Keyhole gardens - drought-proof, composting, self-fertilizing & self-watering raised bed gardens

bushi

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Hi guys,

I've came across these a while ago - they were designed by some charity scholars, to made African families self-sufficient for food, and they designed the concept of the small raised-bed gardens, that would be largely draught-proof, fool-proof, low maintenance, compact, and extremely low-tech. Some of you living in dryer climates, might want to check them out. Handful of good links about them:


http://www.texascooppower.com/texas-stories/nature-outdoors/keyhole-gardening
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3726/#b
http://www.sendacow.org.uk/africangardensuk/

there is a youtube video in few parts, featuring Dr. Deb, about how to build one, but I cannot access YT at work - I'll post the links later

Have fun,
 

ancona

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Thanks for those links. This is a very interesting and sustainable way to grow a lot of food in a little space. The idea of French Intensive Gardening has been catching on in the USA, mostly because of the incredible density of plants one can acheive in a small area. The idea behind it is that well aerated and loose soil will allow root systems to grow straight down, as opposed to sideways as they would do in compacted or dense soils. There are a lot of people who grow enough to eat fresh all season and can everything they eat during the winter. In a traditional garden, tomatoes should be a few feet apart for optimum yields, but in a well maintainwed french intensive style raised beed with frequently loosened and aerated soil, they can be a foot apart and still do very well. The key here is understanding that you must constantly ammend the soil, since dense planting depletes it much more rapidly.

Our garden is a hybrid job, 6,000 square feet and is planted in sandy soil. We have to ammend twice a year and fork it twice a season, since we have so much rain and the soil packs.

We're getting seeds ready for the fall/winter garden, as the garden has been fallow during the harsh summer.
 

bushi

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yep, have been researching these as well, seems to be quite good as well for the areas with extreme weather patterns - like, tomatoes, that you can leave without watering for a few completely dry weeks!
 

ancona

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Mother Earth News has a website with searchable archives. They have also done some extensive reporting on this type of gardening. In addition, the Ancona Clan along with some of my people here at our firm, have a lot of experience gardening and raising chickens, turkeys and ducks. My business is located on 3.5 acres, but our facilities, equipment and buildings only take up around half of that. The rest is dedicated to our organic garden, a small duck pond and a big old chicken hutch. I will also share seeds, since we save them every season.
 

bushi

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cool, ancona! I've another good video for you in this case, on how one Aussie is using his chickens as ploughing tractors, herbicides & fertilizers in one, rotating veggies with chickens in his "mandala" garden. Again - very little maintenance required on his part, the thing is just to put chickens to work where and when he wants. Mother Nature does 90% of the work for him

I'll post it later tonight, when I am back from my soccer match. (Yeah!)
 

ancona

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We have eight Rhode Island Reds and six White Buff chickens. When the garden is fallow, we let them have the run of the fenced in garden, where they dig the hell out of it and poop everywhere. we allow the cover crop [clover and millet] to grow high enough to attract bugs and simply turn them loose. When we are growing veggies we have to be more careful, because they will destroy certain veggies such as tomatoes. The way we find the most success is by interplanting beneficial flowers and plants with our food. It helps deter bugs and makes the garden that much nicer to look at.

For pole beans, simply plant giant sunflowers a month before you plant the beans and or peas and they will afford some shade at high noon and a sturdy base to climb. We'll take inch wide strips of sheet muslin and weave it across ten or twelve sunflower stalks and it will support all of the peas and beans. Plant them four feet or so apart to do this. For the rest of the beans, we simply plant them immediately adjacent to the fence and they climb right up.

For cucumbers and squash, we have 1" X 2" A- frames that we put 6" X 6" concrete reinforcing mesh across. We plant cukes and squash on either side and train the vines up the screen. This gives us more yield per square foot of planted area by going vertical with them, and it keeps the fruits clean and away from ground dwelling pests.

When the plants are all in full blast off mode and producing, and the tomatoes can be partitioned away from the balance of the garden, we let the chickens in to eat buggies all day. That, with a little bit of organic bug spray and neem oil seems to keep most of the buggies away. The only crop we cannot seem to grow without getting decimated by bugs is corn. I'll never grow it here again. What a fucking waste of time that was.

Little sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, zucchini, cukes, spaghetti squash, summer squash, radish, cantaloupes, watermelon, onions [red and indian yellow], carrots, beets, cabbage, lettuce, celery [incredible dark green pungent stalks], five types of bean, two types of peas, leeks, okra, stew tomatoes, sauce tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, collard greens, spinach, and a few other things are waiting to go in to the ground pretty soon. I think the bad heat will break around three weeks from now, so we'll get an early fall/winter garden this year. Along with the herbs we grow, it is enough to feed about eight of us and provides enough extra to can for later. We expect to put up three hundred quarts this season. With three pressure canners we can do it over about four weekends. Without getting crazy about it, you can put up about 40 quarts in a few hours on a Saturday.
 
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bushi

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wow that's fantastic ancona! the chicken thing that you do seems similarto that Aussie guy. Here it goes anyway:


and for building of the keyhole garden, see that one:

Myself, I would rather steerclean from using old phonebooks the way they mention (or anything that's printed - God knows what is there in all that paint used for printing), I would rather use grass clippings, straw and maybe cardboard)


(make sure you view all the parts, for both vids)
 

ancona

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Agreed on the phonebooks. I kind of like the idea of cardboard since it's not bleached or anything, and it is also nearly entirely cellulose.
 
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