African kitchen gardens

Learn about and create a garden that is becoming popular across the globe.

African Kitchen Gardens, or Keyhole Gardens, have become very popular in the world of gardening.  This garden design originated in Africa and was located near the cooking area, therefore giving it the name African Kitchen Garden.

The original design was an attempt from humanitarian charities to help families in impoverished countries with poor soil, hot weather and little access to water create a more sustainable gardening system. Gardening can empower families to grow their own vegetables and take control of their personal nutritional needs.   Many organizations taught school children how to construct the gardens from recycled materials, as well as grow nutritious vegetables for their families. Michigan State University Extension will be going through these simple steps to create your own African Kitchen Garden.

The basic design is a circle that is six feet in diameter, raised to about waist height, with a compost basket in the center of the circle and a pie shaped, notch-like cut away.

The outside wall of the garden can be constructed from any type of material that will hold the soil in, such as rocks, bricks, bamboo, boards or just about anything that you like.

The compost basket can be made from woven wire, sticks or other materials. Generally the basket is approximately 1 to 1 1/2 feet in diameter and extends above the center of the bed; it will be used to hold the composting materials in the center of the garden. The basket holds kitchen waste and, when watered, will carry nutrients from the waste to the rest of the garden.  The original garden plan in Africa would be for the basket to use gray water from other household chores such as washing food cooking utensils.

In recent years this design has become popular throughout the world. It is attractive because it can be intensely planted to maximize the amount of vegetables in a small area. Mulching is used to conserve water, but this type of planting technique does not need added fertilizers and can be adapted to meet the needs of the gardener.

There are many websites devoted to African Kitchen or Keyhole garden design.  Send A Cow is a great resource because it shows a young girl building a Keyhole garden in Uganda.    Keep in mind these garden designs and principles would make a great addition to your garden right here in Michigan.

Search the web for other great design options to begin your very own Keyhole garden.

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