Keyhole Garden: Is it the key to farming in a drought?

I was reading an article last night called “Keyhole Gardening, Unlocking the Secrets of Drought-Hardy Gardens” in my Texas Co-Op Power Magazine.  It is a “free” magazine we get monthly from our electric company.  The article talks about a different kind of raised bed that works well for our terribly drought ridden area.  It was first developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa.  Deb Tolman, who is the focus of the article, lives in Texas and teaches others how to make and use these gardens.  She lives off of hers throughout the year.

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I am really intrigued by the design.  It is the first time in a couple years that I have even considered doing a vegetable garden.  We have an empty spot in our yard just waiting for one but with a third of the year being literally over 100 degrees and little to no rain it has been unfathomable…until now.  I would love to have fresh produce and the experience of growing it with my kids.

For those of you who are interested in gardening and composting it is definitely worth checking out.  It looks very cost effective and would be great even for places that have better weather.

For more details you can read the article here.

You can visit Deb Tolman’s website here to learn even more.

12 thoughts on “Keyhole Garden: Is it the key to farming in a drought?”

  1. Gardening in dry land conditions.. A deep layer of old hay/old barn yard litter will keep your garden soil moist day or even weeks after the non-mulched areas are bone dry.. Happy gardening in a dry land – landscape

  2. We’ve had good luck with raised bed gardening here. Yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, okra, and sweet and hot peppers are all consistent producers. The squash does need a lot of room, though, but just one plant will produce plenty of squash. The flowers on the okra are beautiful and they tolerate heat and drought extremely well (just be sure and pick them when they are young and tender). You will get most of your produce May and June and it will probably be pretty much played out by the hottest part of the summer. We have never had much luck with cucumbers, watermelons, or slicing tomatoes since they need such consistent water. Herbs actually seem to do better in a large pot that you can put in an area that gets full morning sun, but is shielded from the afternoon sun. Good luck! Just try it out and you will have fun experimenting!

    1. Thanks, Bond. I have been wanting to do regular raised beds but even some of our most drought tolerant established plants died last summer so I worry that I won’t be able to keep the vegatables alive. We are always told to use 20% less water each summer so it makes me limit my watering. I am glad it is still working well for you guys. Hopefully, I’ll get up the guts to go for it.

  3. How fortuitous! A handy link to Dr. Deb’s how-to on keyhole gardening. Don’t know how I missed that. Thanks for the blog on the subject…I was looking for such a thing. I’m adding a keyhole garden to my other experiments: raised beds, lasagna beds, heavily mulched beds. My heavy tools are staying in the garage this year. My soil and I are in therapy together following a very nasty drought. I’ll be checking back to see if take the keyhole challenge. 🙂

      1. This is definitely a good time to start with the nice temps and the rain we’ve been getting. Gotta get those plants growing before the extreme heat sets in. I think in TX we probably have 3 growing seasons with summer being our winter. You may be just the one to help give me the boost to give it a go. Can’t wait to see how it works for you!

        1. It’s normally luscious with rain here (Houston), but my yard too suffered. It’s a whole different gardening world for me this year. I hope you try it too…I’d be interested in comparing notes.

  4. Hey Jocelyn…Dr. Deb is giving a workshop on the keyhole garden Saturday, April 21st 10a in the NW Austin region. There should be more information at her site, though I’m now on her email listserv. Thought I’d pass it along! I wish I could go…

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