The more I read about urban farming, the more convinced I become that this is the way of the future.  Small, manageable vegetable gardens that can provide us with enough fresh, nutritious food to feed families (thus reducing household expenditure), and make us all much healthier.  They can even turn a small profit…

Keyhole GardenFood prices have shot through the roof, largely because of unrelenting oil price hikes, but also because of the shift from food crops to those that produce bio-fuels (a contentious topic best left for another day!).

Add to that the unbelievable erosion of the earth’s topsoil that goes hand in hand with most (if not all) large-scale agriculture, and we have a huge problem on our hands – traditional farming, as it stands, is not sustainable.  We’re losing more soil than we’re putting back, which means fewer and fewer nutrients in the food we eat.

And throwing chemical fertilisers at the problem is only making it worse

But, mankind is ever inventive, and hungry people are making a plan…  In the highlands of Lesotho, that plan involves something called keyhole gardens

“A keyhole garden is a raised bed shaped like a keyhole and walled in by stone. In the center, a basket made from sticks and straw holds manure and later, vegetable scraps for compost. The garden is watered primarily through the basket in the center, which distributes the nutrients from the compost to the plants.”

It’s incredible how much one can grow in a relatively small area.  According to this BBC report, it only takes three of these gardens (each with a two metre diameter) to provide enough to feed ten people, with some left over to sell or distribute among the community.

The gardens are easy to tend (beds raised to waist-height mean even the elderly or infirm can maintain their own vegetables), are not prone to soil erosion (being surrounded by rock and well mulched) and are even water-wise (moisture-retention is far greater than in a more exposed environment).

No pesticides are necessary, no manufactured fertilisers required – all these babies need is organic waste, manure, a dash of water and lots of TLC!  Simple and sustainable – something all of us (or almost all, depending on available land/balcony space) can do.

(If, like me, you’re rather keen to find out how to build one of your own, there’s a how-to-guide here (pdf) and more information here.)

Related articles:

%d bloggers like this: