How To Build A Raised Bed Keyhole Garden And How Does It Work?

Categories: Green

Keyhole Gardens

First made popular in Africa, keyhole gardens are catching on in Texas and other hot, dry places. Keyhole gardens hold moisture and nutrients due to an active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed. Although most helpful in hot and dry locations a keyhole garden will improve growing conditions in just about any climate.

From a bird's eye view the garden is shaped as a keyhole. A notch is cut into a round garden bed, the notch makes for easy access to the center compost well. (Note the first diagram below; to see keyhole.)

2 key hole.jpg

Keyhole Garden in Central Texas, Deb Tolman uses keyhole gardens as the main source of her own food supply, and is working on ways to keep them producing throughout multiple seasons and conditions. Dr. Tolman incorporates a frame into most of her designs to support a shade cloth during the hottest months. The frame might also be covered in early spring with plastic sheeting to create a greenhouse. Dr. Tolman is available for workshops, consultation, and seminars. Photo: Dr. Deb Tolman.

keyhold garden.jpg

Keyhole garden in Lesotho by Send a Cow, who first popularized keyhole gardens in Africa. Send a Cow has helped countless families and schools build keyhole gardens.


Keyhole garden. This one looks easy enough to set up, but the bricks do not look like they will take another level if you desire the height to increase with time. The compost adds more and more soil year after year.

keyhole garden

Keyhole garden by Send a Cow. Line the center well with sticks or chicken wire lined with straw to initially separate the two areas.The center well is used to irrigate the whole garden bringing nutrients from the compost into the surrounding soil.

keyhole garden

A keyhole garden in Ethiopia. Keeping a lid on the center well will retain heat and reduce evaporation.

  Page Turn