keyhole beds?

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflondon at
Sat Jun 17 11:28:24 EDT 2000

On Sat, 17 Jun 2000 06:58:29 -0700, Mikal Jakubal <mjakubal at>

>Anybody have opinions on keyhole beds? I've now got these piles of loose
>top soil in the garden (which is now about a half-acre or so) where I want
>beds and I'm trying to figure out just how to shape them. Keyhole beds
>*look* cool, but are they really that useful compared to say straight 4'
>beds with 2' paths between them? In the latter scheme, I'd never have to
>walk on the beds--which seems like a good thing. I'm concerned with the
>idea of "one visit" crops being so far back that harvest requires walking
>in the bed. What about weeding, mulching, checking drip lines and so on? It
>seems like these activities will mean lots of trampling unless the whole
>thing can be reached from paths. 

1) Mandala-shaped permanent notill raised beds with crenelated edges.

2) Rectangular (any length - determined by drainage, elevation, need
for access) notill permanent raised beds

As for 2) the width is determined by standing/crouching at one side of
a bed and reaching as far forward as possible without losing balance
and having to put a foot forward (on the bed) to regain it. Measure 
how far forward you can reach and double this number. This will be
the appropriate bed width for you to work your garden without
trampling soil or plants.

As for height above existing grade that will be determined by soil
type, i.e. how well it percolates (dries out between waterings). 
You will need a minimum number of inches of soil with good tilth and
this can exist above and below grade.  

I like excavating a walking/access path between beds and using that
dirt to raise the height of the bed; the width of the path will
determine the amount of dirt available to build the bed with. The path
can be filled with mulch/compost/manure/weeds/etc. to rot and deliver
nutrient-rich moisture to the bed. This plan will help conserve
available moisture for use by crops in the beds.

Your piles of topsoil can be utilized by any of the above bed
building methods. Don't forget that tilling existing soil under
locations where you pile dirt for beds is important, expecially for
moisture retention and added soil with good tilth for plants to grow
into.  Loose dirt simply piled on untilled ground will dry out much
quicker than when piled of tilled ground.

Lawrence F. London, Jr. Venaura Farm ICQ#27930345
lflondon at  london at InterGarden PermaSphere AGINFO

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