Good morning friends! Yesterday Chris and I spent most of the day working outside, even though it was windy and in the 30s. We were working on getting a pile of wood chips off of our driveway and into the garden. Well, this morning I woke up to snow falling and a fresh layer of snow on the ground, so it was definitely a good call to have gotten that done.
So, why are we moving a truck load of wood chips into the garden? Well, we are excited to share that we are implementing an entirely new method of gardening this year! We are trying out the Back to Eden method, which focuses on adding to the soil instead of taking from it.
The Problem with Tilling
Tilling is a common practice with not only large scale farming, but also small backyard gardening. It has just become the way to do things, without questioning why we do it or the potential consequences. Tilling breaks up the soil so that you can quickly plant in loose soil, but the problem, is that over time this “loose” soil becomes hard, dry, and nutrient deficient. Even light tilling disrupts the surface and destroys beneficial microorganisms and bacteria that live there. So why do we continue to do it? I think this is an important question and one that we should ask ourselves in all areas of life. There are so many things we do without questioning their origin or their significance. With tilling, I imagine it has become a quicker, easier fix, but it also is temporary with more long-term problems and labor. The other option to tilling, is to add organic matter to the soil so that you no longer need to loosen it up, but the organic matter you add in does the job for you. This requires more work upfront, but less work throughout the season, and ultimately is so much easier for you, and so much healthier for your plants and ultimately the food that you are feeding yourself and your family.
What is Back to Eden?
Back to Eden gardening is all about organic, no-till, and heavy mulching with wood chips. The idea is that through maintaining the ground cover, the bacteria and microorganisms living in the upper layers of the soil are protected, and are more packed with nutrients that your plants will need. On top of that, the wood chips allow for the soil to retain more moisture, which decreases the need to water. In addition, the mulching blocks weed seeds from germination, which decreases weeding. When weed seeds do germinate, they are easy to pull out of the soil because of the loose mulch. Another aspect of using this method, is that over time the soil will improve as it retains moisture and as the wood chips break down, continuing to add nutrients back into the soil. With this method, there is less of a need to crop rotate, and also a decreased need to add fertilizer. There are just so many wins with this method, how can we not give it a shot?! You can learn all about them in the free documentary below:
Chris and I watched this documentary and were immediately hooked on the idea of implementing this method in our garden. We were excited about using natural, organic matter as a way to protect our soil, and were thrilled about the potential for decreased labor and less watering.
What do you Need for this Method?
The great thing about this method is requires less tools. The main thing you need is wood chips. The kind of wood chips that come from branches and leaves all chipped together so you’re getting all of that organic matter. Many times local tree companies are looking for free places to dump off their wood chips, but this does depend on your area. If you can’t find wood chips, we have also found success mulching with straw, you will just want to make sure it is straw and not hay (hay has lots of weed seeds in it). We also have been using cardboard to kill off the grass before adding our composted material and wood chips. This way we don’t have to till up the ground, we can simply create a barrier between the mulch and the ground so that the grass dies off before planting season. You can also use black tarps to kill of the grass, or a really thick layer of mulch should do the trick (at least 6 inches). In between the cardboard and wood chips, we have been laying down composting straw and rabbit manure, just to add even more organic matter into the soil. Once we go to plant, we will be planting in the soil below the wood chips and mulch, and we will also add in compost at the same time.
Essentially, everything you need for this method is free and organic, how great is that!? We are looking forward to implementing this in our garden in 2019, and will document our progress along the way, sharing with you any pros and cons that we encounter.
What method to gardening do you use? Comment below and let us know, we would love to hear from you.
That’s all for now friends.
All my best,