Garden Planning?

Keyhole Garden Bed Designs & Ideas

Keyhole garden beds are a neat permaculture design

When we started designing our garden beds in our new location, I knew I wanted to integrate permaculture design, symmetry and beauty for some edible landscaping. I loved the idea of creating a mix of a keyhole garden with a mandala design. This post will cover part 1 of how we drew out, designed and mapped out the garden bed and what keyhole and mandala beds are. I really look forward to sharing part 2 once the garden beds fill out this summer!

This post will cover:

  • Keyhole garden permaculture designs
  • Mandala garden beds
  • How we combined the two to design a mandala keyhole bed
  • Our design concept
  • How we measured out the garden beds so it was symmetrical
  • The measurements of our garden bed

What is a keyhole garden?

A keyhole garden looks like, you guessed it! A door keyhole. The idea is there’s reduced pathways and increased growing area. I first saw this shape when reading my very first permaculture book: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide To Home Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemingway

Great Lakes Permaculure shows you how you could attach many keyholes together to reduce pathways and make efficient use of space

There is another kind of raised keyhole bed that has a central compost system

I love this raised keyhole garden bed design.We might try one of these garden beds later on, as I like the idea of adding compost into the middle and allowing it to add nutrients back into the soil. You can see below how the design works from Mon Jardin Permaculture.

Concern Worldwide goes into further details of how the keyhole raised beds works

Our keyhole garden bed design

When we started doodling ideas for our garden beds, I knew I wanted to create a pretty design with some permaculture elements. I was drawn to  the ground level keyhole beds but also loved the way symmetrical garden designs looked in mandala gardens. Because I’m also planting a medicinal herb garden,  I was looking for an eye appealing edible landscape design. We already designed our garden beds to have a partial chicken moat around two garden edges for bug and weed control, so our area to work with wasn’t too wide. We had the space for a 14 foot

What is a mandala garden bed?

A mandala garden bed is a symmetrical shape that has 4 entrances if your focus is a medicinal perennial garden bed with a N,S,E,W entrances. It’s also a shape that connects keyhole garden beds as School of Permaculture shows you below.

Mandala gardens are often a symmetrical shape often full of herbs or perennials

Fine gardening shows you a sample plant list in a mandala garden bed

Our mandala keyhole design

This was our concept design before we mapped out the beds outside. We wanted 4 entrances so that it was pretty and fun for the kids to run around. I almost blocked off two of the paths for a slight increase in bed size. We went with very narrow paths, only 1 foot across with a 4 foot diameter circle in the center. One thought we had is to use the keyhole garden bed in the center as the base of a teepee where we could grow beans up and the kids could sit underneath. The central keyhole bed is 2 feet wide.

Mapping out the mandala keyhole garden bed

We measured and designed our mandala permaculture keyhole garden beds after doodling it on paper first. We created this vegetable garden design so it had a keyhole in the center and four entrance garden paths. To make a symmetrical garden beds you need to measure it out properly. We wanted the garden entrance to face something beautiful and I can’t wait to see it fill in with plants this summer. Our kids immediately loved running around the paths.

How we measured the bed

First we needed to measure out a square and mark it off (we used broken sticks). We created a 14 foot square. Then we made our 4 entrance paths so that they were symmetrical. The stick in the center was measured 7 feet from each corner stick, with 6 inches on each side of the stick to make a 1 foot path.

Central circle

Next we needed to make our central circle. To do that we used a long measuring tape and worked diagonally across the square to get the central point.

Our central circle was going to be 4 feet in diameter so we measured a 2 feet radius and dug out the circle.

The rest of the paths were measured to be 1 foot around the central circle and we also left open 1 foot to be the entrance of the keyhole.

Mandala garden bed design sketch

Then I had to hoe out all the remaining grass. We mulched the paths with wood chips until we get a load of wood mulch from a local source.

Mandala permaculture bed

What am I planting in here?

As I write this I still haven decided on all the plants that will go into this bed. As soon as I do I’ll be sharing that with you and writing part 2 once the garden bed fills in. The plan is a mix of culinary and medicinal herbs with some annual veggies for edible landscaping, although I might just do perennials too.

Have you designed a keyhole or mandala garden bed?

design and measure a new kitchen garden bed


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