April 30, 2015
If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I cover the garden with woodchips. You may even know about the Back to Eden Film. If not, you should watch it!
Many people are realizing the benefits of covering the soil. There are many. However, in true American fashion, many are wondering why they are not having Paul’s results (from 30 years of gardening) in their first year or two. This post is to give you hope and encourage you to stick with it and trust the process!
We started our BTE (back to eden) garden 3 years ago when I was finally able to get up with some Asplundh folks. Our first year, we layered with aged cow manure. We got chickens 2 years ago and I am able to get horse manure about once a year so many times, our garden is covered with that along with woodchips. Sometimes, when we are expanding the garden, which we try to do as much as possible, all we have is cardboard and woodchips. As Paul would say, ‘use what you have’. So we do 🙂
For those of you new to Back to Eden or who are interested, I took some pictures of my soil to show you what a blessing a covering is and how it gets better and better each year.
Starting with our first ever BTE garden: Started 3 years ago, covered in newspapers, aged cow manure, then 6″ of woodchips. Each fall, it has been covered in a light layer of chicken manure (when I clean out the coop) and woodchips. You can see the woodchips are breaking down as you get further and further down. There is clay still about 6″ down.
This section of the garden was prepped by our young pullets 2 years ago in a chicken tractor. We then covered it with newspaper and woodchips. It has since been covered by horse manure and woodchips. Even 6″ down, NO clay. It is transitioning into rich, beautiful black soil. This patch is under our apple tree. It was covered 2 years ago with cardboard and mulch. It has been layered with horse manure and mulch for the past two winters. Everything seems to grow well under and around the apple tree. No clay to be found (at least 6″ down). Here is a section that was covered with newspaper and woodchips 1 year ago. You do not see any clay; but that is because 6″ down, you are just getting to soil. Without manure, it takes longer to get good soil. It will still happen; it will just take longer. All you can see in this picture is woodchips…and not very broken down at that. The next section was prepped this past August (less than 12mo ago). All we had was cardboard and woodchips so that is what we used. Check out all that clay! I am not discouraged for two reasons. Number 1: I know it will get better in time. Number 2: See the next picture. This next picture is 15 feet away. It is part of the newly-expanded garden we worked on this past August. However, this part was covered lightly in chicken manure when I cleaned out the coop this winter. What a difference! (There is clay about 4″ down.) As you can see:
- Covering your garden conditions and improves your soil more and more as time passes.
- Animal manure speeds up this process.
- If you do not have all the recommended materials, use what you have! It will get better and you can always add more later.
PS. NEVER till/work anything in. Just keep layering!
Sometimes, when I am raking back mulch to plant, I’ll drag the edge of my rake through the mulch to see if I have reached soil yet (PLANT IN THE SOIL!!!). My kids will chastise me for ’tilling’ and possibly killing worms and microbes 🙂 They are so brainwashed. ha! I love it!
Speaking of, at some point, I’ll do a post on how to plant in a BTE garden. You cannot plant like Paul does when you have 6-8″ of mulch to work through. If you have any questions or anything you would like for me to address regarding BTE gardening, let me know!
Until then, watch the film, watch the YouTube videos, and garden on! 🙂