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Keyhole Gardens and Composting for Beginners - Please help explain!

 
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Location: Arid, Sunny, 8,000' Buena Vista, Colorado
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Hello friends! Perhaps I haven't had enough coffee this week. Keyhole gardens have stumped me. To build, you place a wire mesh basket in the center of a circle and fill with your greens (kitchen scraps). Around the basket you build a 3' radius enclosure that is also 3' high. The width is the distance that the nutrients can travel, the height is perfect for not bending over. You fill the enclosure with all of your browns and make them wet. Cardboard, straw, phone books, everything soaked in water. You cover with topsoil, plant your veggies and mulch. You water weekly by pouring your water into the center basket. It seems to me like it's just container gardening with an elegant system to hide your compost bin? From my attempts at composting, I always thought it was the "lasagna" layering of browns and greens that promoted composting, allowing air so that the kitchen food didn't compress, rot and attract bugs. What if your kitchen scraps pile up in the center - do you climb up there and turn them? Wouldn't the top of the planting area sink down as the browns compact, creating a constant need to fill with more dirt? Has anyone done a keyhole and shown benefits beyond an attractive raised bed? Thank you.
 
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hi
those keyhole beds are 3 ft or 1 meter radius not diameter! or about the largest you can make it and still reach the middle. and i haven´t  seen any with a compost bin in the middle, just a bed. I find that i need a bigger bin for composting about a meter square to keep it going when its cooler, and they need air circulation like turning. I think that you would need a warmer climate and make it into a worm bin and less of a compost bin. If the bed is uncovered, it would also get wet from rain . I did sheet mulching of everything but food because it attracts rats mice and racoons, but if nothing digs it up, its great to do sheet mulching with food scraps too.
 
Katherine Oconnor
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Taryn Hesse wrote:hi
those keyhole beds are 3 ft or 1 meter radius not diameter!



Thank you - I corrected the mistake. You are right, I meant radius, not diameter.
 
Taryn Hesse
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oh and they are made to maximise planting area and minimize work. i do keyhole beds but along a wall not an individual complete circle.
 
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The African keyhole garden has the compost in the middle.

Think about it as a mix of hugelkulture, water retention, worm bin, with some composting.  It is supposed to work well in dry summers, and so far, I've had enough success with mine to try again.
 
r ranson
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Katherine Oconnor
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r ranson wrote:
Think about it as a mix of hugelkulture, water retention, worm bin, with some composting.

Thanks! That helps me frame it better, especially when I think of the hugelkulture aspect.
 
Katherine Oconnor
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my keyhole experience
Great thread, exactly what I was looking for, thanks for sharing. I really like the willow weaving and this gives me a better direction. Appreciate it.
 
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r ranson wrote:big thread about African keyhole gardens


my keyhole experience




Hey bud, did you use any chicken wire at all with your keyhole garden? Can't see any in your picture, which is great. I'm wondering about the inner Willow wall holding up using only organic materials.
 
r ranson
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Lauren Magnolia wrote:Hey bud, did you use any chicken wire at all with your keyhole garden? .



No.

I want it to rot so that in a few years we can just knock it over with the tractor and have lots of yummy soil.

...only, it's not rotting anywhere near as fast as I expected/hoped.  
 
Lauren Magnolia
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For my plans, that's doubly fantastic.
Thanks!
🖖
 
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