Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Our Keyhole Vegetable Bed: What Worked and What Didn’t Work

keyhole garden bed Our Keyhole Vegetable Bed: What Worked and What Didn’t Work:

This is what our keyhole bed looked like yesterday just before I fed the remaining vegetables to our chickens and the compost pile. Ignore the large pot–that’s a future solar powered fountain that will be incorporated in a new vegetable garden we’re working on.
keyholebedoctober
Here’s what the keyhole bed looked like just after I installed it back in October. Note the compost repository in the center of the bed. I used straw wattle (available where professional irrigation supplies are sold) to form the sides of the keyhole.
keyholedecember
A month later in November a few seedlings were popping up. I had to robustify the skunk barrier (made out of bird netting) after repeated skunk raids.
What worked:
  • The compost decomposed nicely and seemed to attract insect life.
  • Stuff grew.
What didn’t work:
  • I didn’t make the bed high enough–more height may have helped prevent skunk incursions.
  • The compost bin in the center of the bed should have been sturdier. Skunks got into it eventually.
  • The cheap bagged soil I bought had a lot of wood chips in it. Brassicas did fine but other veggies did not appreciate the high carbon content of the bagged soil. It would have been better to make my own soil with high quality compost, but I was in a hurry.
clover
Clover in the keyhole bed did well and produced some pretty spring flowers.
Conclusions

Despite my mistakes, I heartily endorse the keyhole bed concept. I’d just make the sides higher and take more time putting the bed together. My neighbor Anne Hars layed her keyhole bed out more carefully and, as a result, it was more productive and more aesthetically pleasing. Part of the problem for us is that the keyhole shape, from a design perspective, didn’t work in the space we put it in. We’ll blog about the new veggie garden we’re putting together where the keyhole bed used to be in future blog posts.