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Now I know that last year wasn’t a ‘typical’ growing season.  Most of the fruit and veg that would usually grow well in the garden struggled with wet weather, hoards of slugs and very little sunshine.  So perhaps judging any gardening methods tried out for the first time in 2012 isn’t really fair.  But I will anyway… last year I used the square foot gardening method for growing vegetables and herbs.  The raised beds were hard work to build and fill, but great to work with once they were prepared.  Maintenance was pretty easy, the veg that managed to escape the attentions of the local slugs grew, and weeding was minimal.  There’s a round up of my (rambling) thoughts on square foot gardening here, so I won’t go on about it again now.

First planting

Another new idea I tried in the garden last year was the keyhole bed design that I found in The Essential Urban Farmer (a great book with lots of interesting ideas).  Keyhole beds are formed of large circle with a path to a smaller central circle, as shown in the beautiful diagram below…

 Keyhole bed

The idea is that the beds have more growing space and less path space than conventional beds.  I’m not entirely convinced of this (or I’m going wrong somewhere), because they seem to need a lot of space around them for access.  But I really like the shape – it’s a nice change from the usually straight lines of raised veg beds.  I used sticks and string to measure out two keyhole beds in the garden last spring, and edged them with old bricks and large stones that I found lying around.  Each bed was weeded well and had lots of home made compost added, before I started planting.

Keyhole bed spring

I started out sowing seeds following the circles of the keyhole bed, mainly because I’d read somewhere that this was the way to plant these beds.  This probably works well for more permanent plantings, but wasn’t right for me, so I ended up planting the veg in ‘segments’ around the circle.  This was a much better approach, and one I’ll be using again this year.

Has anyone else tried these keyhole beds?  Any tips on how I can improve the way I use them this year?  At the moment, I’m thinking that one bed will be for salads and herbs, the other for flowers.  But all this could change, especially if you have some good suggestions…