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The Ultimate Guide to Back to Eden Gardening

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Working in a garden and growing healthy foods is a rewarding experience. However, for a garden to be productive and bountiful, you need to do 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 was a natural method of growing vegetables, plants, and herbs in the way nature intended plants to grow, 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.

gloved hands adding woodchips to garden

What is Back to Eden Gardening?

Back to Eden, gardening involved 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? Wild fruits do not need watering or weeding to thrive in their natural environment. 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 on his property, Paul noticed that accumulated layers of decomposed twigs, leaves, and other plant matter formed rich mulch for 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 and 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 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 acts as a barrier between the ground and the rest of the layers you will create. This is the first step towards weed prevention and 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 nutrient-dense compost at home. I have a full guide on making your 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 didn’t require tilling, so you could 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 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 after they naturally break down. Lay down the medium to create a layer about one to two inches thick.

The pieces can overlap to prevent any gaps for weeds from pushing through. If you do not prefer or like the idea of using newspapers or newspapers, use wood chips. However, lay at least six inches in depth of wood chips to ensure weeds do not become a problem in the future. 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 completely cover the previous layers. The type of wood chips you use is essential. Your wood chips should be made from tree branches of different sizes and contain leaves.

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 the fall and allowed it to decompose over winter, your mulch layer should have decreased to about three inches and be ready for planting by spring. You will now have slowly reduced 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, allowing 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 it. 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 must maintain it. Here are a few tips on how to maintain 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.
  • Their roots will be shallow in weeds, 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.

No gardening method is perfect, but some 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 fail this otherwise brilliant farming technique. 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 increased fungi growth.

wood mulch

Are you noticing fungi growing on your wood chips? Fungi won’t harm your plants; 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 a 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 tremendous 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 sustainably. It saves on water, increases wildlife within the garden, reduces pest species, and saves water.

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

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