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Keyhole garden, can I use these materials?

 
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Hello everyone,

first I wanna say hello and a big thanks for that big amount of information here.
I am Markus and do gardening on a hobby level for some time now.

My current destination is Portugal near Nazare and some month ago, I had the chance to get a little piece of land to do gardening.

Since we have very sandy soil here, I was wondering, how to cultivate vegetables, without getting lots of soil from other areas.

After searching the net, I stucked on the keyhole technique, its just brilliant and with the ressources in that garden I have, probably a great way to grow vegetables/fruits.

Since that garden is abbandoned for about more than 30 years (it was an old house that was not maintained anymore and over the decades, crashed and became a beautifule ruin), I have lots of old tiles, bricks, wooden beams, rosted metal, etc.

I will attach some pictures, to show better.

My question now:

The stones and tiles are perfect to build the keyhole garden.
Either for the outside wall, or to cover the ground.

But I have a massive pile of wood (from the old beams, old doors/window frames, etc).

Since that wood is very old and I guess when the house was build over 100 years ago, there is no chemical inside, I could use it?

So I thought instead of removing, I could also use them to fill the keyhole garden.

Also most of the metal is super rusty and without any chemical stuff.

Could I use that wooden material and the tiles, to fill the keyhole garden on the ground?

There is so much stuff, that I could build probably 3 keyhole gardes.

We also had to cut lots of bushes and trees to get through the place, so we have a massive pile of cutted branches.
Do I have to make them very small first or could I use medium size branches directly in the keyhole garden?

And another question:
Since the ground is sand only - what could I use, that the water is not just running away?

Can I somehow create a ground, to prevent the water from just running out of the garden?

Thank you,
Markus

Left side a pile of seperated wood, next to it metal and also trash like plastic that I have to remove.
There is still LOTS of more wood, tiles, bricks and cutted trees.







 
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Hello Markus, and welcome to Permies !
That is beautiful place you have there,  with lots of potential.

Others will chime in but I think you are right to think these beams are safe to use in the bottom of your keyhole beds.
I would try to get some manure to mix in with them.
The combination should rot down nicely and provide a spongy soil that will retain water.
 
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Welcome to Permies Markus.

A keyhole garden is a great way to start, but your sandy soil makes it a challenge.  Many people who grow keyhole gardens do so by making it a raised bed garden, sometimes raised up about 2 feet (about 60 cm).  Is there any chance you could build a wooden frame for the bed?  You do mention that you have some 100 year old boards laying about.  Perhaps those could be used to create the raised edges.  Once the edges are built, you can fill with a combination of sand (preferably darker sand--you may have to dig a little to find if) and organic matter.  If you can find any clay, mix that in as well.

But regarding the branches and wood you have lying about.  I see no reason you could not incorporate the wood into the soil itself if you wanted to so long as it has not been treated with any chemicals (and you seem pretty certain it has not).  Any branches from the trees can also be used.  Personally, I like to break the wood down to smaller pieces, but this is not strictly necessary.

If you were so inclined, you could fill the beds with wood chips and break them down with mushrooms (I like to use Wine Cap mushrooms).  I personally like to trim my bushes and collect the branches.  When I have enough I rent a wood chipper and turn the branches into chips which go in the raised garden beds and get inoculated with mushroom spawn.  This will take some time, but the resulting compost is amazing.  My mushroom compost is far more fertile than any soil I have ever had.  If you do try this, given your heat and aridity, I would think that winter would be the best time.  But I don't really know your specific climate all that well, and I am thinking that you would want to sow mushrooms when you have the longest period of soil moisture.  If you are still interested in this option, I can point you to some threads on Permies that detail how to make mushroom beds.

But if you want to try using your own soil, then by all means do so.  I would advise mixing layers of sand/soil and woody branches, green foliage and those boards if you are really interested.

One final note about those boards though.  If they lasted 100 years more or less intact, something is preventing rot and decay.  Do you know what species they are made from?  Hopefully they will rot in contact with soil and soil microbes, but I would want to be sure of this before I buried them as I would not want to have a rot resistant board buried in my garden soil.  But ultimately, this is your call.

Markus,  I know I have dumped a lot on your plate, but I am trying to help with some ideas, not so much with specific instructions.  I hope this is helpful, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and also, please keep us updated.  This is an exciting project.

Eric
 
Markus Tanz
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William Bronson wrote: Hello Markus, and welcome to Permies !
That is beautiful place you have there,  with lots of potential.



Hey William,

thank you for answering! :)

Yes, that piece of garden is a hidden paradies, instantly fall in love with it.
And 2/3 is almost all day long with sun - at the same time there are some places with shadow.

On the top-down pictures in the right bottom area with the tree, is a beautiful place with old mill stones reused as tables.

Since the place wasnt used for so many years and nature found its way back, the soil at some places is not to bad.
But as soon as I dig a little bit, its sand only.

Yes, I already have sources for manure and they are happy to give it away.
And something here in my area that I dont understand - there is no extra container for green waste.
So everything goes away with the normal trash.

My neighbours know about the project and I asked them, to collect or bring the vegetable "trash" to my place.

Yeah, I also think the wood is gold for the keyhole garden.
Its very old, rotten and no sign of chemical paint or so.

On the upper-middle space you can also see a big pile of bricks.
Thats the next area to clean and see, what we find.

Sadly for years some people used that place to remove there plasic and mixed trash.
We found tons of bags with plastic and other trash.

Anyway, we slowly see how much space we got there and with the help of some friends, we gonna create a little paradies to grow, chill and meet/eat. :)
 
Markus Tanz
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Eric Hanson wrote:Welcome to Permies Markus.

A keyhole garden is a great way to start, but your sandy soil makes it a challenge.  Many people who grow keyhole gardens do so by making it a raised bed garden, sometimes raised up about 2 feet (about 60 cm).  Is there any chance you could build a wooden frame for the bed?  You do mention that you have some 100 year old boards laying about.  Perhaps those could be used to create the raised edges.  Once the edges are built, you can fill with a combination of sand (preferably darker sand--you may have to dig a little to find if) and organic matter.  If you can find any clay, mix that in as well.

But regarding the branches and wood you have lying about.  I see no reason you could not incorporate the wood into the soil itself if you wanted to so long as it has not been treated with any chemicals (and you seem pretty certain it has not).  Any branches from the trees can also be used.  Personally, I like to break the wood down to smaller pieces, but this is not strictly necessary.

If you were so inclined, you could fill the beds with wood chips and break them down with mushrooms (I like to use Wine Cap mushrooms).  I personally like to trim my bushes and collect the branches.  When I have enough I rent a wood chipper and turn the branches into chips which go in the raised garden beds and get inoculated with mushroom spawn.  This will take some time, but the resulting compost is amazing.  My mushroom compost is far more fertile than any soil I have ever had.  If you do try this, given your heat and aridity, I would think that winter would be the best time.  But I don't really know your specific climate all that well, and I am thinking that you would want to sow mushrooms when you have the longest period of soil moisture.  If you are still interested in this option, I can point you to some threads on Permies that detail how to make mushroom beds.

But if you want to try using your own soil, then by all means do so.  I would advise mixing layers of sand/soil and woody branches, green foliage and those boards if you are really interested.

One final note about those boards though.  If they lasted 100 years more or less intact, something is preventing rot and decay.  Do you know what species they are made from?  Hopefully they will rot in contact with soil and soil microbes, but I would want to be sure of this before I buried them as I would not want to have a rot resistant board buried in my garden soil.  But ultimately, this is your call.

Markus,  I know I have dumped a lot on your plate, but I am trying to help with some ideas, not so much with specific instructions.  I hope this is helpful, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and also, please keep us updated.  This is an exciting project.

Eric



Hi Eric,

thank you for your detailed answer! :)

Yes, I definitly was thinking about a rasied keyhole garden.
So not just on the ground, but using the bricks and other material to build a keyhole frame (to a hight that working is more easy, too) and than fill that with the tiles, wood beams, old card board, some of the smaller, rusty metal parts, branches (I can have a machine to make them small as you mentioned), etc.

But since the ground is very sandy (I will make some pictures later to show), I was thinking about using something to keep the water from flowing away.
Yesterday I was watching some videos from Dr. Deb Tolman and the way, she is building the keyhole gardens.
As far as I understood, with her method she tries to keep the keyhole garden as moistured as possible and also seals the frame to get a hot climate inside the garden.

I am very interested in the mushroom technique, never heard about that!

About the beams - beside the ones that are still on the walls (the big ones you can see in the pictures), everthing is already quite rotten and can be broken by hand.
Also the big beams are not perfect anymore and have signs of rotting away since there is no more cover from a roof.

The big beams on the walls are quite stable, but you can also see lots of signs of the rain and the rough atlantic climate.

So I guess, there maybe was some kinda protection, but not the chemicals you get today to protect the wood.

Thank you again for the detailed answer! :)

Markus

 
Eric Hanson
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Markus,

The bricks are a great idea.  If you can get those working, I say go for it!  

The wood you describe sounds perfect.  All that crumbling wood should be great in a garden.  This also brings up another point.  You are understandably concerned about moisture retention in sandy soil.  I would think that mixing in that crumbly wood along with the sandy soil would help get some immediate organic matter in the soil and that would also help with moisture retention.

Also, I am glad that you like the idea of mushrooms--they can be a great way to enhance soil fertility.

Sounds Great!

Eric
 
Markus Tanz
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Here are some more pictures.
Sand, wood and tiles. The sandy soil is what we have here.
The wood is how most of the beams look like.
Tomorrow I get the machine to shredder the pile of branches.

IMG_20200824_193250_compress86.jpg
Dog digging in sandy soil
Dog digging in sandy soil
IMG_20200824_193406_compress50.jpg
Old wood and stone fence
Old wood and stone fence
IMG_20200824_193347_compress74.jpg
Pottery shards
Pottery shards
IMG_20200824_193328_compress49.jpg
Old, rotting wood
Old, rotting wood
IMG_20200824_193420_compress27.jpg
Trimmed brush
Trimmed brush
 
Markus Tanz
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I also wanna show you some progress.
That's day one of cleaning that space.
And it's funny to see that "ant" -style.

https://youtu.be/9LJtHzPrnuw

edit:
Progress of creating mulch from the cutted trees and bushes.

haechsler_01.jpg
Old stone wall and cleared brush
Old stone wall and cleared brush
 
Markus Tanz
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So. Some more hours, than the mulch is ready.
Friend helping me with his machine.
Cannot wait to get that place clean and build the first keyhole garden.

Btw. Shall I keep the progress here in that topic or create a new one? Something like a work in progress post.

IMG_20200826_154606_compress28.jpg
Old stone wall and cleared brush
Old stone wall and cleared brush
 
Markus Tanz
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Hey,

I gonna add some more pictures of the progress, but here is a little tour through the garden showing the keyhole garden with a dry stone wall.
Sorry for the many "aehms" and bad english, I will improve the next time!
I would love to hear critics what I could make better for the next keyhole garden, since we defenitly wanna build one (or two) more - tons of stones to go.

https://youtu.be/FAeXI9e4l60

Happy gardening,
Markus
 
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