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Keyhole Gardening was introduced in Africa by the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE) to help ailing and frail Africans grow their own produce with minimum effort by means of a specialized raised bed. The bed, which is waist high and in the shape of a keyhole, allows for standing and leaning for long periods and is built using stacked rocks, bricks, wood or pieces of concrete. A compost bin is placed in the center of the bed and as material breaks down, the resulting composted nutrients are added to the soil. The gardening principle is to grow produce with little water on top of a bed of compost which provides a steady supply of nutrients to the plants.
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Hügelkultur (a German word for hill mound) is a growing method that is believed to have originated from Eastern Europe thousands of years ago. Widely utilized in permaculture enthusiasts, it is based on the concept of natural occurring decomposition of plant material in forests; ergo fallen trees, branches and other plant material which over time has decayed and created a healthy bio mass of rich hummus. The process of layered debris is continuous thus creating an organic, lush, green ecosystem teaming with beneficial life. Overall, this method will not only create healthy, growing plants due to the constant source of warming compost, it benefits the environment as a whole. When creating beds in the home garden, the beginning layering ratio from top to bottom, would comprise of logs, branches, large twigs, dead leaves, straw, hay, grass clippings, green leaves, compost and topsoil.
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The French Intensive Gardening method was re-established in a two acre garden plot just outside of Paris in the late 1800’s. The purpose was to grow an abundance of vegetables year round in a several mid-sized growing beds for the home and markets. Generally, a wide bed (5ft in width) is dug approximately 12 inches in depth. The soil from this bed is placed to the side. At the bottom of the trench, the soil is turned another 12 inches and then loosened with a sturdy garden fork and 1/3 yard of compost added. An additional bed is dug utilizing this same technique. After this is done, put the reserved soil from the first bed is placed back into the trench and mixed with 1/2 yard of compost (or manure). Narrow foot paths no more than 6 inches should be added between the beds to control the plants growing process thermally. The methodology is to create wide and higher elevated beds to increase root stimulation and to employ close quarter plantings to increase yields and weed retention.
The Deep Mulch Gardening method was made popular by gardening expert Ruth Stout in the 1960’s, offers a low maintenance-no work philosophy. Garden beds are covered in large amounts of hay, straw, leaves, pine needles, sawdust and vegetable waste periodically to create a barrier to deter weeds and enriching existing soil underneath as it gradually decomposes. When starting a new bed, it is recommended to mulch at least 8 inches thick over a planting area. The mulch would need to be reapplied generously as needed. It would take a few years to obtain nutrient rich soil but once established, can generate copious amounts of produce with little effort. However, you can plant directly in the bed. Just brush aside the mulch until you see soil and then plant your seed or seedlings.
The Lasagna Gardening movement was conceived by Patricia Lanza and is a method of layering compostable material on top of a planting area to form a large mound which, over time, will decompose into viable and loamy soil and compost. The material normally used for layering is wet newspapers, peat moss, sand, compost, grass clippings, shredded leaves and wood ash. This natural act of decomposition mimics the evolution life on forest floors.