How to Create a Thriving Keyhole Garden

Hey everyone! Today we have a special post written by Jen from Nourishing Foundations. I hope that you enjoy her post on creating a beautiful and bountiful keyhole garden.

In 2012, my husband and I were DINKS (Double-Income-No-Kids) living in Washington, D.C. We saved up a bunch of money, quit our jobs and decided to pull the trigger on a passion project: volunteering and traveling in East Africa for the summer.

During our time in East Africa, we traveled throughout Kenya and Tanzania, helped a little and learned a whole lot. In particular, I’ll never forget our time in Athi River, Kenya, where we learned about Keyhole Gardens. The people we were with used keyhole gardens in drought-affected, high-poverty areas to revolutionize the landscape (no pun intended). These brilliantly designed gardens could feed a family throughout the year, make the best use of a small amount of space, incorporate compost and efficiently use water in high-drought areas. I was so impressed!

Fast Forward 6 years. It’s now 2018. The hubs and I have two kids, aged 4 & 7 mos. I’m a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom). My husband just finished up his MBA and is looking for a job. We have nowhere near the disposable income we were accustomed to in 2012. (These days, it all goes to diapers and preschool!)

Last year we purchased a modest home and finally had our own space to grow whatever we wanted. However, with two young kids in constant need of love and attention, I knew the chances of getting a garden together this Spring were slim. Enter: a keyhole garden.

Following is an overview of how we put ours together:


Use rocks, cinder blocks, wood, bricks, or other materials around the perimeter. The shape of the garden should be that of a keyhole (a circle with an indentation), approximately 6 feet in diameter and 3 feet high. A compost basket is placed in the middle.


Layer leaves, grass clippings, compostable materials, rocks, and sticks (to help with drainage) until the garden is ⅔ full. The remaining ⅓ should be filled with soil


Plant vegetables and herbs of choice. Note: consider planting cucumbers/squash and fruits/vegetables that tend to spread, elsewhere; they will try to “take over” the small space.


Place your scraps/compost in the middle (we used a tomato cage covered with bamboo fencing) and pour water over this to trickle out to the plants. Weed and water around plants as necessary.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

We own a half acre of land, so while space wasn’t a huge problem, I found that the small size of the garden meant I could easily weed, water and care for my plants without it taking too long. The height of the garden also helped with this – it’s waist high, which is great for my back. Manageable is good. 🙂 Finally, the keyhole shape made for easy care and weeding/harvesting access.

What about you? Are you interested in starting a garden but feeling overwhelmed? Are you living in a place where you have limited space? Do you need something that will be efficient with water? Think about giving a keyhole garden a try!


Jen Kloss is a mom, teacher and nutrition enthusiast, ever seeking out ways to help her family eat healthy on a budget. Her goal is to empower others to achieve and maintain a healthy, nourished lifestyle amidst the demands of work and day-to-day life. When she takes a break from changing diapers, cooking and cleaning baby spit-up, Jen blogs around these topics over at

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