An excellent charity called Send a Cow, have developed a unique method of growing vegetables in a keyhole garden using knowledge from African Farmers. They won a silver medal at the BBC Gardeners World Exhibition with their display which aims to save water and grow vegetables in a small area such as a patio or balcony.
As you can see, Key Hole Gardening is an extremly attractive way to grow veg with heaps of soil based around a compost that continually feeds the garden with the rotting matter as it grows. This a great way to use up kitchen waste and means you can grow lots of vegetables in a small area, all year round. Perfect for city balconies or terraces where space is at a premium and there is often nowhere to have a compost heap. The height is good for elderly people who may find bending down to tend their vegetables more difficult.
For many families in Africa these amazing keyhole gardens are the difference between life and death. Climate change has seriously reduced the levels of soil fertility in many parts of Africa and the situation has been made worse by the loss of almost a whole generation to Aids which means that horticultural know-how is very limited.
About 70% of Africans depend for survival on what they grow on their land and keyhole gardening is just one of the areas that Send A Cow is involved with. Set up in 1988 , this group of farmers in the West Country helps African farmers develop answers to this need to grow their own food. They deliver direct, practical help to poor farmers in Africa, by providing, cows and other livestock, training in livestock rearing and organic farming, plus low-cost veterinary and advice services .
Another novel idea that is being promoted by Send a Cow is the bag garden – see pictures above right. These tall hessian sacks of soil are sent to families trying to survive famine in Africa . They are deep enough to grow potatoes in, plus you can also cut holes in the sack and plant things up the sides too. They can be watered easily when irrigating fields isn’t possible. The bag garden saves lives in Africa but it will also do well on a tiny British patio or balcony.
Congratulations to Send a Cow for their invaluable work in Africa and for inspiring UK gardeners to think more about natural gardening techniques, soil erosion and water shortages – all things we need to consider for a future of gardening in a changing climate.
Anyone with a small terace or balcony could grow veggies in a key-hole or bag garden – if you are interested in makign your own,check out their excellent web-site at http://www.sendacow.org.uk. There is lots more information on their various projects plus some more sustainable gardening suggestions from Africa – making your own natural pesticide and liquid manure.
Garden sustainably from Send a Cow
1. Make your own natural pesticide
Soak seven cups of marigold leaves, one cup crushed chilli and seven bulbs of garlic in five litres of water. Add a piece of soap, three spoons of baking powder and some wood ash. Use after four days.
2. Make your own plant ‘tea’
Fill a bucket with chopped docks, comfrey and clover. Cover with water, adding a pinch of ash. Cover and stir daily. After a week, remove the leaves and use as you would a diluted liquid feed.
3. Make a keyhole garden
Draw a 3m circle and edge with rocks. Mark a tiny central circle with posts and make a compost “basket” inside with sticks and string. Fill bed with soil sloping down from centre, leaving a tiny path for access. Fill the basket with vegetable waste and enjoy your fertile plot.