I’ve been keeping up with City Farmer in Vancouver ever since I took an organic gardening workshop there almost four years ago. City Farmer is a demonstration urban garden in the gorgeous Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver (trivia for the day: Kitsilano is where Greanpeace started), where they….well, demonstrate stuff . Like an organic food garden, composting (including a composting toilet), and a cob building with a green roof. While browsing their blog yesterday I came across another ingenious idea they’re incorporating, the keyhole garden.
City Farmer’s keyhole garden comes to them by way of the UK organization Send A Cow, which among other things, fights malnutrition in Africa with gardens. The basic concept of their keyhole garden is a round, raised bed (about 3 1/2 feet high) garden with one section left out to allow gardeners easy access to the entire space. The central shaft of the garden is essentially a compost pile, where gardeners can throw any kitchen scraps and other compost, as well as gray water. This design helps both water and nutrients leach into vegetable roots as the water seeps down through the compost. Layers of straw in the soil plus a final layer of mulch on top also conserve water.
Check out the video to see how it’s done:
It’s a brilliant idea obviously well-suited to drought-stricken areas of Africa, but I think it would translate pretty well to South Dakota. Although we usually have enough water for our gardens, we have our share of dry spells with watering restrictions. After all, South Dakota is a “semi-arid state with somewhat light rainfall in the range of 10-20 inches per year,” according to the state’s Conservation Districts, and water conservation is becoming more important to us here, especially West River and in the fast-growing Sioux Falls/Lincoln County area. The keyhole garden is also perfect for people who live in town and don’t have room for large gardens.
It might seem like jumping the gun just a little to be talking gardens in December with the blizzardy, subzero weather we’ve been having, but thinking ahead to my next garden is one thing that gets me through South Dakota winters. Plus, a couple seed catalogs (Fedco and Seed Savers Exchange) have already arrived, and the beginning of seed-starting (onions and leeks) is only a couple months away…thank goodness!
Click here for more about building your own keyhole garden.