Drought Tolerant, Composting Garden
A short while ago, I saw a post on Facebook with a Keyhole Garden and after checking it out, I decided that I wanted to build one. Since the Keyhole Garden was designed for people living in a hot climate with dry, infertile soil, I thought it might work well here in the Great Basin Desert where it gets cold in the winter but very hot and dry in the summer.
This garden has a circular design with a keyhole opening for easy access to the plants. Water is poured through a well in the center of the garden that is filled with compost material. The well acts as a recycling center, compost maker and continually feeds nutrient rich water to the plants.
To start building my Keyhole Garden, I first selected a space that world get morning sun and some shade in the hot afternoon.
The space was cleared of gravel and then staked in the center to mark off a circle with an 8 foot diameter.
I chose two levels of cinder blocks as the retaining wall for my garden and placed them so the holes were facing up to be filled with dirt for additional planting space.
To begin construction of the well, a 3 foot tall length of fencing wire was tied together to form a 2 foot circle in the center of the garden. The fencing wire would be the form to hold the well in place.
A layer of rocks was stacked in the bottom of the well to insure proper drainage.
Strips of wood were placed on the inside of the well to hold in the composted material and retain the moisture.
The inside of the well was lined with straw to form a bed for holding the composted material.
After the cinder blocks were stacked forming the ring for the garden, the planting bed was ready to be filled in. The bed of the garden was formed by a layering process to allow proper drainage and aeration.
The first layer, larger branches lined the bottom of the garden. And then a second layer of smaller twigs filled in on top of the branches.
The third layer, several inches of dry pine needles covered the twigs.
The fourth layer was several inches of straw and then some of my cat’s hair that they donated for the project.
Amended soil became the fifth and final layer which was a mixture of top soil, sandy loam and chicken manure.
The soil was angled so that the highest or deepest part of the garden would be next to the well and gradually taper down to 13 inches at the cinder block ring.
In about a week after watering down the soil and adding more compost to the well, I was ready to start planting.
Radish seeds went in the cinder blocks since they had the shallowest roots. Zucchini and summer squash were spaced toward the keyhole so they would have room to spread and could be easily reached for hand pollinating. Egg plant went in the middle area. Tomato transplants were buried up to their first leaves on the top portion so the roots could go in the deepest part of the soil.
I seeded flowers of Marigold and Borage next to the cinder blocks to help deter pests. And lettuce was added just above the flowers.
It has now been just over a month and my garden seems to be growing quite well. We have had a few days with some thundershowers but now the temperatures are getting close to 100°. I am hoping that the plants do as well in July when the days are getting hotter, over the century mark.
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With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
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