The Keyhole Garden: A Drought Friendly Survival Garden

Is your backyard too hot and dry to cultivate the vegetables you have only dreamed of?  The keyhole garden was developed for the sole purpose of maximum crop output in the hottest and driest of conditions. Their low cost, low maintenance and versatility make them a desirable gardening option for your yard and for gardening across the globe.

The Keyhole Garden- A Draught Friendly Survival Garden

Humanitarian foundations spearheaded the development of keyhole gardening to help improve lives around the world.  Keyhole gardening is simple enough to be taught to school-age children in third-world countries where the children then use the concept in their homes and villages.  A single keyhole garden affords enough abundance to provide a large family with a year round supply of vegetables. Keyhole gardens are circular raised bed gardens.  The larger outer circles are where crops are planted.  The center portion of these gardens are active composting baskets.  Small aisles are built to access the compost baskets.  Keyhole gardens get their name from the bird’s eye view of these features.dc576d

The composting basket is center to the success of keyhole gardens.  Kitchen scraps and grey water are added to the compost basket daily for continuous replenishment of the soil.  The soil for keyhole gardens is specially layered to boost its ability to maintain moisture and nourishment.

Keyhole gardens are currently making their way into backyards everywhere.  You can create one in your own space with the following steps:

#1 Find a space in your garden That’s about 3m², with good sun, access to water, close to your home and relatively sheltered and clear it of weeds and dig it over.

#2 Measure out the arm span of whoever will use the garden with some gardening twine. Halve this lenght and then add another 30cm. The best size for a keyhole garden is 6-7feet. Tie a stick to each end, plant one in thecentre of your space and use the other end to draw a circle in the ground.

#3 Draw out an entrance triangle to your keyhole garden from the edge of the circel to it’s centre, starting at a width of two feet.

#4 Now take the canes and lay them on the ground with a 5-10cm space in between each one. Wire the canes together top and bottom by wrapping the wire around each cane and attaching it to the next until they are all in a line. The total lenght of canes should be about 125 cm for a diameter of 40 cm. Now make a cylinder with them and push into the ground at the centre of your space. You have just made your basket.


#5 Line the inside of the basket with straw (to keep the compost from falling out) and thenhalf-fill with top-soil, composted material and rotted manure if you have some.

#6 Lay your stones, bricks or logs around the perimeter of your garden. Rhis could be a single layer or more layest, depending on the hight that you want your keyhole garden to be. Make a layer of broken lengths of pipe, cans or any other scrap metal you can find around your household (the rustier the better) to improve the drainage and enrich the soil with iron.

#7 Now start filling the garden with a mixture of garden soil, compost and well-rotted manure. You can add branches, grass clippings, newspapers that will enrich the soil by decomposing. Keep adding soil until you have a mound which slopes away from the basket – this increases the surface you can plant on.

#8 Your keyhole garden is now ready for planting. You segment the area into different crops to enable you to rotate them next season or if you are a seasoned gardener, you will know how to do some intercropping and companion planting.

#9 You can mulch with some wood chippings or something similar and put some colourful wool lines in to remember you what you’ve sawn and to brighten it up a bit. At first you’ll need to water the seeds until the roots grow then, when the roots have grown, you can water only the basket.

#10 Now you can carry on your composting by adding uncooked, organic food wastes into the basket using the entrance and water with waste washing up water into the basket too(this contains phosphorous, which some plants really like). Putting a circle of carpet over the top of the basket will help retain heat and speed up the composting process. The water you’ll put in the basket will do the rest and permeate the garden and water the roots of your crops with all the nutrients.


You should now have easy access to your garden and be able to reach in to plant, weed and pick you vegetables. Here’s a video that will explain the entire process of building and planting your keyhole garden.


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