Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Who Else Wants to Build a Compost Garden?

If you are like me, you spend a fair amount of time in the winter dreaming of the warmer days to come when you can get out in the garden and get your hands dirty. Recently, I visited a community garden in Walnut Hills that included a really cool garden I had never seen before: an African Keyhole Garden.

Why is this special? This type of garden bed has a compost bin in the center to provide water and nutrients to the surrounding plants.

A compost bin in the center of a raised garden bed. Brilliant!

We all know the fantastic benefit compost has for our soil. But I never considered actually building a garden around a compost bin.

African Keyhole Gardens originated in (you guessed it) Africa as a way to provide families with small-scale vegetable gardens. The climates where these gardens flourish are hot and dry and the soil is very poor quality. With African Keyhole Gardens people build a circular bed around a compost bin. By adding food scraps and other materials to the bin, the surrounding bed receives a steady supply of water and nutrients.

The “Keyhole” piece comes in because the bed is not a complete circle. A keyhole walkway gives access to the center compost bin.

Here are a few photos of the garden in Walnut Hills.

A shout out to Gary Dangel, community garden enthusiast and fellow composting nut with Elevate Walnut Hills  for giving me the tour! It was Gary's idea to weave the compost bin out of grapevines with a very pretty result.

If you want to build your own African Keyhole Garden, I recommend checking out the creative and varied designs here.


  1. That's pretty cool.

    If you have time this spring/summer check out the Colerain Community Garden located on Zoellner Dr. run by the Lutheran Church on Compton near Colerain Ave in Colerain Township. It's a several acre piece of land they own that they've divided into garden plots. Not a particularly efficient use of the land (a small scale CSA might have been a better approach), but lot's of interesting things going on in there from really great ways to stake vine plants, composting and looks like they dug some sort of drainage ditch to collect water and hand pump back up. It's fenced and generally locked, so contact the church if you go.

    1. Cool, I will try to check it out. Do you know if it has a compost area?

  2. This is incredible!!! I want one!!!! think I could grow strawberries this way?

  3. Hi Michelle,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Confessions of a Composter has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 40 Compost Blogs on the web.


    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 40 Compost Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.


  4. How do you keep the critters out?

    1. Good question! I saw some that fashioned lids for the bin but I imagine it would not be completely critter proof.