Keyhole Garden: Feeding the Soil
If you are interested in how we created this keyhole garden, please read the post Keyhole Garden: Making the Bed. After we formed the shape of the garden bed it was time to improve the health of the soil.
According to Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture, the key to creating a garden “that’s bursting with healthy plants, well-balanced insects, and thriving wildlife” is to increase the life in the soil. Healthy soil is teaming with life; bacteria, fungi, amoebas, worms, millipedes, spiders, and so much more. All of this soil life is actively working to break down organic matter into nutrients that are more usable by plants. Gardeners who focus on “feeding” the soil with compost and organic matter have little need for added fertilizer, as the soil life transforms these materials to nutrients for plants. Read this Soil Biology Primer to learn more about the fascinating world of soil organisms.
Sheet mulching (very similar to Lasagna Gardening) is one way to create healthy soil by adding tons of organic matter. This method fundamentally consists of two layer:
- A weed-suppressing layer of newspaper or cardboard
- A One foot deep layer of organic matter (straw, spoiled hay, leaves, yard waste, grass clippings, wood shavings, as well as compost and well composted manure, if you have it)
This process can become more elaborate as you can choose to have multiple layers, as with Toby Hemenway’s “Ultimate, Bombproof Sheet Mulch“. But if you remember these two steps you can develop your own mulching style.
I like to mulch my garden beds in the fall so that by the following spring all of the organic material is broken down and a well composted soil remains, ready for seeds or seedlings. How we mulched the keyhole garden:
Mulching the Paths
- Cardboard- for weed suppression
- Wood chips- for weed suppression and to secure cardboard
Mulching the Garden Bed
- Newspaper- for weed suppression
- Straw- organic matter
- Compost- organic matter
- Leaf mulch- weed suppressant and for added organic matter
*NOTE* Add water to each layer, this will help to hold the layers in place while also providing water to help kick start soil life activity.
*NOTE* Compost and Leaf Mulch were purchased from AgRecycle. Please review our Garden Resources for local sources of compost and mulch.
Please check out the slide show below to see how we mulched the keyhole garden!
Sheet Mulching: Step by Step!