keyhole beds?

Scott Pittman pci at
Mon Jun 19 12:17:21 EDT 2000

At 11:02 AM 6/17/00 -0600, you wrote:
>Mikal wrote:
> > Anybody have opinions on keyhole beds?

We had the key holes for a year, and because of wrong sizing did not enjoy 
it very much. I see it often, that people try to save space for the 
walkways, and oversize the beds, which in combination compromises the whole 
idea. Now I have a garden that has free style bed layout according to 
grade, existing perennial vegetation, pollination requirements, aspect, 
irrigation method and aesthetics. (We could not grow corn happily in a key 
hole, but like it grown in a "butterfly" bed - two key holes attached on 
the exterior edge. )

The principle of  "increase edge" is still met, the layout in not super 
imposed, but rather adopted for my needs.

I also raise beds by excavating the top soil from the paths, and then sheet 
mulch and add 2-3' of shredded wood to raise the level of the walkway, as 
we live in desert, and a true raised bed is not a good idea.

I have not done it yet, but I am sure it is possible to make a good 
"increased edge" garden in conditions of flood irrigation, as the water 
also benefits from moving in not-so-straight lines, as it aerates, and 
deposits its silt load more evenly. The walk way then will serve the 
function of water channel as well, and I heard of some amazing gardens, 
that had small bridges and decks so one can walk over the moving water, and 
keep the weed at bay, and the irrigation going.

>Keyholes are a bit like the other whiz-bang garden idea in Pc books: herb
>spirals. On a tour of about 20 Pc sites, I saw 5-10 abandoned or overgrown
>herb spirals for every one I saw in use (I just tore my own out a few days
>ago). Anyone else found this?

Why is that? The only reason my first herb spiral is abandoned, is that we 
moved to a new place. I also have seen this idea adopted to different 
environments, like half spirals attached to a wall, or free shape multiple 
level beds around fixed objects (trees, poles, etc)

I think the problem is that we take some things as directions and the only 
solutions, when they are only examples.  I feel less and less comfortable 
to give our students any plant lists, or examples of lay out of forest 
gardens, or gardens, as I see how some people tend to receive it as the 
prescribed way of doing it, rather then "a possible way".

What is your experience with it?

Arina Pittman

More information about the permaculture mailing list