Sometime 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.
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…
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).
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!