Feeding the World With Rocks: Raised Bed Keyhole Gardens in Africa (Video)

keyhole gardens in africa photo

Image credit: Send A Cow

My manifesto for lazivores and work-free gardening may have revealed a certain lazy streak in me, but even I am not averse to putting in a little work if it means reaping major rewards later on. From building a no-dig garden to creating massive hugelkultur raised beds, I am well aware that some of the lowest maintenance gardens need a little infrastructural investment to get going. Keyhole gardens are a prime example—creating raised-bed, easy access systems that are perfect for novice gardeners and school children using a few rocks, manure, soil and straw. (And, apparently, a few rusty tin cans!) In Lesotho, Africa, these gardens are proving to be a lifeline in the fight against malnutrition.

Vegetable Gardening Where Livestock Won't Tread
British charity Send A Cow, which operates with a similar ethos to Heifer International, is working to combat chronic malnutrition in Lesotho. While distributing livestock is unviable due to poor soils and problems with erosion, Send A Cow is instead educating school children on how to create "keyhole" gardens.

Keyhole Gardens Africa photoSend A Cow/Video screen capture

Keyhole Gardens Provide Easy Access and Minimum Work
A favorite of permaculturists worldwide, the idea of a keyhole garden is to create a raised, no-dig garden that allows the gardener maximum access to each square inch of soil, without ever having to step on the bed itself. Because Lesotho is so mountainous, building these beds using rock walls also helps regulate temperature, as well as to combat soil erosion.

Keyhole Gardens Africa photoSend A Cow/Video screen capture

Building a Keyhole Garden in Connecticut
It's impressive stuff, and it has me tempted to try something similar at home. In fact Andrew Perlot, inspired by the Send A Cow program, already has in an effort to fight off that cold, long lasting Connecticut winter. In his post on how to build a keyhole garden over at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, he documents each step of creating his own keyhole garden using cardboard, compost, bricks and rocks.

More on Low-Work Permaculture Gardening
Lazivores Unite: A Manifesto for Lazy Gardeners
Building a No-Dig Garden
Hugelkultur Raised Beds: Is This Permaculture?

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