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Creative landscape architect Deb Tolman tends more than 10 keyhole gardens on StarHaven Ranch in Bosque County, where she lives in a 10-by-10-foot converted oat bin. Thick layers of mulch hold in moisture from drip irrigation, help plants get started and minimize the amount of water required. So it’s nothing short of amazing that the community of Clifton in Bosque County has been transformed into an oasis in this gardening desert with help from creative landscape architect Deb Tolman. In her area of North Central Texas, Tolman has added a twist to keyhole gardens, making beds almost entirely of compost.
Tolman is sharing these ideas with the community, and Clifton now has about 60 keyhole gardens. Jim Starnater has helped build three community keyhole gardens in Clifton and has built several on his ranch. While the keyhole provides easy access to the composting basket in the center, almost any raised bed about 6 feet in diameter will work.
Tolman, who appreciates both form and function, has worked with Starnater to turn an old ski boat and a bathtub into gardens in addition to her more traditional stone designs. Tolman had suggested using rocks and cob, a mixture of clay and straw, but Peitz didn’t have either. Because keyhole gardens can both weather the drought and take a big bite out of the grocery bill, they’re a welcome gift from Africans to Texans for bountiful seasons to come. FOCUS ON TEXAS: Our readers restored everything from tractors to chairs to maps, and they let us see the finished products! ENERGY TIP: Our August issue examines whether canning or freezing is the most efficient method of storing food.
FOOD FRIDAY: They call garlic "the stinkin' rose" for a reason, and our readers' recipes make a fragrant festival with it! The grass, which will make its global debut at the Rio Olympics, may also play a key role in the sport’s potential growth in South America after the Olympics.


See the Table of Contents for links to this issue’s stories, recipes, Letters to the Editor and more. I know you want to start a worm bin and compost much of what you are currently landfilling. The number one chunk of misinformation out there which needs to be shot down in flames is that you need to purchase worms for an outdoor compost bin.
The spinning (sometimes called a barrel) or tumbler composter is a commercial gimmick to convince you that anyone, including small children or pets, can turn the whole pile at once in a few seconds. Backyard Ecosystem began as an expression of my determination to make a difference in our own backyard. You appear to have JavaScript disabled, or are running a non-JavaScript capable web browser. Most of her garden designs incorporate Central Texas’ bountiful limestone and include a frame to support a shade cloth during the hottest months. This mix of Swiss chard, kale and Malabar spinach has grown prolifically, including during extreme summer heat.
Construct the exterior wall about 3 feet high using rocks, metal, timbers or any material that can support the weight of wet soil. Line the outer walls with cardboard and fill the garden area (but not the wire mesh tube in the center), with layers of compostable materials, wetting it down as you go. Fill the center basket with alternating layers of compostable material, along with layers of kitchen scraps and herbaceous weeds that provide the plants with moisture and nutrients. Scorching heat, thin layers of topsoil and elusive rainfall can make for a brutal summer when gardening is not for the faint of heart. Leaning on her 30 years of experience in landscape design, doctoral studies in environmental science and research on African survival strategies, Tolman has teamed with local ranch owners Jim and Mary Lou Starnater to unlock the secrets of sustainable gardening.
It is often built in the shape of a circle measuring about 6 feet in diameter that stands waist-high and is notched like a pie with a slice cut away.
The sustainable gardening method was developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa, where resources are scarce and the climate unforgiving.


Some of the soil is composed of recycled newspapers, telephone books and cardboard, which she says adds carbon, nitrogen and air to the soil. Instead, she and her son used broken concrete from a house remodeling project, mortaring it with cement to create a frame for her now-prosperous garden. Elaine Acker is a freelance writer and occasional blogger who divides her time between Texas and New Mexico. Our August issue follows one writer's lifelong journey through the deep, dark world of the catfish. An entire community in England has rallied around this simple idea and changed their world. Earth Day is coming up and everyone wants to save the planet, so why haven’t you done it already?
During the hottest months, the wires can support a shade cloth, and in winter, plastic sheeting creates an instant greenhouse. Recent Texas droughts are the most severe on record, and the National Weather Service warns that the long-term forecast is drier still.
The soil should slope from a high point at the top of the center basket downward to the edges of the garden. The garden, which from above looks like a keyhole, can be built with recycled materials and requires less water than a conventional garden. We also created umbrellas to shade the plants and reduce the heat and sun exposure by about 60 percent.
Everything underlying the movement toward greening our cites over the last several decades.
Or you know that composting is one of the easiest things you can do to save the world, but don’t know how to get started.



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