What are keyhole gardens good for except convenience?
These designs include a composting centre. This clever concept allows the surrounding plants to draw food from compost as it becomes available. Alternatively, the centre can be a tree, insect hotel or other feature.
Mandala is a sacred geometry pattern and in some cultures it represents the universe and the idea that life is never ending while also all-connecting. For some, this may be purely decorative but for others it illustrates a spiritual journey. Mandala gardens should ideally incorporate a keyhole design for easy movement, better usage of planting space due to less pathways and easy accessibility to all the plants.
-As with all our raised, no-dig designs, we start with marking the shape and size out with our frame-material. Recycled bricks, wood, stones or even hay bales can be used. These materials may produce wonderful habitats for insects – make sure to consider this as a good bulk of your pest control and pollination will come through insects.
-Once the shape is in place, we follow with our favorite no-dig, lasagna layering method. To create a sheet mulch bed, one must start with plastic-free cardboard. Water the area first, sprinkle some compost to attract worms, follow with cardboard. Lightly water again.
-Now layer with green mulch, then brown materials, compost and newspaper.
-Repeat this process until you have a 35cm high bed, ending with a 10cm layer of mulch such as straw, bark or wood shavings.
-Water moderately until moist but not sopping wet. Keep the area moist over the next 2 months.
***Do you know what plants are considered green or brown materials? Check out the composting materials for a comprehensive list of nitrogen and carbon examples: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily/
It may take about 2 – 3 months for the layers to decompose and turn into a planting heaven.
This is the perfect time to plan your planting list and layouts. Honor the decorative aspect of Mandala Design and the ecological logic of Permaculture by incorporating:
1)Diversity in your keyhole garden design
Secure a stable ecosystem by planting different species together and inviting a variety of beneficial insects to help with pollination and pest-control. Bio diverse polycultures are resilient due to the number of harmonious relationships between the different species as time passes.
2)Decorative keyhole gardens
While a healthy Eco system is our first and most important priority, we’re going to simultaneously aim for a visually pleasing planting scheme. The idea is to imitate the conversation between many different species.
3)Plant Guild Placement
-Make sure to understand the characteristics and needs of your plants. Consider needs and characteristics. Create for example micro-climates where needed by planting wind-hardy half moons around fragile plants that need protection. Group heavy and light feeders together to avoid soil depletion. Place together companion plants that help protect each other from pests or offer their extras in the form of mineral exchange. Peas and grains swap nitrogen and carbon and literally thrive when planted near each other.
-‘Three Sisters’ Guild is a Native American Indian guild that inter-plants corn, squash and beans together by planting corn in the centre of a mound of soil, surrounded by beans and squash on the outer edge. The corn provides a natural trellis for the beans to climb on. Beans will improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen and releasing it through Rhizobium bacteria in the roots. Squash plants create a green cover crop that will prevent water loss and weed competition.
Permaculture-friendly plants to keep in mind:
-Regenerating food forests are best, and so perennials are preferred over annuals.
-Natural fertilization is key and legumes will fix nitrogen in your soil for other plants. Grow beans and peas up trellises with perennials around them on ground level.
-Deeper rooted plants will bring nutrients from deeper soil levels upwards while loosening the soil at the same time.
-Fast growing plants can be used for cover crops that can be chopped and dropped for ground covering. We do this to add to soil health, shade out weeds and help retain water.
Work out a symbiotic companion plants list and place them on your paper design to cover one quarter of the circle. Imagine a pizza slice. Sun needs, wind tolerance and feeding needs should guide you. When you are happy with your composition, repeat the same design on all 4 quarters. Incorporate insect-friendly hotels, for the insects are true gardening experts whom we need more than we give credit to.