Keyhole vegetable garden

Plan a garden around a path for easy tending

Keyhole vegetable garden

Norman A. Plate

Click to Enlarge

More: The perfect raised bed

SIZE: 11 by 12 feet

TIME: 2 days to plant, plus preparation, as in a French-intensive garden

COST: About $350

Veggies wrap around a central pathway in this garden, which makes working the beds a snap. Orient it so that the keyhole faces south; the larger plants (beans, tomatoes, and sunflowers) will be on the north side, where they won't shade smaller plants.

To prepare the soil, till it 8 to 12 inches deep, picking out roots and rocks as you go. Don't till the 3- by 7-foot center-access path (the keyhole); as long as the ground there is packed, weeds will have a hard time sprouting.

After the soil is well tilled, spread 2 yards of compost evenly over the beds and till again. Level the beds, which should form a 9-inch-tall, U-shaped plateau around the path. Rake the sides of the beds steep. Finally, spread 6 cubic feet of coarse ground bark or wood chips over the path to make an all-weather surface and to help keep down weeds.

(Numerals indicate number of plants; spacing given in inches)


A. Sunflowers, 5; 18"

B. Pole beans, 60 seeds (5 tepees); 6"

C. White cosmos, 24 (grouped); 6"

D. Parsley, 18 (grouped); 9"

E. Tomatoes, 5; 24"

F. Peppers, 9; 10"

G. Zucchini, 4; 18"

H. Swiss chard, 9; 9"

I. Herb mix, 6; 15"

J. Chives, 3; 9"

K. Sweet basil, 4; 9"

 Next: what to grow


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