In September 2012 we set up a section of our lawn to try the Back to Eden garden. You would really have to watch the original Back to Eden film to fully understand were we are going with this, or what the whole point is, but here is a simple idea.
In the forest the ground is covered in bits of fallen plant material, which slowly degrades down into beautiful rich soil. What is more, that soil is loose, easily worked, and retains lots and lots of moisture.
The major line of thinking with gardening is to water, water and water some more. But what if you could mimic nature, and keep the soil moist… all the time.
Even if you could not eliminate your watering, what if you could do it a lot less.
To state it over simplistically, Back to Eden gardening involves using a thick layer of wood chips to retain that moisture, block weeds (or make them easily pluck-able), and, all-in-all, make gardening “natural”. To put it to a point – it is mulching.
So we set out to try to recondition our soil using this method. We picked a spot of our lawn that ought to be a great location for a garden – open, shade-free and on a slight incline. One problem… the soil was horrible. Hard. Red. Mississippi. Clay.
So, we did as we saw was done in the video. People tend to get caught up in wood chips. The film is not a sales pitch on wood chips. Yes, Paul prefers them – but you will note that he mentioned he tried many other coverings, including straw and rock, among others.
You are going to have to make use with what you have, or what you care to afford. We could not find wood chips for free in our area, but the hay in our area is reasonably priced.
As such, we used hay as our covering.
Over time, we bought a wood chipper and chopped some of our own wood chips. The wood chips are much easier to move around for plantings, so I am glad we are using them.
Too many times I have read or heard people say “The Back to Eden does not work”. Then I find out that they basically threw wood chips on the soil and walked away.
But that is not the right way to do it.
Remember that I said that the forest floor has a covering? Well, it is not just fallen plant material down there. The droppings from rabbits, deer and other animals fertilize the soil as well. Worms eat decomposing material and provide fertilization as well.
In order to garden in this method successfully you must provide fertilization. Paul does this with his chicken droppings and compost from outside sources. You can fertilize however you prefer.
We use rabbit and goat manure. There is typically hay in that manure as well, which adds in some extra material which will compost down.
Our plan is to continue to enrich this garden plot so that the soil will continue to improve year upon year. However, we have a lot of great permaculture plans for the future as well. We will likely continue to develop this area for our annual vegetables and fruits.
Until then, what you may want to know is: Did it work? Is the soil really any better? Is there any more moisture in the ground?
Why not take the time to watch our series of videos about our Back to Eden Garden. There are bound to be updates 🙂