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Keyhole Garden Bed Design

The many keyhole benefits:

Permaculture garden design is anything but linear. We use shapes, curves and spirals to create space efficiency inspired by patterns in nature.

The keyhole garden bed is a classic permaculture application to grow lots of food in a small space. They are based on the permaculture principle of ‘use and value the edge’ or ‘edge effect’, which speaks not only to diversity that thrives in the intersection of two spaces (ecological or social) but also the gained growing space when curves and edges replace straight lines.

Keyhole beds are shaped in a way to allow the gardener to reach every inch of their garden bed (without stepping on and compressing precious topsoil), in a way that a rectangular shaped bed simply does not allow.

How to make your own keyholes:

You can convert an existing rectangular garden bed into keyholes for better accessibility or you can create brand new beds using a method of sheet mulching, where you can literally build soil anywhere, including over existing grass.

Charting out keyhole beds is easy, because your arm length is the measurement!

Keep this pattern in mind while you are working.

It is easiest to measure out the new beds using ash or chalk along the perimeter. Squat your booty down inside the first keyhole (ie the negative space, the non-growing space) and reach your arms around in wide 270 degree sweep. From the keyhole, you should be able to reach the back of the bed and to the halfway point of the circular garden bed to your right and to your left. The very front of the garden bed can be accessed not from inside the keyhole, but from the front edge of the bed itself.

Keep working like this until you have filled your desired space. If you are converting an existing bed, simply scoop the dirt out of the new keyhole (the negative space) and put it on top of your beds. If you are starting from scratch, now is the time to sheet mulch to build soil!

So there you go friends, that is the basics of making a keyhole garden bed for epic space efficient gardening that is both functional and aesthetic.

In permaculture, we are always thinking about ‘stacking functions’. Here an example of how to build in a composting system right into your keyhole bed to keep a steady stream of fertility flowing to your plants.

Got questions? Shoot em at us!


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