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Monday, April 1, 2013


By Sheila Ngigi


With the onset of the rains, Women of Nasaru Ntoyie Womens Group are counting their blessings after they learnt yet another form of kitchen gardening, besides the multistory. The keyhole garden is a small raised garden that is either circular or semicircular just like a keyhole, literally.
The Keyhole Garden concept is brilliantly easy. A raised bed, usually circular which has a center compost “basket” that distributes nutrients to the surrounding area of the garden. A small pie-slice section of the bed is usually left for easy access to the basket forming the keyhole design.
Kitchen and garden waste, along with household water are added to the center basket. The center basket is continually filled with ash which neutralizes soapy unclean water. The garden ideally, is slightly sloped away from the center to aid water flow and distribution. The garden is usually layered with decomposing material e.g bones. As the materials decompose, soil, composting materials, and amendments are added to the bed in later growing seasons.
The keyhole garden has a lifetime of about 5 years before it is remodeled and decomposing materials added to the soil.
One major advantage of the keyhole garden is the ease of access by the handicapped, especially in a wheel chair. Because of it being raised, one using it does not have to bend so low, to water, weed, tend or harvest.
Other benefits of the keyhole garden include:

Keyhole Garden Benefits
  • Center compost basket provides a steady supply of plant nutrients and amendments
  • Uses less water with mulching and moisture from center basket making it drought-tolerant
  • Garden can be modified according to owner's needs, like handicap accessibility
  • The short distance from outer wall to center basket makes it easy to tend
  • The keyhole garden requires a small area, a maximum of 2 meters diameter
  • Recycled material use makes the gardens inexpensive to build
  • The raised design removes threat of trampling by pets, humans and livestock
  • Keyhole Gardens can last long enough before one can build another one, as long as 5 years
  • Keyhole Gardens can be an attractive feature with a good aesthetic design plan, beautifying ones home, school or place of work compound.
  • Lots of water is saved as waste water from the kitchen and other uses can be neutralized using ash in the center basket and used for the plants.

For Nasaru Ntoyie, this was a chance to learn and make their lives better, hence they left nothing to chance.

Steps to follow in preparing a keyhole garden:

First mark out the shape and size of your garden  as you desire
surround the area with stones leaving space in the middle for the centre basket

Spread bones and other decomposable materials on the soil to add nutrients

Add small stones to help in percolation of water
The center basket is then filled with dry grass and sprinkled with  ashes
the garden is then filled with soil
Spread dry grass and ashes all over the garden
Add more soil to cover the grass
Sprinkle water and then plant your vegetables
Final result

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