Keyline Garden Design
Today I am sharing my new Keyline garden at Texastopia Farm. This is where we will grow medicinal herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, echinacea, comfrey, yarrow and many others. This garden is special because it was built on a very degraded caliche hillside. I believe this garden will soon demonstrate that it is possible to grow high quality food and medicine while restoring degraded landscapes at the same time.
First Garden at Texastopia
This new garden is an addition and retrofit to an existing garden that was built by the previous owners of the property. In that original garden I built some raised beds that were all very nearly on contour. The beds were made with finely shredded mulch, algae harvested from the Blanco river and compost. I ran drip lines down each bed for irrigation. During the first year this garden was slow to perform, the wind would easily dry the beds out and the plants were slow to grow. As the months have gone by all of that organic material has begun to decompose. The fire ants and earthworms have been turning the soil from underneath into the mulch and compost. The result has been the creation of some fantastic garden soil, plants began to grow vigorously towards the end of this last summer. We had a great harvests of milky oats, tomatoes, holy basil and our spring wildflower blooms lasted into December. The diversity of the garden was the main attraction for cardinals, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.
After the first year I decided to expand the garden. This expansion offered a great opportunity to practice some Keyline patterning with garden beds. Special thanks to Kirby Fry for being a great mentor, without him I would never have been able to build a garden like this. Together we have grown comfortable designing and installing systems similar to this.
The first thing to do was survey and lay out the garden and fence with flags. After laying out the keyline pattern, I began to move soil into the garden area to build the beds. I used some fill dirt as the base for the beds, which is mostly gravel and caliche. This is not the best substrate, but its what we had available on the farm. Once the base for each bed was built I began working on the fence.
Once the fence was complete it was time to start top-dressing the new beds with compost, mulch, and seed. We used compost from Geo-growers in Dripping Springs, oat straw from a local farmer and a diverse variety of annuals, native and cover crop seeds.
The final step to complete this garden was to add irrigation. I ran a 1 inch poly pipe up to the center of the garden and now can run all 4 sections of the irrigation system at the same time. This time I opted to use 360 degree micro sprayers on the garden beds instead of drip line. This gives us better seed germination and waters the beds more thoroughly.
The finished product is a drought proof garden that harvests rainfall and mitigates runoff in an area that was once completely degraded. In spring this once source of albedo will be vibrant with wildflowers, herbs and buzzing with bees and hummingbirds.
For anyone interested in building these types of regenerative systems please inquire about our upcoming educational course that will be led by local legend and design mastermind Kirby Fry and myself in the spring!