What Is Back To Eden Gardening & Is It Worth The Hassle?


Working in a garden and growing healthy foods is a rewarding experience. However, for a garden to be productive and bountiful, you need to put in a lot of work, such as weeding and watering regularly. The Back to Eden gardening method helps you cut back on most of the hard work. It requires less manual watering of plants and curbs the growth of weeds.

Back to Eden, gardening is a natural method of growing vegetables, plants, and herbs in the way nature intended plants to grow, which is referred to as permaculture. It is the perfect way to start an organic garden because it requires little to no watering, no tilling, and no weeding. Additionally, this gardening method increases soil organic matter, reduces erosion, and sequesters carbon in the soil.

If you are a farmer looking for an easy and natural way to grow your plants organically, this guide is the best place to start. Read on for more information about incorporating the Back to Eden gardening method in your garden and whether or not it is worth the hassle.

What is Back to Eden Gardening?

Back to Eden, gardening involves recreating an environment where plants were initially made to thrive. The gardening method uses raw natural materials to build up layers in your garden. These layers form a mound that becomes your garden bed. In effect, these mounds keep the soil moist while preventing the growth of weeds.

Have you ever observed fruits growing in the wild? In their natural environment, wild fruits do not need watering or weeding to thrive. They grow and produce abundantly year after year without our intervention. This is the concept that Back to Eden gardening adopts to grow plants organically.

Origin of Back to Eden Gardening

Inspired by his beliefs, Paul Gautschi is the creator of Back to Eden gardening. In an informative documentary, Paul shares how his Christian beliefs inspired him to develop this brilliant idea. The gardening technique is named from a Biblical standpoint because it focuses on nature’s process.

In the Garden of Eden, everything needed to sustain life grew without human intervention. After carefully examining the forest floor in his property, Paul noticed that accumulated layers of decomposed twigs, leaves, and other plant matter formed rich mulch for plants in the forest to thrive. He then focussed on redeveloping this mulch with the aid of human intervention.

The dense layer of decomposing matter protected the soil from erosion, exposure to the sun and significantly retained moisture. After experimenting in his orchard, he discovered the method worked well, so he extended the idea to other plants such as vegetables.

Over time, Paul noticed that the soil in his garden became heavily productive, and due to the Pacific Northwestern climate and environment, watering was almost unnecessary. The Back to Eden website offers the opportunity for farmers to watch the documentary that dives deeper into Paul’s journey of this wonderful discovery.

How to Replicate Back to Eden Gardening in Your Garden

Laying the foundation for Back to Eden gardening takes hard work, a lot of mulch, and planning. After the initial work, the bulk of the work is done, and simple, easy care and maintenance begin. Over time your garden will become more fertile and productive.

Collect your supplies to create a back to eden garden

You need three main materials to start a Back to Eden garden. Light cardboard or newspaper is used to act as a barrier between the ground and the rest of the layers you will create. This is the first step towards weed prevention, and it will be your first layered material. The newspapers and light cardboard you use need to make a two to three-inch-thick layer.

Secondly, you need compost for the second layer. Some great options for compost include homemade compost, mushroom compost, organic compost, or store-bought compost. This compost layer needs to be about three to four inches thick.

Of course, compost to buy can be expensive, and therefore, it is imperative that you can make your own nutrient-dense compost at home. I have a full guide on making your own compost so that you are successful every time.

Wood chips make up the third and final material you need for the Back to Eden garden. Ensure the chips you use aren’t treated with sealants or chemicals. Usually, you can get these for free from tree surgeon services around you or at a minimal cost.

Design your Back to Eden garden

Decide precisely where you would like to place this garden bed and the shape you would like it to have. The area should receive plenty of direct sunlight. Back to Eden gardening doesn’t require tilling, so you can put the garden right on top of an existing lawn. This gardening method utilizes layers to build the garden bed. Therefore, the ground you lay it on doesn’t really matter. You can also use this in small backyards and large farms.

Lay down your first layer of newspaper or cardboard when creating a back to eden garden

Newspapers or cardboard are the first layers of your Back to Eden garden. They are biodegradable and will not harm the soil in any way after they naturally break down. Lay down the medium to create a layer of about one to two inches thick.

The pieces can overlap to ensure there aren’t any gaps for weeds to push through. If you do not prefer or like the idea of using newspapers or newspapers, use wood chips. However, to ensure weeds do not become a problem in the future, lay at least six inches in depth of wood chips. Lightly wet this layer.

Spread compost over the newspaper to create a back to eden garden

The second layer of your Back to Eden garden is compost. After ensuring your first layer doesn’t have any gaps and is lightly wet, cover the area with three to four inches of compost. The compost should be strictly organic, even if it is store-bought.

The more natural your compost layer is, the better your plants will be. Some prime ingredients for good compost include chicken poop and cow manure as they add nitrogen to the soil enriching it even further. Mushroom compost is also perfect for this gardening method. If the layer is dry, lightly wet it.

Back to eden gardening requires you to top your garden with wood chips

Cover the compost with a layer of wood chips. This layer should be at least five to six inches thick and cover the two previous layers completely. The type of wood chips you use is essential. Your wood chips should be made from whole tree branches in different sizes and contains leaves as well.

Ensure they aren’t made from treated lumber. Most local tree trimming companies will be happy to give you these wood chips as it reduces the task of disposing of them. Hose everything down so that the new garden mound is damp.

Planting a back to eden garden

If you made your garden bed in fall and allowed it to decompose over winter, your mulch layer should have decreased in thickness to about three inches and ready for planting by spring. You will now have slowly reducing particulate matter on the surface and aged mulch.

This is perfect for planting. During planting, ensure the seeds get to the soil layer by pulling back the layer of wood chips. The plants will develop roots in this layer and penetrate the newspaper or cardboard layer.

The mulch should stay pulled back from the soil as the seeds germinate to allow sunlight to reach them. During this period, you need to water the soil. As the plants grow, push back the mulch to retain moisture in the soil and stop watering. The pile of organic material will hold water on its own. If it is scorching and you feel the mulch needs extra water, put a soaker hose under the mulch. You may likely find it unnecessary.

Maintenance of a back to eden garden over time

Once you have adopted the Back to Eden gardening, you need to maintain it. Here are a few tips on how to maintaining your garden overtime in the years to come:

  • Over time, your mulch covering will continue breaking down, which is suitable for the plants. However, it needs replenishing. Use more of the same mulch to top the garden.
  • You may add a layer of chicken manure like Paul Gautschi does to keep decomposition active.
  • In weeds, their roots will be shallow, making it easy to get rid of them. Pull at the weeds from the base, and they will easily slide out due to moisture.

Is Back to Eden Gardening Worth the Hassle?

Back to Eden, gardening has many benefits making it worth the hassle. First, it is a hands-off approach to gardening that significantly reduces the bulk of the work for you. It eliminates or reduces the need for watering, cuts back on the growth of weeds that affect the quality of your plants, and eliminates the need to till your land.

Secondly, rather than draining the soil of its nutrients, Back to Eden gardening allows the soil to become more fertile over time with little to no work on your part.

Thirdly, once the garden is established, you need little to no soil mending for a planting season even after years.

And finally, it is a great way to farm organically. Back to Eden gardening only incorporates organic compost and mulch, improving the quality of the produce grown.

No gardening method is truly perfect, but some do offer more value than most. Even though the Back to Eden gardening method eliminates the growth of weeds, it may have its share of weeds. However, they will be significantly less reduced compared to other farming methods.

What Should You Watch out For When Using Back To Eden Gardening Methods?

For the Back to Eden gardening method to flourish, you need to understand the principles of composting. Poor choices and decisions such as sterilizing the soil or picking a poor choice of mulching material may make this otherwise brilliant farming technique fail. Here are some things you should watch out for that may indicate something went wrong when setting up the garden bed include:

Sheet composting is slow when used in back to eden gardening

Composting, when done correctly, builds up heat that naturally sterilizes the soil, kills weeds, and speeds up decomposition. If you aren’t building up enough heat, weeds will not die. Mix fine material with chunkier ones when layering to facilitate airflow.

Back to eden gardening can cause a lack of healthy microbes 

Healthy microbes are crucial to support the health of your soil which in effect affects your plants. Using the wrong type of wood chips is likely to affect the microbial population of your garden, thereby wreaking havoc.

Back to eden gardening increases fungi growth

Are you noticing fungi growing on your wood chips? Fungi won’t harm your plants, and even though it doesn’t look ‘good,’ it is part of a healthy garden.

Back to eden gardening can reduce slug numbers 

Slugs can devastatingly devour your plants, especially in the rainy period. These creatures aren’t interested in a garden with fine mulch. If you live in an area with a lot of rain, use 2-3 inches of quality compost as mulch.

In a nutshell, nature, unlike man, is an efficient gardener from which we can learn. Not only can you expect a bountiful harvest from the Back to Eden method, but you also don’t need to put in a tremendous amount of work. Embrace nature today and let her do the bulk of the work for you with Back to Eden gardening.

Slugs in the garden can be very problematic, and even though back to Eden gardening can help with this, sometimes we need to take action. In this article, I wrote you would find many ways to tackle slugs in your garden organically.

Conclusion on What Is Back To Eden Gardening

Back to Eden gardening is a fantastic way to increase soil fertility and garden more sustainably. It saves on water, increases wildlife within the garden, reduces pest species, and saves water.

Back to Eden garden could really help you to create that perfect space to provide nutrient-dense foods for you and your family.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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