On to the solution! More backyard happenings - to Oct 2013

When I left you yesterday, I told you I'd show what we'd done so far in the backyard, now that we could actually see the ground!  The land was cleared and ready.  Meantime, I saw a blurb online about something called a keyhole garden, often used in hot, dry summers (we qualify).  The more I looked at these gardens, the more I liked what I saw.  We decided to give it a go.

 This was the site we picked for our first keyhole garden.  Jimmy is trying to level our sloped ground.  Note bird feeder pole in center of picture.

All these bricks and blocks were scattered on the property when we bought our place.  Ah ha!  Free fodder to make the raised beds.

Looking west, we have our center compost well in place and the blocks/bricks ready.

Left:  We've already put down wire to thwart moles and gophers, and a layer of block.
Right:  Two layers of brick are stacked atop the block; the wire covered by dirt.  We threw pieces of coconut fiber over that.  The keyhole indentation makes it easy to access the compost well.  This keyhole garden is ready to be filled with more layers.

On to the next one!
We have one side of the second keyhole garden lined with hardware cloth, ready to do the other side.  There's about three feet between the two gardens; makes watering easier.  Each garden took only a day to make.

Okay, then -- garden two is basically finished.  We had more block than brick, hence the different look.  I also wanted the keyhole access a little off kilter, so to speak.  Both of these gardens are below our back deck, easy to get to, and the hose bib is just out of the picture left of the stepping stones.  I'm taking most of these pictures from the deck.  Do NOT think I'm not working!  I just stop every now and then to take a picture!

A layer of cardboard, followed by dried leaf/small branch litter.

Oh!  On the last Saturday of September, we drove down to Loomis CA to an alpaca farm open house.  I'd already arranged to pick up some paca-poo as manure for our garden.  We had these three large open containers in our Prius to fill.  The farm has 50 alpacas and they generate 400 +/- lbs of poo daily, so we figured the farm could spare some for us.  Nice people at Alpacas All Around.  Cute alpacas, too.  The guy on the right seems to be talking about the high price of hay these days.

 Here we are after spreading the alpaca poo.  Didn't smell offensive, just earthy.  Non-burning, too.

We plan to fill the second garden on the left gradually over the fall and winter.  A suggested layering system begins with wood/branches; cardboard; compost; newspaper; manure; worms; wood ash; straw; and topsoil.  We don't have any worms (yet).  We did get a bale of rice straw at a farm supply and covered the manure with it.  I've already begun filling the compost well.  Garden on the right needs topsoil and is ready to plant.

I love spending time outside, in the yard or hiking or anything that takes me outdoors, but I especially love to garden.  Always have.  Over the years, I've had organic gardens from Santa Ana to Tallahassee.  When Jimmy and I lived in Florida, he made me a raised-bed garden, in three tiers (another sloped lot), maybe 8 x 20 feet, and that garden provided lots of fresh veggies all year.  I've been teasingly called Farmer Jones (my last name used to be Jones), and I guess I yam one!  Runs in my family.  A number of years ago, I wrote a short memoir about my Dad, who loved growing good things to eat.  Won Honorable Mention in a regional writer's contest!  I'm happy to follow his footsteps.  Jimmy likes to build/create, and he likes to eat.  Win-win!

These keyhole raised-bed gardens should allow us to grow plenty of veggies in small spaces.  We will probably use a drip watering system to keep things going during hot and dry summers.  I hope to get berry bushes started along the fence line, and a row of asparagus somewhere.  We have one apple tree and will get another bare root tree when they're available.  We'll broadcast wildflower seeds in the western section, perhaps get a lovely garden seat, and enjoy the fruits of our labors!

There will be no grass to mow in this backyard!


  1. YAY! to the "no grass to mow" part!

  2. Fresh food from the back yard to the table or blender. Yumalicious!

  3. Never heard of a keyhole garden before. Interesting. I did take note of the bird feeder. ;)


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