Learn what a keyhole garden is, how to build your own using supplies you already have, and how to maintain your keyhole garden.
How to make a keyhole garden

A garden design that is drought resistant and incorporates recycling?  Yes, please!  The second I read about keyhole gardens I knew I wanted to make one.  Read on to learn how my family made ours, and how easily you can build one, too!

The keyhole garden design is popular in arid parts of Africa where good soil is scarce.  As I read about keyhole gardens in a local magazine, I loved the fact that we could build one with materials we have on hand.

The garden is called “keyhole” because of the shape.  It is typically a circular shape with a “wedge” cut in it.  The wedge allows easy access to a compost basket in the center of the garden.  The compost basket is the keystone in that it provides nutrients and moisture for the garden.

To begin with, we constructed the garden walls using large rocks that were all over our backyard.  If you don’t have access to rocks, think of other resources you can recycle:  bricks, concrete blocks, leftover wood; the article I read even showed a picture of a garden built in an old boat!

Once the walls were built, we used chicken wire to make the compost basket.  Then we lined the rock walls with cardboard and began to fill the bed with old paper, coffee grinds, leaves, vegetable scraps, and other compostable material.

Our kids had a blast ripping up the paper and cardboard to fill the bed.  They also liked scooping up the abundant leaves we had on our lawn to fill the bed.  When the bed was mostly full we topped it off with some good potting soil.  I have heard others complain about all the bags they’ve had to buy to fill their raised beds.   I loved that this design required so little soil!Build a keyhole garden composting bed
Compost bin in a keyhole garden design

Next, we filled the basket with compostable materials.  I had been saving vegetable scraps and coffee grinds for a week in anticipation of this project.  You can see in this picture that something is growing in the compost pile now…that’s how fertile it is!

Finally, we planted our seedlings.  We had been growing several different plants from seeds during the winter.  Unfortunately, our dog was so intrigued by our new garden that the very next day he dug the whole thing up.  So, we had to fill it again and, since spring was upon us, buy plants rather than start from seeds again.  Still, my kids had fun choosing which produce item they wanted to grow and tend to.

Our garden is thriving, with very little maintenance on our part.   We have had gardens in the past, and what I like about this one is that it requires little watering, it is raised so we can access it easily, and we get to compost many of our scraps.  It’s a great learning experience for my children.  You can see the one red tomato in the photo below…the kids get such a kick out of “finding” things to pick in our garden.  They also enjoy using the “Almost Free” watering cans I made for them.

To learn more about building your own keyhole garden, check out this article.    This is the source I used for detailed information about how to build our garden.  You should give this a shot, even if you don’t think you have a green thumb!  You just might surprise yourself!how to build a keyhole gardenThank you so much for letting me hang out with you today!  You can also find me on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  Have a wonderful day!


  1. What a great idea! I had never heard of this concept before. One question does the compost aspect of it make it smell? That is my number 1 problem with composting! Makes me happy that our small town does it so I don’t have to! 🙂

  2. Thanks for coming over and linking up to the garden party! I never heard of a keyhole garden. Yours looks great and fun for your kids too! 🙂

  3. Amy, Thanks!  I haven’t noticed any odors yet.  We are careful to only put produce scraps, coffee grinds, leaves and make sure no meats or oils get in there.  I will have to update our progress in the fall!

    Debra, I look forward to learning a lot more about gardening from your blog. Thanks!

  4. Love this! I live in Phoenix and keeping our (school) garden alive is a ton of work. Plus, I keep planning to incorporate composting and this would make it so easy.

    • Thanks! Yes, the stones were flat enough and the garden small enough that we did not need mortar. I want to build a larger version next year, so I’m on the lookout for materials!

  5. […] This keyhole garden design utilizes the center area as a self-contained composting and feeding apparatus- perfect for someone who likes the idea of fertilizing naturally. The natural rocks used to make the walls of this keyhole garden are lovely too. As this recommends, using recyclable materials that break down into soil to improve the raised vegetable bed’s soil condition and stifle weeds at the same time is a very earth friendly approach. […]


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