Every vegetable garden needs paths – if you can’t reach the plants, you can’t eat them.
The simplest layout for a garden is to plant in rows, alternating planting beds with paths. This design, however, results in a lot of space devoted to walking, relative to the space used for producing food. That’s not a very efficient way to garden in a small yard.
Raised beds are a little more efficient. Because they’re higher and easier to reach, the beds can be wider, increasing the ratio of planting area to walking space.
An even better way is a layout called a keyhole garden. This design features a circular planting bed with an open work space in the middle, and a single narrow path connecting the inside to the outside. By standing in the center and by walking around the outer edge, the gardener can reach all the plants to care for and harvest them, while not taking up any more space than necessary for paths.
This image compares traditional rows, raised beds, and keyhole gardens.
Keyhole gardens must be relatively small, since they only work if the gardener can reach the middle of the planting bed from either side. When more space is available, however, multiple keyhole gardens can be linked together in a pattern called a mandala garden.
By using space creatively, we can produce a surprising amount of food, even in a small suburban yard.