keyhole garden. This basket goes at the center of the “V” or keyhole. See photo of Key Hole Garden for reference. Once the compost basket is ready, place it at the point of the “V”. Now or later this basket will be filled with compost (leaves, and raw vegetable and fruit cutting from the kitchen, spoiled lettuce from cleaning out your veggie bin, etc. no meat!). When you water your garden most of the water should got to this basket as it feeds the rest of the plants in your garden.
FILL UP YOUR GARDEN WITH GROWING MEDIUM
About ¾’s of your garden will be filled with wood chips, logs, mulch, grass clippings straw--anything organic except weeds. We have a lot of wood chips down at the Garland Community Garden so we will be using them to fill up our keyhole garden. Water the organic matter well. Add about a foot of garden soil to the top and the top off with about four inches of compose.
The wood chips will hold water and reduce the need for watering. You will get the same benefits from the compost basket which should be feed at least every two weeks. You cannot put too much water on a keyhole garden during initial construction. Use lots and lots of water. After that, it will be very water-wise. You may only need to water two or three times during the summer. Here in drought-prone Texas, that translates to once a week.
When planting in a Keyhole Garden, forget all the rules about proper spacing. Crowd everything in. Intensive garden spacing is a great way to increase your return in the garden. This concept uses all the space in the beds eliminating the need for rows and paths. Intensive spacing not only increases the return but also helps control weeds and save on water. One keyhole garden will grow over 70 tomato plants. You plant intensively in a keyhole garden. Some plants will grow tall and others will hang over the sides.
NOTE: MY LINER WILL HAVE TWO LAYERS
The layer against the inside of the fencing will be a an environmental greenhouse clear plastic lining. Then against that will be colorful plastic seed sacks that I've sewn together.
Feed bags sewn together
Closeup of one of the feed bags.