Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back to Eden inspired vegetable garden part 1

We watched the movie Back to Eden and fell in love with the simplicity of this gardening method. We have already had success with the same type of concept in our lasagna garden bed so why wouldn't the idea work on a larger scale? This method goes right along with my intuition about how to make plants really happy.

Instead of passively composting in small beds, we decided to go for the gusto and have some growing mix brought in from Lone Star Mulch and Compost.
A mountain of grower's mix
The concept is extremely simple which I think makes some people skeptical, including myself, but I'm willing to try it and see. You put down cardboard or newspaper over your existing mess, no tilling needed and then add compost, growing mix or just plain wood chips on top of it. The cardboard chokes out the weeds but will break down over time. Depending on how long you want to wait you can start planting right away in grower's mix, wait a few months if you use straight compost or in the case of using just wood chips, you can wait a couple years while they break down before planting. It depends on the materials you choose to use and how quickly you want to start planting..

The benefits are that you don't have to till your existing soil, the wood chips create an excellent mulch so you use less water and you don't have to add a lot of fertilizers because you always have organic matter breaking down to feed your plants.
Preparing the area by laying down cardboard first, there's a smaller mountain of wood chips in the background
The main example in the movie is a man who lives in the pacific northwest so our climates are dramatically different. We will have to wait and see how well it works for us.

We are using growers mix that is ready to plant in with a layer of wood chips on top. The only thing we should ever have to add moving forward is more wood chips as the initial ones start to break down and become a part of the soil.

We will move the layer of wood chips to the side and plant in the growers mix. Planting in the wood chips themselves will not work but having them on top of the surrounding area will be the perfect mulch. When weeds makes their way in, they will be very easy to rake out because they won't be in the hard packed soil.

We could have done a number of different things but I want to test this out for a fall garden so this is the way we went. We are covering 23x25 feet for our first attempt. If it is successful then we may do more.

I got started today by laying out the cardboard and securing it from wind gusts with a little of the growing mix we had delivered.
I thought we had plenty of cardboard after saving it for months but we didn't.
I knew my neighbor gets the paper so I relieved him of the pile he had in his garage and was able to cover quite a bit with those but that's not as easy as using larger pieces of cardboard so I went and got some more from Elgin General Store and Blackland True Value. I had some old weed block on hand so I used that along the edges to keep weeds from creeping in. If you are going to do this, I suggest having more cardboard on hand than you think you'll need so you don't have to go hunt more down before you can proceed.

I did as much as I could before the heat chased me away. I'll go out later, after it cools down a bit, to lay out the rest of the area. 

We are hiring a local landscape company, Siemer and Sons Gardening Service, to move most of the material. They're coming tomorrow with a tractor so the rest should go quickly. 
Gidget continues to be disappointed in our efforts and reminds us that cats cannot live on vegetables alone. 

We'll show you the second phase soon! Thanks for reading. 

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