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Te Ipukarea Society’s sustainable keyhole garden takes root

Saturday 30 March 2024 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Environment, National


Te Ipukarea Society’s sustainable keyhole garden takes root
Te Ipukarea Society’s keyhole garden. TIS/24032801

After weeks of collecting material, a bit of lifting and digging, Te Ipukarea Society has finally started up their keyhole garden again ready to use for planting!

This project started in April 2020, as a result of COVID, and because the Ministry of Agriculture were offering the community free vegetable seeds to try and plant for home grown purposes. This awesome initiative encouraged Te Ipukarea Society to create an eco-friendly raised key-hole garden. If well maintained, a key hole garden can provide composting benefits where organic waste is reused as well as making a household become more self-sufficient, particularly during trying times

The Keyhole Garden got its name because it looks like a traditional skeleton-key lock, from a bird’s eye view thanks to a path breaking the border leading to a circle in the center. The center contains wiring in the shape of a circle to serve as a cage for the compost pile. The cage is filled with garden and kitchen waste, which decomposes and releases vital nutrients into the rest of the raised garden. When watered, the nutrients from the compost spread through the soil, fertilizing it without the need for added commercial fertilizers.

Materials used were mostly found around the TIS backyard. Thanks to all the projects Te Ipukarea Society has participated in over the years there was already some good fencing to build the cage in the center as well as some pallets to build a shelf for freshly sown seeds. The stones were also already available and reused, Additional washed up coral lime stones were collected and used from the beach behind one of our own staff members house.  After rebuilding the border of stones, filling the garden was next, first with cuttings from hedges and mulch, to help put nutrients into the soil and provide volume. Slowly as everything broke-down, the new seeds were being sown in small plastic reusable punnets before switching to self made paper pots as they easily break down in the soil once planted. 

After getting the top soil to fill up the rest of the garden from Teava Iro, the plants were sown straight into the paper pots. cardboard and hedge trimmings were then used to help combat this heatwave we are all experiencing by providing lovely shade to the soil and helping prevent the water from drying out too fast.

Fruit scraps, paper, dried leaves, grass clippings, and leftover vegetable waste are now being added to the center along with water. Not only does the breakdown process happen fast, but the nutrients spread out from that center throughout the whole garden. This defeats the need to use chemical fertilizer.

Te Ipukarea Society is looking forward to nurturing its new crops through the assistance of in-house expertise Akeina Tairea who is studying Agriculture via correspondence through Massey University. The recently completed keyhole garden will also be used as a demonstration site for organic agriculture educational programmes.