Lions and tigers and … marigolds, oh my! El Paso Zoo is literally growing! The newest addition to Zoo is a sustainable Eco Garden, sponsored by the Junior League of El Paso.
First made popular in Africa, keyhole gardens are catching on in Texas and other hot, dry places. This sustainable, keyhole gardening method was developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa, where resources are scarce and the climate unforgiving. Keyhole gardens hold moisture and nutrients due to an active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed. Now in the Africa area of the Zoo, there are six new keyhole gardens!
The keyhole garden concept is brilliantly simple. Keyhole planters are built in the shape of a circle. Planters stand about waist-high, and are notched like a pie with a slice cut away. A hole in the center holds a composting basket that moistens and nourishes the soil. The gardens, which from above looks like a keyhole, use a drip irrigation system and require significantly less water than a conventional garden.
In Africa, generally women tend to keyhole gardens. Here in the borderland’s own Africa area at the Zoo, the keyhole gardens were created – and tended by – the women of the Junior League of El Paso.
In Africa, three keyhole gardens can feed a family of 10 all year long, according to humanitarian reports. At the Zoo, the crops raised in these raised beds will help feed the animals as part of their enrichment program. Savannah the elephant, for example, loves mint, one of the crops in the garden!
Keyhole planters help the El Paso Zoo grow! This eco-community crop garden allows the Zoo, Zoological Society and the Junior League of El Paso to work together to share knowledge with the community about sustainability and conservation, while providing a simple take home garden project for Zoo guests.The Eco Garden is part of the Zoo’s 10-year Master Plan. As the project continues, the Junior League of El Paso will add a presentation and demonstration area for the community to discover more about this simple, keyhole gardening concept and how to use sustainable gardening practices at home.