Standing in the middle of a keyhole bed or on the main path, the gardener can reach much
of the ground quite easily. This area is used for plants which need the most frequent atten-
tion, such as leafy greens which are picked over a long period. A little further away, but
still within reach, are plants that need less frequent attention, and further away again are
plants that need little more than planting and harvesting, like garlic and onions. The last
group may be out of reach without stepping onto the garden, but the odd footprint in dry
weather does no harm, and stepping stones can give all-weather access.
As well as their purely practical advantages, keyhole beds are more attractive to the eye
than straight beds, so they lend themselves to combined edible and ornamental plantings.
Mulch is any material laid on the surface of the soil in order to kill weeds, conserve
moisture and protect the soil from rain or Sun. Many mulches also add fertility to the soil
as they rot down. Mulching in all its forms is a great tool of permaculture gardening. It cuts
out a lot of work, and leaves the soil undisturbed, just as it would be under natural condi-
Mulch can be used to clear new ground without digging: it kills off the existing plant
cover by excluding light. Black plastic sheeting does this well, though it should never be
bought new for the purpose. There is plenty of it being thrown away all the time which
gardeners can recycle. Old carpets and cardboard will do as well. It takes a whole summer
growing season to kill off a heavy growth of really tough plants, but if you want to grow
a crop right away, and the existing growth is not too rampant, it is possible to grow plants
through the mulch.