Tuesday, January 19, 2016


This post, 2015-MARCH  MATTIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for her Divas of the Dirt blog.

Before her March garden day, Mattie emailed some information on what her project would be and asked that we bring any unwanted cardboard, newspapers and phone books to her house to fill the under layers of her planned Keyhole Garden. Mattie was intrigued with the idea of building a Keyhole Garden after meeting Deb Tolman - who brought the concept from Africa to Texas - at a conference. These gardens are especially useful in dry places with thin soil – sure sounds like parts of Texas! 
But instead of using recycled concrete, stones, heavy cement pavers or bricks, Mattie decided to buy a kit with a frame and corrugated sides. After we saw her idea photo, we were intrigued, too!

The weather for Mattie’s project day was pleasant but the Divas were not in top form. Sophia and Annie were so sick they decided to stay home and the rest of us were feeling creaky for a variety of reasons. As we’ve learned over the years, we often feel better once we’re working together, all talking and laughing. Of course that euphoric effect can sometimes be temporary so we might feel even worse after we stopped!

On the way in from the street I was floored by the sight of Mattie’s Peach Iris in full bloom. A few divisions shared in spring 2012 and planted in good organic soil with lots of sun had spread into a 5-ft sweep of beauty, form and fragrance. These were very happy iris!

Inside, tulips announced the season and pretty cupcakes promised a sweet reward after the project was done.

Mattie had made both a Spinach-Mushroom Quiche and a Broccoli-Pepper Quiche, a huge Berry-fruit salad with grapes, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries, and a nostalgic surprise – homemade Corned Beef Hash.

 In the hall we saw a very large box destined for the back yard – could an entire keyhole garden fit inside?

We looked at the big front border – the plants looked pretty healthy for March but where had all those Nettles come from?

Grass is invading this bed and the winter-killed tops of plants need to be cut back.

The lantanas have died close to the ground, but little leaves at the base are ready to grow. Let’s cut them back and get another crop of nettles out of this border!

Tree seedlings and weeds have invaded the little path by the entrance but they’ll soon be banished.

We split up into two teams… Karla, Sugar and I stayed in front to move along the ground tackling weeds, cutting back the tops of frozen perennials and reclaiming the edges of all the beds. (Mattie snapped this photo.)

Mattie, Buffy and Mindy took their tools into the back yard to start the layout and assembly of the keyhole garden. After some time they were pleased to see that the frame looked like the instruction manual.

Many more parts sit ready to be used in the next stages – will it all fit together eventually?

Tada! After a few glitches, the keyhole garden is assembled with wire basket tower ready to go!

The Divas roamed back and forth between front and back yards, visiting, kibitzing and working. Some finished the weeding, edging and cultivating of the beds. Other Divas sawed out pesky saplings that sprouted along the fence line, then cut up the pieces and layered them into the keyhole garden.

Many more layers were needed - branches, phone books, leaves, newspapers and any organic material we could gather, including piles of cardboard boxes brought by those Divas still in the midst of kitchen remodeling projects.

 “Time for a lunch break!” says Mattie.

Although we all like to cook, sometimes the wisest and most efficient choice is to let an Austin restaurant cook. This month Mattie chose Rudy’s BBQ. Their brisket is fine but Rudy’s turkey is my personal favorite. With salads and beans it was quite a feast.

Some Divas decided to leave the traditional white bread (and its gluten) in the bag. Rudy’s tastes as good as it looks.

Time for those cupcakes!

We went back out and worked for awhile longer. Lucky Mattie had a family member in East Texas who had access to bags of what gardeners consider as treasure: bags of pinestraw mulch. We used the fallen dry needles mixed with partially decomposed leaves over the soil in all the beds and borders.

Now the entrance bed looks good.

The big central bed looks good and the iris look even better with the weeds gone.

And the long front border sweeps smoothly across the front of the house again.

As to the keyhole garden – Mattie continued to rip cardboard and add to the interior of the doughnut-shaped enclosure and then added soil to the top so herbs and a few smaller vegetables could be planted. She still hunter-gathers organic material to keep the level up and it’s provided some food all year. When Diva Annie and I were at Mattie’s house last November, Mattie was still picking cherry tomatoes from her Keyhole garden. 

This post, 2015-MARCH  MATTIE’S GARDEN DAY, was written by Annie in Austin/Diva Glinda for her Divas of the Dirt blog.

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