During last year’s growing season, there was much hype and circulation over a new method of garden mulching now commonly known as Back to Eden gardening. I shared in the excitement and like many other gardeners got my hands on as many wood chips as I could find and eagerly spread them over my garden.
This year, coincidentally, was our year of rest for the garden which turned out to be a blessing since the time and financial investment would have been futile as we ended up moving across the state. The wood chips I laid in my garden never had a chance to prove themselves or not and since I have done some rethinking on mulch gardening, will never have the chance to.
Ultimately, the origin of the Back to Eden method was an appeal to God’s word and created order- where every Christian agrarian should begin to serve the Lord through their gardening efforts- and the method was born after observing the abundance of life in forest soils and their ability to retain water. However, the logic is somewhat flawed in that we are attempting to grow sun-loving annuals in our vegetable patches which one simply doesn’t find growing in a forest understory. That to me was reason enough to abandon the project, despite other’s success stories, and seek a mulching method that is more like one would find occurring naturally. While some might say the video simply advocates lasagna gardening and mulching of any type, that was not made clear and the magic seemed to be in the wood chips. If the video left out such vital information that can only be found on youtube, then it was a poorly made video at best, outright deceptive at worst.
Well, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and for many others who jumped on the bandwagon with me, they have had almost a full first season’s worth of experience by now.
One gardener recently reached out and shared their experience and with her permission I am able to share it with you and others curious about whether Back to Eden gardening would work for them.
I’m fairly new here, and I know you are in the middle of your big move, but I had to write about our Back to Eden experiment.
Last year we put half our garden into raised beds that were double dug per the book Mini Farming, Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. After 4 of the 12 beds it occurred to me that I was turning my lovely topsoil under & bringing up pure clay to plant in! We forked the others. Our garden was amazing, in spite of the drought, incredible yields even with the clay issues.
Then I watched the BTE movie…. We brought in 6 pickups full of 2 yr old, composted chips. Back breaking work! We planted all the boxes and waited in anticipation. The other half of our garden didn’t get chips-I ran out of time and had to plant. Most everything sprouted, but by late May I knew we were in trouble. Everything I planted-seeds or transplants- was very pale green and stunted. The peppers were actually almost white! We brought a truck load of 8 yr old manure in & spread it over the chips,working it in. Things greened up, but remained stunted. Our yield this yr will be a fraction of last yr. The weeds have been mostly non-existent, but other than that it is a total failure in my book.
I searched the net for other people’s experiences. Most of what I found were folks planning to use the method because of the results in the movie. There were a few people with wonderful results though. I read the Teaming With Microbes after reading your post and now realize I have likely killed, or nearly so, my soil food web. We will be raking the remaining chips off after our pitiful harvest.
We live in SE Indiana if that makes a difference. The oddest part of this is that our family and 2 friends all used the BTE method. One family have always used tilling and chemical fertilizer. I thought their outcome would be the best, but it is actually worse than ours! The other family planted a new garden on a patch of ground that had tobacco growing on it for the last 30 yrs- her yield has been off the charts wonderful! She used the chips differently though-she tilled the soil, planted the seed and then mulched with the chips when her plants began to emerge. I don’t know what made the difference for her-the tobacco, tilling first, or just what but she feels her BTE was a complete success. We all live within a half hour of each other. -Kim (all emphasis mine)
By now, I’m sure that there are several other gardener’s out there who also have experimented with The Back to Eden method of garden mulching. We’d love to hear from you! Whether a wonderful success or abysmal failure please leave a comment below and share your thoughts so that others might glean from your experience.