My mama started making keyhole beds after reading “Mandala gardens: a booklet for Permaculture gardeners” bRobyn Francis. At this time, we were living at Ecocentro IPEC, so we had lots of space to experiment with creating keyhole gardens. I have memories of munching parsley and playing games with my friends in the ‘huge’ mandala garden (or at least it felt huge at the age of six).

Mandala Garden

A mandala garden is a circle upon circle design. Planting in a circle allows you to fit more plants into the space, increasing your yield. Another critical element in the mandala garden is the keyhole bed. The keyhole bed looks like a keyhole. This simple design technique increases the amount of space available for plants by decreasing the area reserved for pathways. It also creates more borders, which then provides extra habitat for insects and creates different micro-climates. Learn more about mandala gardens here.

An essential benefit of a keyhole garden is that it avoids the need to step on the garden soil when harvesting your food. Every time you stomp on your garden soil, you create compaction. Soil compaction occurs when the soil particles are pressed together, reducing water infiltration and drainage. If soil compaction happens, you need to spend a lot of energy making the soil light and porous again. So best not to stomp on your garden.

Mandala garden ready to plant

Mandala garden ready to plant

How to make a keyhole in your garden

Decide where your garden will be positioned. Now crouch down to the ground. The size of the keyhole will depend on the size of your body. If two or more people tend the garden simultaneously, they can crouch down with you.

  1. Whilst crouched, stretch your arm out and draw a semi-circle that fits your body comfortably.
  2. Jump back up and close the circle a little, and then create the sides of the keyhole.
  3. Now either close your keyhole garden or continue making a mandala garden.
Keyhole garden bed

Keyhole garden bed

Note: To avoid stepping on the garden bed, the person in the keyhole must be able to reach at least the middle of the garden bed or the person’s fingertips on the outside of the garden (see the photo of children below).

Keyhole gardens are ideal for small spaces and can accommodate a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers. When I visited my family in South Australia, we decided to have a working bee and create a keyhole garden for my little cousins. It was ideal for their small urban space. The keyhole garden created a distinct border to guide the children were to step into the garden. They loved it, of course, and now have ease collecting the cherry tomatoes.

‘Clipping’ plants grow well around the keyhole gardens. They are the plants that need to be clipped regularly, such as flowers and leaves. Plant next to paths as the plants benefit from the warmth of the sun and protection from the wind. Plants include oregano, marjoram, thyme, chives, coriander, mustard greens, dandelions and basil.

Permaculture garden

Children can work the garden without stepping on the garden

Author: Laila Helena

1 Comment


  1. Keyhole Gardens | DNA Reboot – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS - […] Source: Keyhole Gardens | DNA Reboot […]
  2. How to make a Mandala Garden – Planet Schooling - […] Now mark another circle of 1.80m, forming a path that is 80cm wide. Divide the large circle into six…
  3. Free resources for permaculture living and Homeschooling during these challenging times – Planet Schooling - […] How to make a Keyhole Garden […]
  4. How to Make a Solar System | Homeschooling Activity – Planet Schooling - […] Make a Keyhole Garden […]

Leave a Reply

Latest Articles

Permaculture skills, stories, how-to guides & inspiration – for living like it matters.

What can I do with my excess kombucha and kefir?

What can I do with my excess kombucha and kefir?

So you've fallen in love with fermenting your food and making your kombucha. Still, you suddenly realise that you have a massive amount of kombucha, kefir and other yummy goods growing out of control. Your family isn't as big as your microbe family. So now what? It is...

Are you addicted to fast fashion?

Are you addicted to fast fashion?

Australians are the world's second-largest consumers of textiles, buying an average of 27kg of new clothing and other materials each year. Disturbingly, the average Australian throws away 23kg of textiles each year. More than 500,000 tonnes of fabrics and leather are...

What’s this thing called mulch?

What’s this thing called mulch?

Bare soil is damaged soil! Due to the expansion of agriculture and land-intensive areas, soil losses have increased in many regions of Australia. Up to 10 million hectares of land have less than 500 years of fertile 'topsoil', which may be lost to erosion soon (Bui et...

Become More Resilient

Permaculture, Homesteading, Natural Construction & More