Keyhole VermiGardening?

I feel like I’ve been living under a rock sometimes, I tell ya! I’ve written about all sorts of different “vermigardening” methods here on the blog.

Vermicomposting Trenches
Deep Mulch Vermigardening
Vermi-Lasagna Gardening
Hay Bale Vermigardening
Vermicomposting Planters
Worm Towers (and Variations)

Yet somehow the “Keyhole Garden” concept has remained off of my radar screen all these years…at least until RWC follower/customer Liane M recently clued me in, that is!

We had been having an interesting exchange about Liane’s huge outdoor horse manure heap (in TX) – yours truly living vicariously through her plans to stock it with Red Worms – when she happened to mention (and included some pictures of) a “Keyhole Garden” project from a few years back.

It became very clear, very quickly that this was an approach literally meant for composting worms! (Whether it was on the mind of the original creator of the method, or not! lol).

One of the limitations of integrating composting systems into garden beds tends to be the challenge of being able to access the composting zone (for new waste deposits) throughout the growing season. Even with something like a vermicomposting trench (with a path running along side it) can get a bit inaccessible once a jungle of healthy crop plants like squash or tomatoes starts to really take off.

With the keyhole approach, you literally design the bed so that it has a permanent little path in to where the waste materials get deposited.

The walls of this type of garden can be built up in various ways. Although, not a permanent solution, I really like Liane’s straw bale walls, and suspect these would offer a lot of protection during the heat of summer.

Here is a video (created by someone else) providing a decent little overview of this approach, and showing some more permanent (and very nice looking) options.

I would love to know if others have tried Keyhole Gardening (with worms or otherwise) – and if so, what you thought about it!

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10 Worm Challenge 2020 – Day 22


    • Patty Schofield
    • February 10, 2020

    Yes, I have a keyhole garden. Last spring I added red wigglers to the center basket which is the compost bin. The worms did well…but a few weeks later I found Black soldier flies in the garden, and their big fat gray larvae swarming the compost bin. I cannot tell if the reforms survived. Do they COMPETE? Do the BSF larvae do better in our 90 degree (or higher) Texas summer weather?

    • Bentley
    • February 11, 2020

    Very interesting, Patti! Black soldier fly larvae tend to do really well in outdoor composting systems in warmer locations – and yes they can certainly dominate a system where worms are present, since conditions are often much more favorable for them. My thinking is that this sort of system could actually help the worms a lot since they could likely continue to hang out further down where it is cooler etc – and they could further refine the leavings of the larval activity, providing plants with an even higher quality “fertilizer”. Worms should definitely have access to zones where temps are below 90 if at all possible.

    • Patty Schofield
    • February 11, 2020

    Good to know that the worms “might” have survived. It was just a fun experiment. Once the plants in this garden get big, and they did, I couldn’t see what was happening in the composting basket anyway.
    I am sure some hot competing occurred at least once during the summer when I put a lot of canteloupe rinds in there, and it did start to smell like garbage. The fire ants that were ALSO living in the compost area migrated out like mad.
    Can worms live “with” fire ants? Those worms definitely took a beating.

    • Bentley
    • February 12, 2020

    The activity of the larvae can actually serve to increase microbial heating and just generally make things less worm-friendly. One way to help some is to make sure lots of bedding materials (and living materials if you have em) are getting added as well. The larvae like it rich, wet and foul smelling – and won’t be as interested in the environment if it is more catered towards the worms. Very interesting re: the fire ants! They can be another “pain” in warmer outdoor locations – often on the drier side of things (if a system gets too dry they can thrive).

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