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Keyhole (Vermicompost) Gardens. and Bag Gardens

Was reading the other day about the work of U.K. charity SEND A COW

and came across the ideas of using African Gardening techniques.


One is the idea of Bag Gardens, using Hessien (Jute fibre) sacks and growing upwards to make use of space. I found some guy online who was selling used Hessien Coffee bags for a small fee. have since ordered a batch of these to make use of in my gardens.

How to make a Bag garden

Bag Garden Leaflet

Growing Leeks upwards


Douglas's Egg plant Bag Garden!


The other idea I liked was the Keyhole Garden method.

Lesotho style

How to make, Lesotho style

Lesotho School Keyhole Garden

Uganda style Keyhole Garden

This basically is like a raised bed with a difference.

It has a compost system at its centre. The soil is sloped downwards from the centre and so

the nutruents from the heap are transferred direct to the plants. Worms are a key part of the process of circulating the nutrients in the system. Surely this has great potential as a Vermigardening method!

Making a U.K. Keyhole garden

I want to try it out both the Bag Gardens and the Keyhole Gardens this spring. Plans already drawn...Watch this space.




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The keyholes are brilliant! Thank you for sharing. I didn't see anything like this when I visited rural areas near Lesotho. They were very entrenched in cattle culture at the expense of agriculture. I saw lots of manure going to waste...

Wow!  I really am intrigued with the concept.  After googling keyhole gardens, I think I will create a couple to go along with my new straw bale garden in the backyard.  I was even thinking of using one around the base of a tree in my front yard and filling it with flowers.  To combine both the garden and vermicomposting all in one project seems to be an ideal arrangement.


thanks for sharing.

Wait NO, not around trees. You'll kill them if you add more soil now. Their roots are grown at the right level and they smother if they're suddenly pushed deeper. 


Thanks for the update!  i wasn't aware of this.
I had only just read about it somewhere online this very week. (Not in the scientific article here; I went looking for where I'd read it, and this was the most reasonable, quick explanation that surfaced in Google.) Sheer serendipity...for your trees!

I started building my Keyhole garden attempt on Sunday. Only this time around I used my Bokashi fermented food waste

instead of the Manure suggested. I sprinkled a bit of some horse manure- mixed with Buckwheat husks I had left over,

but on the whole it was mainly soil mixed with Bokashi food waste. I had four 5-gallon buckets worth of waste breaking down in two above ground containers, mixed with left over potting soil, autumn leaves, sawdust and rice bran.

The container which had been fermenting the longest had no food visable remaining. The second container, which had been decomposing through the winter, was almost all turned into soil as well. There were vermicomposting worms making themselves at home in both containers and breeding as well. I also had an outdoor plastic bucket which I layered with rice bran and Bokashi waste and soil over the winter. The most recent, probably had another 4 5 gallon buckets worth of fermented food in that. So, around 8 5-gallon containers worth of Bokashi food waste at various stages of microbial breakdown. This was all mixed with soil and layered in the keyhole method. At the centre I put the plastic bin to hold the soil mound in place. Will replace this with poles to create the central Vermicomposting dome. I think to help make this a successful Vermicomposting garden bed I will need to have a layer of  mulch covering the soil around the bin. sThe mulch will link up with the Vermicomposting bin in the centre and should provide the vermicomposting worms with more of a habitat to move around the Keyhole garden and spread some love and microbes and help some plants grow this spring. Well thats my idea anyway.

I plan to add more worms at the centre and make this into a vermicomposting bin.

Looking at the powerpoint, I'm thinking, a lazy person (i.e., me) could do this without building a stone wall or adding so much soil. Just dig down a little to start the central worms, but build their little circle upwards just a little, put a couple stepping stones into one side, and add some soil and some mulch, not knee-deep. Then you'd have something sort of like one of Bentley's compost trenches, but in a circle instead of in a line.

You are right, you could do this. In fact, if you look at one of his pictures, there is only one row of bricks at the edge and a mound of earth to the center. Any way that you go about it I think would be good way to garden.

For me, because I have no landscaping, I think that these would be a pretty addition to my yard. I also decided to build one of these:It's called an herb spiral, and I think that it is gorgeous! From my research yesterday, the keyhole garden is a cross between an herb spiral and square foot gardening.

These are just gorgeous! I would put trailing cascade petunias at the edges and then put herbs and low-growing veggies in the rest. Neat!

I agree that it could use a few flowers.  I didn't think of cascade petunias! I was going to plant violas in mine......when it gets built. Right now, I have 2+feet of snow in my yard.


I am going to build a couple of these this summer!!!!!

Beckie =)

Rebecca,  We'd like pix when it's done.




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