As part of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign we are showing you how you can save money on food and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by creating a small African vegetable garden in your own backyard.
This simple organic gardening technique called ‘keyhole gardening’ is used in Africa to help people to produce enough vegetables to nourish their families without having to invest in costly technology, fuel, fertilizer or pesticides.
A keyhole garden, or small vegetable patch can provide plenty of vegetables for all the family and any peelings or vegetables not used can be added straight to the compost in the centre of the garden to help grown more, therefore there is no waste.
What is a keyhole garden?
This type of garden is a raised bed shaped like a keyhole and walled in by stone. In the centre, a basket made from sticks and straw holds manure and later, vegetable scraps and garden waste for compost. The garden is watered primarily through the basket in the centre, which distributes the nutrients from the compost to the plants.
The garden has several advantages:
- It is compact;
- Easy to care for;
- Incredibly productive.
The gardens are approximately two metres across, so it’s easy to get to the plants, and the raised beds mean that once they are established, you don’t need to bend down to tend them.
Keyhole gardens give African families the chance to be more self-sufficient and can do the same for families in North Lincolnshire. They are also a fun way for schools to inspire pupils about green living, healthy eating and global issues.
How to build a keyhole garden (by charity Send a Cow)
- Clear the ground of weeds and dig it over
- Mark out a circle on the soil using a piece of string and two sticks
- Hammer long sticks in a square in the centre of the circle
- Place large stones around the perimeter, and make a short pathway into the middle
- Add more sticks to the middle and wrap wire around them to form a “basket”
- Lay down broken pots to form a drainage layer
- Fill the basket with layers of cow manure and wood ash – compacting the manure at the sides of the basket as you fill it up. Place a lid on the basket to help keep the heat in – in Malawi some gardeners lay an old piece of carpet across the top
- Pile layers of manure, a little ash and soil onto the garden
- Add layers of soil from the centre outwards to create a slope and start planting
- Remember to top up the central basket with your fruit and vegetable peelings and, even better, green waste that has already been composted.