My keyhole garden bed

post_cover_keyholeSometime over the winter I’ve stumbled over a post describing the approach known as “keyhole gardens”. You can find the details here, but in a nutshell, this is a practice of building self-sustainable garden beds (oftentimes circular) in small spaces. The sustainable part comes from a composting “tower” in the center of any keyhole garden. This is a sort of  vertical approach to composting, resulting in smaller footprint (again, great for tiny gardens), which got me all excited, of course. At West Philly PlotLand, the community garden I belong to, we already have a compost pile for garden waste, so there was no real need for me to incorporate this concept, but I found the idea of keyhole gardens so brilliant that I just had to include it, somewhere, somehow! Making a keyhole garden fragment on the balcony seemed too insane of an idea, so I knew I had to do it in a raised bed. My newer bed is almost square, so it would make sense to place a compost tower in the center, and that’s precisely what I did.

I dug out a circular hole of the right size and depth (about 10″, not too deep, but enough to anchor the tower), aiming for the center of the bed.

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The best way to go about this would be to build a sturdy composting tower with a locking lid and a removable bottom panel to take out the ripe compost. But, as you probably already know, I am lazy, so I used an old woven laundry basket (got it for $3 at a thrift store). It has enough holes to let the compost breathe, invite the worms in, etc, plus in time the bottom should compost itself. When that happens, I might just have enough time and energy to build an actual tower…

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I positioned the basket in the hole and piled the soil around it. I will start it off with a couple of bokashi-fermented  batches of kitchen scraps and then continue filling it up with garden waste. Since the lid does not lock, I “secured” it in place with a large stone, so that crazy Philly winds don’t blow it off (hopefully, it is heavy enough to keep the critters away, too).

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So here it is, my keyhole garden-style raised bed. I still have to fill it with more soil, as you can see, but there’s already enough (about 8-10 inches) to start. Now I just need to steady myself and patiently wait for planting season!

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