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Back to Eden Method experiment

Posted by elisa_Z5 none (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 9, 12 at 16:15

I don't want to start a ruckus here, but I was wondering if anyone would be interested in reports on the Back to Eden Gardening Method experiments I'm conducting.

I promise, I did not do anything to my deeply composted and cared for garden. I simply realized that I already had a Back to Eden area in my yard -- a place where I had the tree chipping guys dump a pile of wood chips about 4 years ago, and when I couldn't use all of them, they sat there and rotted. So . . . since the Back to Eden movie made me very curious about the method, I decided to clean up the area and try growing some things there this year and comparing the results to what I grow in my regular garden.

The area is soft and spongy, just like the BTEG guy says. The weeds came up easily, even dandelions, just like he said. There were worms in the soil, which is significant since the soil here doesn't normally have many worms until I feed it with compost and manure. So far I've planted potatoes (he says they don't need hilling in BTE gardening -- that would be nice.) They got the same treatment as the potatoes I planted in my garden. If anyone is interested, I'll post about the results.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

I still don't get the whole "wood chips" (aka, soil destruction) part of that method.

There's a lot of good, some "taken for granted," and a bit of mostly harmless misinformation in the method, but the "wood chips" part is a red flag. It may take a few years, but all that wood will catch up in lost nutrients and/or increased disease/fungus in many parts of the world.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

Yeah -- I don't get it either. It's just that the movie was so sure of itself and convincing. So, I gotta try it, especially since all that piece of land was doing was growing a few weeds anyway. And I had extra seed potatoes I didn't know what to do with.

I want it to be obvious in one direction or another -- either obviously not nearly as good as my garden (and it will have very stiff competition, since the other potatoes are planted in about the best soil section I've got). If it obviously compares well with my garden potatoes, then I'll have to figure there is something to it and explore a little more. Do you think that the wood would have already done most of its destruction since it has been already 4 years? It was a *deep* pile of chips, and the rot is about 3 inches deep now.


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I would be very interested in your experiment. I also saw the film and loved it! But the wood chips had me scratching my head. Just didn't sound plausible. A lot of really good info on there, tho I thought.


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A lot of it depends on the type of wood, how finely it was chipped, the soil moisture, and how much air gets into the soil to help break it down. If it's consistently wet it lingers, barely able to break down.

You can stick a shovel in the ground 6-12" and see how incorporated it is in the soil.

It shouldn't be "dead" soil even if there's chips incorporated. It's just not good for structure or overall health if you're starting with a fresh piece of land...and I doubt I'd be continuously adding it as a mulch or amendment.


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What movie is that? Yes, I want to know your results. Curious.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.USA (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 9, 12 at 19:27

I spread out the coffee waste in winter of 2010.
It was about 8-12 inches deep, no greens or browns were added. I left it to rot, like yours it was/is spongy, but I waited to long. Perennial grass has covered the 12 X 12 foot bed. I can not heat the grass or use herbicide if it is to be no till. The only thing left is to till, that will kill the experiment. I do not need anything that helps the perennial grasses in or near my garden.


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Okay, well the experiment so far has gone like this:
The chips are not incorporated, but were just laid on top. I planted potatoes the lazy person's way in both places (garden and BTE section), which was:
stick shovel in ground
push shovel forward, creating a gap in the soil
pour fish emulsion into the gap
stick a seed potato into the gap
remove shovel, which allows dirt to cover seed potato

this did not mix the rotting chips into the soil, but kept the layers pretty much the way they were.

both places have the same sunshine, and I will not water either one because I don't water my garden at all. I planted on the same day.

So I'll give a report in a month or so. If I can possibly figure out how to do it, I'll post photos as well. (How DO you post photos???)

jolj -- can you solarize this summer and start the experiment next year?


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

Toucan -
If you go to
www.backtoedenfilm.com I think that's the link and you can watch the whole movie


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I think it would miss the nitrogen because the green in the compost breaking down gives compost nitrogen. You would have to have a nitrogen supplement. Not sure, but likely the roots of the plants growing there gave it some nitrogen.


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Sounds like the beneficial effect of keeping the ground covered at work. It hardly matters what the cover is, there is always a benefit to soil life unless the cover can completely exclude moisture (plastic) or unless the material has alellopathic properties like certain wood species, notably cedar and cypress. I have experimented with all sorts of mulches for years, and there is little doubt IME that over time fertility can be raised merely by the benefit of keeping the ground covered, retaining the moisture and allowing a wide range of life to develop. I suspect that ultimately what happens is free-ranging N-fixing bacteria and fungi increase sufficiently to significantly raise N which bumps the whole system - a snowball effect.

The big drawback is that pernicious weed control is difficult and they often totally take over. Calcium has to be high enough to discourage many of the deep-rooted weeds and grassy weeds.


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This is my first year too. Dumped 11 dump truck loads of old tree mulch in a pasture and used a harrow behind a 4-wheeler to level. The mulch set for two months with rain before I planted. So far the seeds do the best. The organic tomato and bell peppers plants are having a time but I imagine it may be that when I had the soil tested - the soil office said the nitrogen was a little low but ok. The beans seem to do the best but I realize I need to add nutrients and since I am getting organic certification, I am buying alfalfa to lay out and adding em1 to break it down quickly plus a local bait man cleaned out his fish tanks and gave me enough emulsion for many gardens. I called to have a water well dug (next week) but so far I am depending on rain like the farmers.

The place I bought the seeds said not to put in too big of garden but so far the only real work was loading the planter and following the lines.

This will probably be a big test too since it is my first real garden and I am months away from 60. I saw the video and thought - why not.

I bought a two wheel planter and it works great. I do have to push the mulch out of the way sometimes but love that when I see grass growing, I just throw on more mulch like the film says and it dies. The weeds are very few and come out easy.

I did notice deer had triped over my row line so I am putting up posts (normally used for electric fence) with sachets of Irish Spring and human hair.

I too will share as it develops with photos since we can attach links.

I also had a tree company dump more mulch and now putting in watermelons. I am still working full time but love working on this project.


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Pat, what do you mean calcium has to be high enough to discourage deep rooted grassy weeds? Could you explain a little? (sorry, not trying to hijack, interested to hear how this experiment turns out)


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The deep-rooted weeds like docks and thistles proliferate in a low calcium environment with adequate phosphate, and grassy weeds thrive in a soil with lower than optimum calcium for most crops. So infestations of these weeds are talking about low calcium.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

It's a very nice video and the religious overtones are kept to minimum.

The primary message I took away from it was that he just puts compost on top of ground (be it clay, rock etc) is amazed that his plants thrive. and he continuously adds more compost and his plants continue to thrive.

He does have a preference for wood chips, in part due to his orchard no doubt. but he evens shows a part where screens out the finer parts of the wood chips to mix with greens, manure and other compost... so in the end it all equals compost.

I don't really think what is doing is "new method"... it's a variation of lasagna style gardening.


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Just registered to say I am very eager to follow the results of your experiments. So far, on the enthusiasm of watching this film, I have woodchip mulched the heck out of my ornamental borders (already had woodchips on the paths). But something is holding me back from putting woodchips on the veggie beds.... :)

Thanks for being the guinea pig and letting us know your results!


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Agreed that there is nothing ground-breaking (pun intended?) here.

IME, keeping heavy layers of woody mulch on the ground does wonders for conserving moisture and increasing the earthworm population. In a light soil just the moisture retention can result in increased yields. However, it also greatly encourages a fungal dominance (which has its drawbacks) and does next to nothing to correct any existing mineral imbalances. If one is starting out with a reasonably balanced and fertile soil then it can only work wonders.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 28, 12 at 19:32

Fungal domination will be good for plants that love fungal symbiosis, mostly solanaceae and alliums. They are great for all trees and shrubs. The wood chips also have a pH of 5-5.5 during early decomposition, gradually going to 6.5 over two or so years, and that, too, is liked by tomatoes and potatoes (if you start with alkaline or neutral soil).

I am not sure about the mineral imbalances, in fact, for the most part imbalances will be corrected. For example, one foot of wood chips (which I estimate to be about 10 lbs), cooking down to about one inch of topsoil, will increase the P content in the first foot of soil by some 170 ppm before leaching (normal P content is 20 ppm). All other micronutrients will also be added in amounts close to optimal. Basically, wood chips allow you to concentrate on N alone. If you have neutral or alkaline soil, wood chips and urea is all you need.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

grandma florist -- sounds like you've got some amazing energy to be able to do all that!
It's a deal -- we'll post about the experiments.
I'm traveling, but will post later in May with photos.

My potatoes got about 8 inches of snow last week. I haven't seen them, so I'm curious about whether or not they had to start over with their growth.


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Glib, that is hard to credit. For one thing, would an ash analysis of wood chips show the same traces in all regions and climates? I can buy that p and k would be roughly the same in most regions, but not all the traces.

So if your soil is part of a general region of an impoverishment of certain traces (the majority of the state of florida, for example, or many traces in light soils generally in high-precipitation climes), then the the wood-chips result from trees and bushes grown in the same impoverishment. I can't accept that such imbalances could be corrected by what would amount to a magical act.


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I am eager to see your results!


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If you look at the Garden Professors blog, you will find that they are very enthusiastic about the use of horticultural wood chips (i.e. chipped trees and trimmings -- not bark which doesn't break down very rapidly) for this kind of use. These soil science/horticulture research Ph.D.s base their enthusiasm for this method on actual experimental data which shows that this is actually one of the fastest ways to create high quality planting beds. The nitrogen issue is more of a theoretical problem than than an actual concern since there is very little nitrogen binding and it would probably need to be supplemented anyway.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Garden Professors


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

So, if I get this straight, the method is to just dump a bunch of wood chips on the ground and plant in that?

Honestly, that's what I do for all my perennial beds. I throw leaf mulch and ironite, too. I may do "real" fertilizer at some point, but mostly, I'm just too lazy.

It's a great way to build up soil quickly but lazily. I had an area with 1" of topsoil over gravel-mixed-with-soil. (I think it was, 40 years ago, yet another location in my yard that someone had the brought idea of mulching with gravel.) Now a trowel goes in like a hot knife through butter for a good 5" before the rocks cause problems.

I LOVE arborist woodchips. I would take 40 cu yards a year if I could get someone to deliver!


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I got back to West Va for a week in May, but was too busy in the garden to take pics, but I do have a preliminary report: the potato plants in the garden soil were bigger than the ones in the wood chip area. In the garden soil there were some discolored leaves, and in the wood chip area there were no discolored leaves. So, mixed results so far. Too early to really tell anything.

Will keep you posted. I'll get to see my garden again in late June (I'm the one who, because of family and work travel, will see if it's possible to grow all the food for a small family by only spending one week a month in the garden!)


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I'm looking forward to seeing how this experiment works out.


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Research using ramial wood chips in agriculture began in the 1970's when Mr Edgar Guay, former Land and Forest Deputy Minister in Quebec, Canada, began looking for new products that could be derived from the waste products of the logging industry. "A research team nucleus was formed with Mr Lionel Lachance and Mr Alban Lapointe joining Mr Guay. In 1982, M. Gilles Lemieux, a now retired professor from the Faculty of Forestry at Laval University, joined the team to provide answers on the mechanisms involved."

This article describes the origins of this method and provides a lot of useful information on how to use wood chips for maximum effect.

Regenerating Soils with Ramial Chipped Wood


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This is weird -- I posted a long post about my results, and it was there a month ago and there were responses to it and everything, but now it seems to have disappeared.
Anyway, briefly, the outcome was larger, healthier looking plants in the regular garden area, but higher yields in the BTE garden. And because it was so dry, and I didn't mulch the regular garden, I may well have been "testing" mulch vs no mulch rather than truly testing the BTE method.

My conclusion was that I'd definitely play around with planting in wood chips in a separate area, but I would not introduce wood chips to my main garden. (When I dug the potatoes, the chips got mixed into the soil, and that's not supposed to be a good thing.)


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This might be an odd, roundabout way to comment on the general method, but we bought a house last year where they had put down landscape cloth on the ornamental beds (planted about 8 years ago I think) and then just kept adding wood chips on top of the landscape cloth. That landscape cloth stuff is TERRIBLE, and as I was pulling it up I noticed that I had this beautiful airy lush compost on top of the landscape cloth, from the decomposed wood chips. And the same crappy sandy soil below.


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Some researchers in New York began experimenting with wood chips on the soil way back in 1951 and it was published in "New York's Food and Life Sciences Bulletin", a publication of Cornell University.

Soil Management for Vegetable Production on Honeoye Soil with Special Reference to the Use of Hardwood Chips


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Long story short, if you have soil/weather that will allow for it's breakdown you can create organic matter in the soil with wood chips.

It'll also tie up some nutrients, especially N, while breaking it down...which can be overcome with additional inputs.

It can take 3+ years in many areas for that action to become inert organic matter. In that time your "soil" may attract some interesting wood/decay attracted pathogens/insects...most are harmless to the garden, though. The size of the chips will also play a role in how long they take to turn to OM. Smaller chips degrade faster, but they also tie up more nutrients while doing it.

I personally wouldn't use it unless I was trying to "reclaim" or condition a large piece of land. I'd rather cook up compost in 3-6 months in a separate area for my beds.


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According to this article, if the wood chips are applied properly there will be no nitrogen tie up, just beneficial effects. I've done a lot of reading on this subject and I'm convinced that it's one of THE best things you can do to build an excellent soil, along with supplying balanced minerals, including trace minerals.

Chipped Branch Wood


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There is no such thing as N not being tied up when OM is being broken down.

N content may be technically the same in the soil in the lab, but -available- N in the solution is what matters.

Immobilized N does nothing for plant health.

Microorganisms immobilize both NH4 and NO3. If there isn't at least a 8:1 carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in the soil, breakdown will go slower and less N will be plant available for nutrition purposes. This process competes with plants for available nutrients.


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Here's a picture of my wood chip bed. I dug lots of chips into the soil and used them as mulch. Plants doing great, lots of fertilizer overcame nitrogen tie-up. Added benefit is that the plants are not wilting in the afternoon heat & sun in this bed. Whereas plants in my other beds do wilt in afternoon heat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood chip bed


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There is certainly a benefit to mulching. And wood chips will eventually break down - but not as fast as soft material like leaves, grass, soft stems, etc. And the wood is essentially a source of carbon, so you'll have to add nitrogen to break down the cellulose. I'd rather just compost the chips properly, and use that for planting.

This certainly isn't the magi method its being portrayed as. There is no magic method. People produce fantastic gardens without wood chips, so wood chips are not 'the secret' to successful gardening. Mulching is old news - of course it helps.


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Soil is just...awesome.

We can think of it as a scientific flask of mixed stuff that "science" puts it's laws and expectations on the chemicals inside of it.

Low pH is bad for a lot of plants...acidic soils...but for the most part it's not the acid that's causing the problems...it's the aluminum which becomes plant available rather than tied up that leads to the problem. Al is incredibly toxic to the development of most living things, and plants are no exception. Roots, cell division, nodule fixation in legumes...Al is a beast on destruction. Once a certain pH is achieved, Al is still there, but it's tied up in a way that plants can't make it available. To make it even more complicated, the addition of organic matter (or OM created after something, like wood chips, has finished decomposing) helps buffer some of problems associated with pH driven aluminum toxicity by giving stray H+ an Al3+/AlOH3+ places to complex with (immobilize) before it adds to a lower soil pH or Al toxicity. The OM helps bind (chemically) stray H+ and Al. The positive (cation) Al and H can find negatively charged surfaces (- charges, such as most clays and organic matter) to complex with.

It's about what's exchangeable or immobilized in the soil more-so than what it's actual content is.


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Actually, I made a mistake when I wrote that their would be no nitrogen tie up. In the link I posted above the following is stated:

"In summary, the main arguments for using chipped branch wood, despite the possibility of nitrogen immobilisation, are:

1. The rate of immobilisation is less than might be expected because:
a. the carbon supply in the wood is protected by lignin;
b. the C/N ratio of branch wood is relatively low.

2. Nitrogen immobilisation in the autumn and winter is beneficial, because it mops up excess nitrate that would otherwise be lost through leaching.

3. Immobilisation of nitrogen will benefit a leguminous green manure crop by stimulating it to fix more nitrogen from the air.

4. By the following season, when the next crop is grown, the immobilised nitrogen will be being released into the soil again."

The author goes on to say that even if there is a decrease in yield in the first season or two, the long-term benefits are worth it. Improving the soil and preventing erosion is more important in the long run than maximizing yields.

According to the Canadian researchers that did the research on Ramial Chipped Wood, from the first link I posted on this topic, "There are humic subtances that have a short life (compost and manure) and others that have a long life (more than 1000 years). The Asian steppes, the South-American pampas and the North-American prairies, being covered with herbaceous plants, have a short-life humus. The soil claimed from hardwood forest has a long-life humus."


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One of the reasons that there is little to no nitrogen tie up is that you lay down cardboard then newspaper, then woodchips. Since the ground is not touching the woodchips, nothing is getting robbed from the soil. When the rain comes, it washes all of the goodness down to the dirt. If you add compost, add it to the top and it will get washed down as well. By the time the cardboard and newspaper deteriorate, the ground is doing well. When you plant, pull back the woodchips and plant in the dirt. Once your crop has sprouted, cover it again to the bottom of the leaves.

I have been to Paul's house many times over the past year and I can tell you that it works. He lives in Sequim Washington, go see for yourself. The first year might be an average year but, the more you use this method, the better the results get. Just look at the forest. When was the last time you had to water or fertilize the trees and plants in the woods. Nature has a way of taking care of itself. You just have to get out of its way. Paul has been doing this for over 30 years. Now he only adds new woodchips every five years or so. Except for his strawberries. In the fall he covers them every year. Only the strong plants grow through the wood chips and he never has to thin them.

I have asked him just about every question there is about his garden and his answers are on my vlog. If you watch the documentary that was done on him along with my interviews, and you still do not want to give it a try ... don't.

Here is a link that might be useful: L2Survive with Thanub


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When you lay wood chips - or any other organic matter - on the top of the soil, nitrogen is tied up, but only at the surface. Down below the surface, where the plant roots are, there's no loss of nitrogen, so that's really not a problem. When the wood chips break down fully, the nitrogen is returned to the soil.

The primary reason why I would never use this system is that I need to warm up my soil in the spring. A thick layer of wood chips acts as an insulating blanket on the soil in the spring, keeping it cool as the air warms. I need those early weeks of the season to extend my growing period - to get my tomatoes and peppers producing sooner, and to turn over row crops sooner in the year so i can re-use the space. After the soil is warmed up sufficiently, then I can add grass clippings as I cut the lawn. And what really rules it out for me is that my neighbors have trees in their yards, and I have to dig roots out of two of my three plots every year. No permanent garden for me - I have to swing a mattock every year to remove the damn roots. Permanent mulch makes an irresistable root magnet.

I'd use wood chips like someone else said - to prepare a new garden in poor soil. And that would only be if I had excess space, and three years to wait for the chips to fully break down and cycle through.

I've seen a few people post the great results of using wood chips - in their first year doing it. Any benefit came from the effect of mulching the soil - not the 'back to eden' method. Mulch certainly has its benefits - if the slugs don't get you. But you can't see what they claim are the benefits of the system until the fourth year.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

  • Posted by RpR_ 3-4 (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 18, 12 at 14:00

Jon:
You hit the nail on the head as to what is wrong with methods that say- simply put on ground....

TIME- many people cannot wait x weeks, months, years, decades to use their soil. They want/have to do it as quickly as possible.

That is why I find those who criticize some for hauling in any kind of dirt to be silly- unless they have some sort of time machine to zap forward to get to the good stuff.

Gardening is not like reading a book, one cannot skip the bad parts.


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Thatnub, Thanks for posting those interviews. Interesting he just lays compost on top of the wood chips.

Wood chips did wonders for my garden the 1st year I used them (this year).
In 2 of my beds I dug wood chips into the soil in addition to mulching with them. Added lots of organic liquid fertilizer. These beds did the best. And it was in heavy clay soil that produced almost nothing during the previous 3 years of trying.

People shouldn't be afraid of nitrogen tie-up. Just keep adding more fertilizer until your plant's leaves are nicely green. I added liquid fertilizer twice and that was enough.

Over the season, my wood chip beds actually required less nitrogen fertilizer and kept the plants greener than the normal clay soil beds I have. This probably was because in the clay soil, there was nothing to hold the nitrogen fertilizer and it would wash away. In my clay beds I didn't get much of a harvest, as usual.

Now I am digging in wood chips (and stumps) into all my beds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood chip bed results in comments section


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Try it in parts of the South-West that are very dry and you'll have Back To Termites...try it in extremely wet parts of the North with short summers and you'll have Back To When Will This Stuff Rot Already?

It's far from one-size-fits all and depends a lot on your local environmental conditions.


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Also...ya know...

If you got the space I don't know what the big deal is about composting the chips. With more control and turning you can "cook" wood chips down a lot faster since you can control your inputs (moisture and heat, especially).

You can segregate the issues of adding fresh chips while making some good compost...usually in a much shorter time. You can add fresh grass clippings, fresh manure, etc...stuff you normally wouldn't want to dump into an active garden and speed it up even more.


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I should probably also add that if you're counting solely on fungus without "green" inputs to break down your chips then turning it wouldn't be advisable...that would disrupt the fungus's work.

That said, that method is generally a bit slower and best works in colder climates compared to how quickly you can cook it down with green inputs in warmer climates.

Soil science...wee.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 19, 12 at 21:33

In fact, there are many crops that will work just fine with chips. You guys are obsessed with marginal summer crops, stuff that needs all the heat units it can get. But for cardoon, celery, summer and winter squash, beans, garlic, onions, collards, broccoli, chard, chips are just perfect. I do not list direct seeded veggies, such as lettuce, beets or carrots, they really need bare soil. And if you take the time to lay down black plastic first for a couple of weeks, then remove it, even tomatoes will do extremely well in chips. All plants like soil that is not too warm and water retentive.


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We're talking about 4-6" of chips here...not just a layer of chips or incorporating some chips in this method.


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  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 19, 12 at 22:05

In fact, there are many crops that will work just fine with chips. You guys are obsessed with marginal summer crops, stuff that needs all the heat units it can get. But for cardoon, celery, summer and winter squash, beans, garlic, onions, collards, broccoli, chard, chips are just perfect. I do not list direct seeded veggies, such as lettuce, beets or carrots, they really need bare soil. And if you take the time to lay down black plastic first for a couple of weeks, then remove it, even tomatoes will do extremely well in chips. All plants like soil that is not too warm and water retentive.


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I'm not worried about "heat units" as much as I'm concerned about nutrient exchange/storage sites in the first 6" of the soil where most plant roots are doing their work. You can amend with some compost to help that along, but it's still akin to cooking compost on top of your garden and a lot of crops will need supplemental nutrient additions while it's breaking down.

We can get into types of hardwoods used leading to pH root-zone nutrient nonavailability (Mn, Fe, Zn, Cu, etc) when you use a lot of hardwoods in the root zone. The need for supplemental nutrients until the plant can make it through 4-6"+ of the wood to overcome pH-induced effects on the plants is something I'd rather not deal with.

The main reason a lot of container gardeners use pine bark rather than pine chips in their container medium has a lot to do with pH influence on nutrient availability...and yes, I realize this isn't a general hardwood source, I'm just using it as an example of pH influence.

I'd rather compost the wood chips separately where it can be turned into "good stuff" in a much shorter period of time, especially in my area where it's not uncommon for wood chip infested clay soils to hold onto those chips for years before they break down.


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I should add that over-all it's not going to kill a garden...most areas of the US will be able to break down wood chips in a growing season/year. Almost all veggie plants will be 100% fine once they get past the chips you lay down and break the chip/soil zone. It's not people laying down 1-2" of the stuff I'm worried about as much as those laying down 1/2 foot of the stuff and continuously amending it with more chips yearly. Tree/shrub crops with existing root systems are totally not bothered by this kind of system and that's how I'd use it in my area.

I live in an area with a soil/moisture scheme that usually keeps wood chips, even laid on top of the soil undisturbed, around for more than a year even if it's only an inch or two of hardwood chips.

That said, you can also break down a huge amount of the stuff (12-24-48"+) in separate composting piles in well less than a year treating it like it's own ecosystem...adding fresh grass/green clippings and manures to speed it along...or just cooking it with an existing compost pile that's healthy enough to handle the hard "browns."


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:)



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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 20, 12 at 22:25

The fact that chips take three years is a feature, not a bug. It means that for three years weeding and watering are reduced or eliminated. I plant transplants though the chips, so that the bottom of the transplanted pot is in contact with soil. And I fertilize whether there are chips or not, so I do not see the problem. It means a bigger handful of urea, that is all.

There is also the fact of improved fungal flora, although I can not quantify that and it is certainly much more important for woody plants than for vegetables. For collards it will not matter but my impression is that all vegetables derived from woodland plants like it. Garlic, for example. The one thing I do not want in the garden is finished compost. It is sterile and does not support the same microfauna. Yes, leaves are better for microfauna support and nutrients, but they also blow over seedlings and kill them, and they need replenishing one year later. Also, I would think very differently if I did not have Sluggo or urea.

I do not use chips exclusively, if I have an unused bed for the winter I will dig a few bags of leaves in, since not all my beds have optimal soil. But having good soil, chips will maintain nutrient levels with minimal effort.


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One thing I noticed in the video that I didn't see mentioned here is he mentioned that the leafy tops of the trees are also ground up so you have your greens and your browns.

For many years, we mulched our gardens with sawdust. We planted many things in black plastic and used the sawdust between the beds. We also mulched cabbage and other cool loving crops with sawdust. The only reason we don't do it now is that we can afford the sawdust. We used to get it free.

The nitrogen tie-up is not something to be afraid of. We just added nitrogen to the sawdust and our gardens did wonderful. Our garden soil was awesome. Now we've started mulching between the plastic beds with grass clippings over layers of newspapers. It's great for weed control and is adding humus back to the soil. We really miss the sawdust! We've even used fresh sawdust. It's not something to be worry about. Just add some nitrogen.


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"The fact that chips take three years is a feature, not a bug"

No, it is a bug. What you're talking about is just mulch - Back to Eden didn't invent mulching. The real benefits come down the line, when the wood chips break down and build up the soil with organic matter. And that takes three years. If you've already been using mulch - as many people do - then if you shift over to the Back to Eden method, you're going to have to wait for three years to get the benefit of the system.


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While it is not strictly the Back to Eden method, wood chips can be used to take a poor, heavy clay soil to a very productive soil in the first season of use.

Just dig in a lot of wood chips, 20% by volume or more, into the soil at least a foot deep. Cover with wood chip mulch 3-4" deep and fertilize with nitrogen fertilizer: urine, blood meal, or urea.

My test beds with this dig-in method did great.

My test beds with just loosened clay soil and wood chip mulch, did poorly as usual. Especially in a dry climate, the chip mulch doesn't break down over the summer.

Going forward, I hope the 3 year mulch breakdown will be a feature. Ideally, I won't have to dig in chips again into the soil, but I won't know that for another year or two.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chip & stump garden bed construction


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  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 23, 12 at 18:08

My garden was started in 1997. I do not need instant results from wood chips. Even beds that I started in 2009 are ready for chips. For this reason, I even prefer "real" chips, no greenery mixed in. They last longer.


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Professor Gilles Lemieux, from the Department of Wood and Forest Sciences at Laval University, said that adding compost or manure to the wood chips favors bacterial attack on wood and all other organic matter, due to the enzyme laccase. This biotransformation doesn't increase long term soil fertility. The goal is to have the wood chips and leaves broken down by fungi, which are the "masters of pedogenesis" according to Lemieux. Pedogenesis is the process of soil formation. Initially compost or manure can be added, or a legume crop can be planted, but from what I understand that should not continue after the first season or two.

Professor Lemieux also found that the addition of leaves was necessary in tropical climates to avoid zinc deficiencies, but the leaves should be brown, not green. Green leaves contain chemical elements that are easily accessible to bacteria. These bacteria can prevail over white rot fungi (Basidiomycetes).

According to the "Back to Eden" movie, Paul Gautschi, the gardener featured in it, has been getting wood chips delivered from the local tree service for 12 years. Early in the movie he implies that he has used wood chips in his orchard for about 30 years, but gives no details about exactly when he began using them or how he acquired them. The Canadians began their research in 1978 and they published numerous articles on it up until about the year 2000. The researchers at Cornell University began their experiment way back in 1951, and in the article published in 1971 they speculated that their results may have been influenced by the fact that they used chips from hardwoods, not conifers. The Canadians would later confirm this. So let's give credit to the true originators of this method.

Ramial Chipped Wood: the Clue to a Sustainable Fertile Soil


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  • Posted by kcmike Kansas City (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 29, 12 at 23:58

Not one, I mean not one of the how many comments mentioned the number one reason for the deep chips. Cooling the soil in 100 degree days, and retaining moisture. We are in our 2nd winter of pretty serious drought. Since July of 2011 we have been without enough moisture to grow a garden without purchase of "too expensive" water. Plus we got very many 100 degree days that are not normal for this forested area. Hardwoods are stressing out and dying like crazy. My chip supplier told me that a fungus is attacking oaks underground, killing them. Last summer I had 3 inches over most all of my garden 100+ by 50+ and the ground was still baked hard under it. When I pulled grass up out of it, huge hard chunks of earth came with it, enabling chips to fall where I did not want them. Now I have a large amount of leaves to put over another 3" of chips (total 6") this winter. Hopefully, with h2o conservation from chips I can get a garden. I had to let my garden go last 2 summers as it was too hot and muggy to work even at dawn. Hopefully going to plant several 50' rows of pole beans to help shade plants between pole bean rows. I'm afraid to price "trickle waterers" and find them too expensive. I already save rain water, but it all runs into garden what I do not capture anyway. By midsummers our yards look like disasters. The rest of Missouri is not as dry as K. City. Thank God.


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Soil temperatures from the air generally only influence the first 4 inches of soil, most of that change being (obviously) in the 1st inch of soil. You can manage that adequately with a good cover mulch. 3" of straw is my favorite for effective soil and moisture management.


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I started out reading Ruth Stout's books, then added Mittleider. I had several test beds in my yard, using straw, cloth, bare earth and wood chip mulch. All other methods are gone now, straw got burned up in the drought. Hay is 10 bucks a bale.

The only spaces that didn't have abundant weeds were where I put 6-10 inches of wood mulch. I have two spaces I actually got that deep in. In those areas I either have no weeds or very few and they are easy peasy to pull up.

I started this mess 4 years ago and even my husband "the skeptic" has agreed to allow me to bury the whole garden this winter.

Problem? I still have kale, chard, onions, garlic, primroses, and other stuff growing so I have to work around them putting in the mulch over the rest of the space.
HAHAHA I live in OKlahoma..land of the ever growing water sucking junipers and I still have garden plants growing! And some of them are years old..some of my chard are on their 3rd year!

I'll never ever go back to "old fashioned" way of gardening..that whole plow and till method is for the birds!


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I began using Back To Eden's method of using wood chips two years ago.
It works if you do it following his instructions.
The only draw back was a lack of nitrogen the first year.
We just had one of the hottest and driest summers in history here in West Central Illinois and my gardens did will with just minimal watering.


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I started my own back to eden experiment back in June of this year. I laid down a very thick layer (8-12") of mulch from the tree services right over the grass. If the grass started to pop through, I just covered it with more mulch. I have to say, after a few months of letting it rot, things are starting to grow very nicely. One thing people have to remember when doing this method, it takes several months at least to work. For me, it took about 4 months. I did some side dressing of plants with manure and I water a lot. At another property, after a year of letting a very thick layer of mulch decompose, I had the nicest flower garden ever. Back to eden method works, just give it time and remember to c periodically add fresh layers of mulch.


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http://onjustacoupleacres.blogspot.com/2013/03/rethinking-mulch-gardening.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+OnJustACoupleAcres+On+Just+A+Couple+Acres

I read this blog (address is above, couldn't get it to hyperlink, have to cut and paste) that said that the Back to Eden method was not good for vegetables. I am new to learning about healthy soil and prior to reading this blog I was convinced the BTE wood chips were the way to go. But now I am not so convinced. I read through this discussion and found it very interesting. Just wondered if anyone could comment on the blog I read and whether there is validity to what she is saying about the different types of fungi and bacterial dominated soil versus fungi dominated soils being better for different plants? Thanks.


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@gflack71 I have been to Paul's house many times and eaten from his garden. I can tell you that it works. He has been doing this for over thirty years. If you ever get to Washington State, go to his place and eat his food. I'm sure you watched the movie about him and if you have done any research on the subject, you have seen my videos of him and his garden. There is no way you can look at that garden and say it does not work. I'm not saying other methods will not work, they will, but so does this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Watch This


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Whether it "works or not" isn't the debate, especially for an old system ...the real debate is what you're going to for the first 2-3 years while all that wood breaks down that was put in the root zone. That's where you're going to find the most drama about this method...as well as how well it works in some areas vs others. For instance, in my heavy red clay area...you're looking at closer to 3 years for that breakdown. Wood chip incorporation isn't anything new...or anything old and forgotten. It's not something that works quickly in all areas.

You can break down those chips in a much faster manner without additional inputs in your cropping system using traditional composting with green additions (a season to a year depending on chip size). Some people don't have the space for that, though.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Fri, Mar 22, 13 at 3:51


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I sprinkle Rid-X ( enzymes) over my fresh woodchip pile. After a while I put some lime on it. When that's worked for a bit, I scatter corm meal on it in the evenings to attract and feed the earthworms. Seems to work pretty good


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I think the whole point Paul and the back to Eden method is trying to get across it to get closer to nature.. It seems there is this concrete way that you have to use wood chips, you have to be knee deep swimming in wood chips.. It's not about right or wrong, it's about getting back to how nature does her thing..instead of knocking it modify it to your liking.. You are taking the natural process and speeding it up, compost,etc.. You don't need half a foot of mulch, where in nature do you see half a foot of leaves,etc? If you take tons of compost pile in up and mulch with a level that you will find in nature,forest,etc, you are going to be off to a great start the first year
forward. The message he is sending is we are taking this natural process and making it completely unnatural by tilling,etc.. He is expressing how detached people are from nature... Use your common sense and mimic nature.. Whatever way you would like, mimic nature.. Earth is our biggest laboratory, we are the rats, nature is the control...

Joe


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I love watching the Back to Eden film and would love to have my garden look just like his, not to mention the orchard. If you watched the film all the way through, you would learn that when starting Paul's method, you first put down paper or cardboard, then compost, then wood chips.

The wood chips act as mulch and you never plant in it. You move the mulch aside and plant in the compost. When plants are established, you move the mulch back around the plants. So, if you garden the way presented in the film, you do NOT need to wait three years to get the benefit. Water conservation starts immediately, as does weed control. The plus of the system is that it continually improves as the mulch breaks down to enhance the soil.

I have three major problems in my garden - rocks, weeds and drought. The back to eden method addresses all three. I've hauled 6 yards of mulch so far this year (for a senior lady, that was a LOT of work). Its probably easier than tilling this rocky Ozark soil! The wood chips will wait until I have all the compost down and warming up. I'm loving gardening this way.


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I agree, nc-crn. The chips wouldn't work here. The process would be a disaster. Way too much moisture and too many bugs.


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  • Posted by kcmike 5 (Kansas City) (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 23, 13 at 2:29

The moisture came back. Thank you Jesus. Now to get a warm up instead of a snowfall, as 6-12" are expected tomorrow.
My neighbor that lives 3 houses down and about 150-200 yards away has 4 chickens that make it a habit of daily coming into my garden to stir it up for me. Their owner said that if she pens them to keep them home they skwock like crazy until she lets them out. I told her to allow til gardening and planting begins again, hopefully soon. The chickens start at one end of a pile of chips and start scratching until they've gone through the whole thing, leveling it out, taking it down. level. It is soft and I think they just love to scratch in softness. Plus the bugs, et al, are probably removed.
I noticed that there appears to be an abundance of white mold or whatever, on the bottom layer of chips, where there is most moisture and soil contact.
As I said it my previous post I made this move to BTE garden b/c of drought and high heat. Now that I had a new tiller, wouldn't you know.
How I handle the plantings that worked best for me was to rake out the chips from the row, plant the seeds and let them sprout before bringing leaf and garbage compost and leaf mulch to the new plants, Not bringing the chips back to the plants. Same way for transplants also. But I have lots of compost and leaves. The chips have been free from a local tree service, as it keeps him from having to haul them a greater distance.

Is anyone else stocking up on seeds before the shtf in this country?


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Does anyone in Florida have experience with this method? I read all the great comments, but didn't see much about our sandy 'soil' and alternately droughty and deluge rainfall. Last year I built a keyhole garden on top of a bunch of sticks that I had cleared from my new garden area, and it did great. I had several loads of tree trimmings dumped last summer, and I'd like to try them in my raised beds and another keyhole garden. Thanks for any comments!


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Oh how excited I am this year. My backtoedenfilm.com garden has developed over the first year into very rich soil with lots of worms. The first year I dumped 11 dump truck loads onto Oklahoma prairie clay soil which was deficient in many things including zinc. Most people laughed at me especially since we were in a drought. Finally at the end of the season the garden was producing while others did not. I used 1 gallon raw milk mixed with 20 gallons of well water, 1 Tsp molasses, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and spread the top with fish emulsion. I also used stabilized aloe to protect the plants from pests.

This year the soil is in such great shape and I will report as things begin to grow.

Does anyone else from Oklahoma have this type on this forum?


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I plan on inoculating my wood chips with shitake mushrooms! That "white mold" in your woodchips is most likely mycelium, you can think of it as the roots of the mushroom, and the mushroom being the fruit... Mycelium is the main decomposers with other microorganisms in a forest... Check out "mycelium running by Paul Stamets" very interesting...

Joe


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  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 23, 13 at 21:56

Shiitake does not naturalize easily in the Midwest, it is too cold and shiitake does not compete well. Morels, ink caps, and stropharia are your best bets amongst the commercially available fungi. Use shiitake for logs, since they tolerate the big moisture fluctuations much better than the competition.


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I'm making my raised beds out of logs, so I will be inoculating them.

Thanks,
Joe


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KC, watch out for those chickens! Mine LOVE tomatos and cucumbers. They will pull the vines down off the trellis - they know where the cucs are. There is a reason Paul has his chickens in a pen. I like mine free range, so fencing the garden is a major expense for me. But I love how it looks.

I'm actually only a couple of miles from Oklahoma and Arkansas, so even though in Missouri, I'm really south of you KC. Spring is slow in getting here this year, but YES the rains are coming so far (and snow - I hate that, but am not complaining after such a terrible dought).

Thanks for the update, grandmaflorist. Our soils are very different, mine is clay and rock, but our weather is the same. Its good to hear something that worked in the drought last year.


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I don't get online much so I may not respond to anyone's comments about my post but I tried the BTE method last year and want to share my experience. I have a 30x70 garden and grew beans, beets, corn, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, cauliflower, tomatoes (in the greenhouse), various herbs, and potatoes. Before we added the mulch we tilled the garden with lots of composted manure and some not-so-composted manure. Then we planted seedlings we stared in the greenhouse and covered with more compost and then at least 3 inches of mulch. Right away I noticed the low weed maintenance which was a huge plus. Then, in August and September we ran very low on water which meant I could only water half of the garden for 20 minutes one week and then the other half of the garden the next week. Basically, the veggies got watered 20 minutes every two weeks due to water shortage. And the mulch saved my garden! We reaped a bountiful harvest and lost nothing -not even the potatoes or corn - to drought!! We are continuing the BTE method and adding compost to the seedlings when we plant them. So far, my cold weather plants look happy. And I am happy with the very minimal weeding! Hope this helps.


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My take on this subject is that thick mulch can be and usually is very effective for most crop production in most soils and climates. With lots of caveats.

That said, obviously there are many regions of this continent and others where getting truckloads of wood chips cheap or free is not possible, IOW, in regions that are largely treeless. If one is in the middle of nebraska one probably won't be able to cover a large garden with wood chips. Which brings up the fairly obvious point that mulch does not have to be wood chips. For example, straw is far superior, or eel grass, or even hay.

I know from experience that long use of woody mulches with little other inputs after a few years results in a soil life system strongly skewed toward fungus, so strongly that most annual crops give low yields. Insects pest-pressure and disease also declines greatly, so the trade-off may be worth it.


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First off this method IS NOT just throwing wood chips on the garden and it is not easy to do and be successful unless you know what you are doing. IT IS making compose SOIL out of organic material ��" green and brown - including wood chips. This is the first year I have done it and I am growing huge cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions and everything else on top of what was last year a pile of sand that would not even grow grass. For the record I LOVE not weeding, tilling or watering and my pests have mostly gone away so far. Gardening is MUCH easier this year and the produce is abundant and huge and flavorful. We are still getting PEAS in the middle of July. I love it. I do need a thicker bed of compose though. 2 to 3 inches is ok but to withstand severe drought it needs more. One downside is that germination of seeds is problematic because of the loose nature of the compost makes it easy for the media to dry out and not 'bury' encompass the seed. This especially applies to the compost that is not 'old' and not dirt like already. Daily watering during seed germination helps with this issue. Also with new gardens I noticed young plants struggling early on. This is because, again the loose nature of the compost. Also if the media is new there could be some nitrogen robbing because the rough media floats on top and decays thus aids in nitro robbing. After the plants dig into the dirt type compost base that has settled downward they take off like crazy!


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Very interesting follow ups from grandma florist and others about the method! Glad it is working so well for lots of folks -- sounds like it works great in some areas where gardening would be difficult otherwise.

I planted in the BTE section this year, but since I had potatoes in there last year, when I dug them the chips got mixed in somewhat (though I tried not to.) This year I added fertilizer, but the plants growing there are yellow and unproductive, and since I didn't replenish the chips, there are weeds galore. I'm back to using hay mulch, and enjoying all the wild flowers the hay plants for me in the garden. Will probably let the BTE section go back to lawn as I'm not interested in getting more chips. I've got 2 round bales of hay, and that's enough mulch for a while.

Many thanks to everyone who posted results and info -- learned a lot!


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I find this an interesting thread

i had one load of tree top chips delivered thursday and i will have another load delivered next month,,i had to pay 25.00 a load for it, but what the heck,it didn't bankrupt me,,,i tried to get the free stuff , but could not find a crew working in my area .

when it cools down in october i will start my BTEG ,,I will lay down cardboard and cover it with pigeon and chicken manure then put down 6 inches of wood chips and let it sit till planting time , about may depending how the weather goes .

this year i did the raingutter garden thing but could not supply enough water to it as i don't have a water well,,it is a great concept , but you need a constant water supply .

years ago about 30 or 40 I did the Ruth Stout system of mulching and i had real good luck with it,,I don't ever remember having to water it except when planting it .


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Hard to go wrong with chicken manure and mulch, back to eden or not.


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I am no scientist, nor am I an expert gardener, in fact I would say the exact opposite. I'm going to give it a try and see what happens. What is the worst thing that can happen?

This conversation has definitely been worth reading, thank you ALL!


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Sorry this ended up being so long! I apologize in advance. I just found this thread searching the internet for Back to Eden discussions. I have read through the entire thread and plan to go back and read many of the articles that were linked.

Thank you to each that posted. I have a slightly different experience so I thought I would share it.

We live in the mountains of Central California. The property we are on has a hillside that is about 15 foot high slope that's a raw cut from the builder creating the pad for the home. There is no topsoil on it at all. It's basically decomposed granite and I'm not sure what else, but there is virtually zero organic material in the hillside.

I also have raised garden beds and tabletops I created with the square foot gardening method, but wanted to plant the hillsides with wildflowers to draw in pollinators to my garden. I saw the BTE film, watched it a couple times and then put it to work on the hillside.

I didn't put down any weed control as there weren't really any to deal with. I added 2 inches of compost and 4 inches of wood chips. Within just a couple months my hillside looked like a jungle. I had planted wildflower seeds, cosmos, lavender and sunflowers.

The next thing I noticed was I had tons of volunteers including Roma tomatoes, canteloupe, honey dew melon, pumpkins and mini bell peppers (the space had been my compost pile the year before). I decided to let those volunteers grow and see how it worked out.

The growth, lack of bugs and disease as well as yields rivaled or exceeded my SFG beds. So later in the early summer I expanded my beds to another section of about 4 foot by 25 feet. It literally only took me about 2 hours to prepare the beds and I simply transplanted the extra seedlings I had growing that had no place to grow (nothing to lose). Because of the raw state of these gardens, I dug a decent sized hole, filled it with compost and planted my seedlings in it. Then I gently tucked the mulch layer up to the plants.

In one example of the difference in productivity, I had two zucchini transplants - one went into the SFG table top, one into the hillside. The BTE produced easily 3 times the fruit and grew 3 times the size. That was the story for almost everything I grew. I had cherry tomatoes, an Italian tomato, pumpkins, melons, sweet potatoes, and 3 varieties of potatoes. I had one mini bell pepper that didn't die, but didn't perform very well, that was the only less than satisfactory resutl. I did have some potato bug issues because of the wood. That was solved the next season by using Sluggo Plus.

No termites, though I keep the mulch far away from any structures where that could become an issue.

The 6 inches of wood chips (tree service, small limb with leaves with a wide assortment of tree types) broke down within 2 to 3 months into a rich black loamy soil with only an inch or so of chips still visible on top. A second layer was added toward the end of the summer for mulch/insulation as we spend 3 months over 100 degrees. That also broke down in just a few months.

Ground that was undiggable at the start can now be hand troweled to 8-9 inches. Full of worms, mycelium and at times other mushrooms.

During the first growing season, when I saw yellowing leaves and/or slow growth I watered with compost tea. Knowing in advance to watch for issues, I was prepared to use a balanced fertilizer, blood meal or compost anywhere that needed it. I did a bit here and there, but don't anticipate needing to supplement much if any in the second year with anything but a preseason dusting of a compost and manure mix watered in and compost tea over the growing season.

Over the winter I have prepared a 15 x 25 bed and a 4 x 25 bed in the same hillside (we're on 5 acres so there's a lot of ground we can use). Again, it will be in BTE.

My observations, for what they're worth are that those who have a lot of scientific and intellectual reasons for doubting or dismissing this method - don't seem to have actually tried it. On paper perhaps it shouldn't work, but in practice it's nothing short of amazing. Nature often works in ways that are beyond simple formulas.

I'm very impressed by how much technical knowledge several of you have. I would love to be able to keep all of that in my head but I can't and basically the other responsibilities in my life won't allow me the time to invest learning it. Like most people I want a simple system that works well, doesn't require a lot of time or effort and produces good fruitfulness. This does right from the start with careful management and only gets better over time.

One last thing. Because of our summer heat and winter cold (zone 8a, temps into the low 20s) I was told I couldn't grow red wigglers outside. I have worm tubes in each of my tabletop beds. I added 2-3 inches of mulch over the SFG soil and my worms have thrived for a full year, heat and cold. The soil temps are moderated so well that every time I dig in the soil there are worms everywhere.

Now back to go read some of those great links - thanks again to each that shared information, I'll be reading through this again and applying ideas for this year's gardens :-)
Audrey


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Thanks Audrey for posting this on such an old discussion, glad I kept it on email notification.

This is interesting, I had tried something similar adding a few inches of compost and then mulching with poor results. My soil though was heavy clay.

I could see how this would be good on your fast draining granite soil. Roots get plenty of oxygen unlike in clay soil.


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Thanks, Audrey! I have a large pile of chipper wood that I got from the power line trimmers last summer. It's just as they dumped it, up to 6 feet tall and about 40-50 feet long and 10ish feet wide. I grew some spare loofah seedlings on one edge, and they took off, the difference from the ones at the foot of my sandy hill garden being no water after the first couple of weeks and maybe an extra 10 feet of growth. (Beware the mighty loofah vine!) this season I'm going to move some of the chips down to other spots and plant potatoes where the loofahs were (the only sunny spot up there). We shall see.


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Thanks Audrey. It works great in our garden. It is too simple for some people to accept. They think they can outsmart nature but refuse to realize their way is not sustainable.


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As someone who's main experience with BTE gardens around my area is fixing them or advising how to fix them for people who created them in our high-moisture/heavy-clay environment...well, there's a lot more going on than it being "too simple to accept" or "don't seem to have actually tried it."

For most of my area I wouldn't advise it unless you plan on mostly or totally fallowed land for 2-3 years, low yields waiting for those 2-3 years to break down the material, or a plan to dump a lot of fertilizer inputs into the land until it's actually broken down to the point it's actually soil that's capable of carrying a decent nutrient exchange.

Beyond that, the idea of a "healthy" soil that doesn't contain much of a mineral portion and is almost all organic matter is a time bomb needing consistent additions, has very little buffer for whatever excesses may be in the source material, has very little holding capacity of many nutrients actually being added/produced, and is racing against itself for decomposition vs volume loss. There's not much natural about it even though it's being "sold" this way.

A healthy soil doesn't need consistent and heavy organic additions lest it volatilizes or otherwise disappears. A healthy soil can store nutrients on mineral portions of a soil keeping them available far after organic additions have done their job and are broken down into simple compounds.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Mon, Jan 27, 14 at 6:59


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I thought that movie was rather amusing- he discovered the wonders of mulching & no till! Hardly a new concept or a miracle but effective nonetheless (I am a fan of both). Sort or replicates what happens naturally in a forest to build soil.


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And everyone please note- you should NOT dig the wood chips INTO the soil, simply put a layer of them on top.


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If you're a veteran of gardening forums, you know the drill.

"I started gardening with the (fill in the blank) method this year, and now I'm getting three times as many (fill in the blank)s. I use no pesticides and get no bugs at all. And my veggies are ten times tastier!"

Whatever.... Apparently, no one ever had a good garden until 'fill in the blank' came along. ;-)


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It really is that simple. Clay soil is not an issue.


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"It really is that simple. Clay soil is not an issue."

...except when it's not that simple and the clay soil is an issue.

I've seen and helped remediate a few BTE beds with 4-12" top applied chips + chicken or cow manure and one very unfortunate 2 ft dug bed filled with chips + manures (which sunk about 6" after 2 years and still was full of chips amongst freely "burning away" organic matter with no mineral portion to retain it).

The stuff doesn't just sit on the soil around here...it incorporates itself into the first couple inches of the soil via top movement disturbance, moisture influence, animals walking/burrowing, etc. around here in a lot of soils outside our "sandhills region". Once it does that it just sits around decomposing even slower while some people keep adding wood chips on top every season/year thinking what was below was busy turning into "good stuff" rather than crawling along with a slow decomposition.

"Clay" isn't created equal...neither are soil profiles and parent material properties making up the clay portions.

This method is little more than slow composting mulch where you're trying to grow things. You could speed up the process immensely composting it separately then adding it to your soil if you have the space. Around here you can turn a pile of wood chips + manures + greens into really good compost in less than a year depending on how hot you get your pile.


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Long story short...I would check around the internet for localized reports or check in with locals who have tried it to gauge how it's worked for others in your area before you attempt it on a piece of land you count on.

Heck...I wouldn't do this to begin with because there's nothing much "back to Eden" or natural about it, especially if you have a quality mineral soil that just needs some organic matter to begin with. There's not much natural about adding this much uncomposted organic matter to a soil year after year. The fact so much of it burns away rather than becoming a huge pile of mounding soil because of the additions should be a tip-off right off the bat...eventually it becomes totally dependent upon man-given additions.

A lot of people get top tier production with "only" 4-8% organic matter in the soil profile because of the properties of interaction between mineral and organic fractions of the soil and the yearly amendment amounts is quite tiny (an inch or 2 of composted soil) once it gets built up.

There is a long-running myth of fluffy black soil you can run your fingers through being a top-quality soil.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Mon, Jan 27, 14 at 22:38


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nc-crn you are not going to accept the fact that it will work in almost any soil. It will but you are driven IMO by non sustainable methods and don't get it. It's all good. I have learned a lot from this and other gardening forum and hope to learn a lot more. I do wish I was a veteran gardener.


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So, the fact that I've seen it not work in various instances in my area for reasons I've explained (and others have explained in this thread in their own words) means I'm not accepting facts?

...and it also means I'm driven by non-sustainable methods?

...ooooookay. Walking away...walking away...you have fun over there in your world, guy.


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I always am amazed when someone has to end their post with some sort of an insult. That is very shallow and totally unprofessional. Forums are to learn and share views and experiences. Keep your insults to yourself. I'm not a guy btw...another wrong assumption.


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You do realize you wrote this...

"nc-crn you are not going to accept the fact that it will work in almost any soil. It will but you are driven IMO by non sustainable methods and don't get it."

...I mean, it was written quite recently. This is quite a unique view of a victim and aggressor relationship "dirtguy50"

That said, rest assured that I'm done.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Mon, Jan 27, 14 at 23:52


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

Since this post has received a bit of activity in the past couple of days, I thought I would share the video of the complete Back to Eden garden tour Paul gives. If you cannot come out to Washington to see it in person, this is the next best thing. http://youtu.be/uM_gtZb8qyk

Here is a link that might be useful: Complete Back to Eden Garden Tour


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Communication can be difficult sometimes. I find everyone on this forum to be well intentioned, sharing folks. No need to get short with one another.......

Thank you, Thatnub, for posting the new link to Paul's latest video. All last winter, Back to Eden film brought inspiration and gardening into my computer during the long cold, dark days. I'm now downloading this new film to take me into spring anytime its needed.

To share my experiances with you folks..... I was so inspired last year by BTE that I hauled LOTS of compost to expand my garden, putting it over cardboard and fencing out the chickies. I spent so much time and effort on that - I neglected to get much in the way of wood chips on the garden. Weeds were not much of a problem, but GRASS was a monster problem. Long story short, I really did not end up with a BTE garden and had far more garden than I needed or could keep up with.

A month ago, the electric co-op crew was clearing the lines on my road. I stopped twice and offered to take any woodchips off their hands. They ended parking equipment in my yard at night and leaving me a mountain of wood chips. I'll have my hands full trying to get it over my garden this spring. But it should end up being a true BTE garden


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I haven't been back here for a while - but thought I'd drop in today and was quite surprised at the turn things have taken.

Really... is it necessary to be unkind to one another? I can only speak to my soil conditions and the effectiveness within them. The huge percentage of ground I have converted to this method is producing very well and with California's 100 year drought probably the best benefit will be that my water use will be about 10% this year of previous years. However, I have a small patch that is more clay than the other soils and can absolutely understand the issues that were brought up about them. They do stay almost too wet, so I will have to watch them carefully and water them on a different schedule.

There is a serious misunderstanding by the opponents of the method - first, it's not 4-12" added each year. It's more like 4-6 inches the first year and it will be longer and longer times between the need to add chips. Just because people who are attempting it are misinformed doesn't mean they are "doing the method." Paul only adds it about once in 5 years now.

An interesting element of gardening forums that I find somewhat amusing, is people seems to be offended if someone notices and speaks about a gardening method that someone else discovered X number of years before. We all are working with the same natural forces that existed thousands of years ago and the same "truths" can be observed and/or rediscovered by separate people, thousands of miles or decades apart - even never having read the earlier person's work.

For those of you that are happy to garden getting into the deep chemical basis and very complex monitoring, that's great! However, please keep in mind that an infinitesimal percentage of people that desire to enjoy a garden have the time, energy or brain capability to garden in that manner and most would simply quit the first year if they ever even started. There are many, simpler and effective enough ways to garden that why would we have an argument about a method someone is enjoying and getting good results about?

People that start out with simple methods frequently learn more and get deeper into the science. I encourage people to just start where they can and the gardening bug will bite :-) In the end, I'm just supportive of people growing their own food and enjoying time in nature.


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"first, it's not 4-12" added each year. It's more like 4-6 inches the first year and it will be longer and longer times between the need to add chips"

I didn't state they were throwing that down yearly.

I've remediated people's gardens in my area who have made the mistake of starting this first year process and find their inputs not broken down to a usable state after multiple years.

Even the people who added an inch or so of more wood chips in following years have had more issues with what was not broken down before even getting to the issue of adding more on top.

"There are many, simpler and effective enough ways to garden that why would we have an argument about a method someone is enjoying and getting good results about?"

That's nice, but what works and is simple for you doesn't mean it's either nice or simple for others. Simple on paper isn't a shortcut to simple in practice across the board. I wouldn't be talking about it if it was simple and enjoyable for others in my area. It's been more of a bad idea gone viral around my part of the world.

Beyond all this, a lot of people trying this method in my area have absolutely 0 reason to be doing it because we have great clay soil here that only needs a small amount of organic amending (and a bit of lime to raise the pH). Some people believe in the fallacy that soil is supposed to be dark stuff you can sift your fingers through without much effort, though.

A gardening practice that treats the mineral portion of the soil like a second class citizen is kinda frightening beyond all of this. It's a garden that relies on large outside inputs rather than taking advantage of what you have. It becomes a dependent cycle of replenishing mass once you displace a disproportionately large portion of mineral with organic matter over the years.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 5:20


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I'm not sure what happened to my answer yesterday. I came back to see if you had answered and it's not here.

By the way - I'm not angry but I have to say that it's feeling like you're throwing me into a big anonymous bad group of people. I assure you I'm intelligent. Interested in learning and am constantly researching as well as experimenting since I agree that my conditions may or may not work with a particular method.

What I basically asked is that I would find it fascinating to hear more about what and why you believe it's "treating the mineral portion of the soil like a second class citizen." And what you are so frightened of, as you've used that word a couple times.

Feel free to assume I don't know anything at all and give an answer that anyone reading would be able to understand whether or not they know much about the science of soil.

Thanks,
Audrey


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Fortunately minerals are not protected by the Constitution so they will have to just take their lumps:)

Seriously, what with leaves in the fall and this seasons, two truckloads of shredded tree trimmings I have and am grateful for lots of mulch. I'm happy for others to have different opinions and we are all entitled to discuss what works for us.


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This is a great thread! I am into edible landscaping so among my landscape bushes and flowers each year I plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, sage, and rosemary. In the spring I have always covered the landscaped area with about two inches of shredded limbs. This has been done for about 18 years. The original soil was clay and when I put in my landscaping bushes I mixed a bit of topsoil with the clay. Now I get great production from the garden plants that are among the landscape plants and the soil appears dark and loamy. The plants do not seem to suffer from desease. Conversely, I use regular compost on my garden spot and often mix in leaf mulch in the fall. Although the vegetables ussually do well, this past growing season my tomatoes suffered from leaf a desease in which the plants died from the bottom up. I cannot rotate locations easily, since I have limited space.


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I'm going to convert my existing organic raised bed garden to a BTE garden. I've had 5 4x4 raised beds for the past 3 yrs, and while I like it (for the square foot method) I have not been pleased due to the beds drying out quickly in our hot summers. The area I have is aprox 6x27. I'm going to isolate the existing wood mulch (which just washes to the end of the foot paths when it rains, pull up the beds, remove the landscape fabric, spread out the mix of compost & soil from the beds into an even layer, add Azomite rock dust, composted cow manure, spread out the existing partially decomposed wood chips and top it all with the compost I've got 'cooking' right now, then cover with Cyprus mulch. Or would it be better to mix my top layer of compost with the Cyprus mulch as the covering layer? Then let it sit at least a month before I plant. I think this would be a good way to start?


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I would think you'd want the compost on top of the soil, under the wood mulch. The compost gets the soil food web going in your soil, then the wood chips is a mulch for the top to hold in moisture.


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countrygirlinthecity- "I have not been pleased due to the beds drying out quickly in our hot summers."

You need to put several inches of mulch on those beds (if you haven't already). Be it straw, grass clippings, leaves, whatever. That will help prevent them from drying out too quick.

What I don't understand with your plan is that you say the rain washes away the mulch you have in the paths, which sounds as though you are gardening on a slight slope, but yet you are going to remove the beds and garden on that same plot of land. How are you going to prevent the mulch and compost from washing away when it rains?

And I'm with Elisa. I wouldn't put wood mulch underneath the compost either. To be honest I wouldn't use wood mulch to mulch a vegetable garden (my personal preference, not saying someone can't).

Rodney


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I'm gardening on a very slight slope. I know before I put in the raised beds, the smaller garden I had there (3x26) didn't wash out. I think the reason the mulched paths wash down a bit is due to the fact it is sitting on top of landscape fabric. And they don't wash out completely, just enough that it's noticeable to me. I think Cyprus mulch would stay more in place. And as I think about it, compost then topping it with shredded Cyprus mulch would be better. I'm ok with the mulch eventually breaking down since that would help with the soil structure.

I've tried straw but I think it was not good quality straw because it had seed heads in the bales and I ended up getting seedlings in the beds. But they did die out in the winter.

I'm not too worried about the wood taking away nitrogen from the soil because (& I need to do a soil test to be certain) I think I've got that under control; my heirloom tomatoes and bell peppers got huge but didn't bear that much fruit maybe need more P&K in the soil)...and they've been that way for 4 yrs. lettuce, corn, beans, cabbage, they all thrive. But maybe I'm doing something wrong with the tomatoes. I don't get blossom end rot (thanks to eggs shells and epsom salt in the planting hole), they just get tall and leafy no matter how much I pinch the suckers. (1 got over 12ft last yr) But maybe I'm expecting too much from them because I did plant two hybrid tomatoes in the same areas (1st time ever last yr) and they did fantastic.

Been gardening on my own 11 yrs and still consider myself a newbie.


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Over 10 years ago in New Orleans I had a house with an empty lot that had been covered over with a foot of oyster shells and used for parking heavy machinery.. weedy grass growing over, almost impossible to dig - like cement. I wanted garden, hated weedy grass, didn't want to mow, could not afford to buy dirt so I covered the whole thing with the only available stuff at the time - wood chips..in three years I had soil - plants grew like crazy. Was very humid, hot and rainy - no problems and didn't water.
I stumbled across the Back to Eden film last year - and it all made perfect sense.
I'm in Okla now and covering my weedy clay soil with it - on the second year in one spot and I can plant without breaking shovels.
My bf, who broke one tiller on this ground and fought half the spring last year on another garden area gave his tiller away last week after watching the film and seeing the difference in my one garden area.
Love the film, and the videos that Thatnub has done on Pauls garden. They are full of more info .
I can say from experience it works fantastic in humid or dry wind torn climates. It does take a few years for extreme wow, but and as Paul says - it just gets better each year with less effort.
Compost get sprinkled over the chips so that when it rains or you water it makes the tea that reaches the roots instead off washing away under the roots, its constantly feeding into the root area this way.


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Lorac-OK, yes it really works and so many people refuse to accept it. It really is natural and works.


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I couldn't read this whole thread, but in scanning the posts, I noticed one comment, about using wood chips as a sustainable way of making fertile soil. In normal circumstances, I don't see how there could be wood chips available for every garden to have a supply to use for improving soil. Or how in the natural order of things, having a supply of wood chips could be necessary to create fertile soil. I can't think of any way that using wood chips on a regular basis is sustainable. And there are so many other ways that you can create fertile soil that is much more sustainable….creating compost with what you dispose of from your garden and your kitchen. Growing a cover crop, etc. So in the end, I would think that promoting this method, only creates a demand for wood chips that would become an issue in the future.


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Maybe you were referring to my comment, early on? If so, I didn't mention that heavy mulching with wood-chips is sustainable.

All I would say in regard to the "back to eden" legend, is that heavy mulching is often a big benefit to the growth of crops. Especially when it corrects a major deficit, like the droughtiness of sandy soil, notably. That is why formerly florida gardeners always had mulch on their gardens (before the craze of boxes filled with bought materials invaded).

If you want to get super hair-splitty then we have to acknowledge that any taking of OM from one place to another is not in the ultimate sense sustainable, is it?


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It's only the first year that you need heavy chippings, after that its just dressing. very sustainable. In New Orleans after the first year I just added a few store bought bags each year as top cover..mostly for looks - this was on an entire lot size. Most areas have enough branches that fall or are trimmed for that. In the BTE all the stuff that would be disposed of..kitchen scraps, weeding are fed to the chickens which make the compost that scooped up and returned to the garden for soil. It really works beautifully.
Yes dirtguy - I LOVE it !! Thanks !


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Prairiemoon;
If you've never lived on a wooded lot, you might think it hard to create enough wood chips to use, but trust me - it's not an issue. Just pruning existing plants and trees produces a large quantity for chipping both for mulch and for continual compost pile building.

Our gas and electric company trims trees each spring where they interfere with their lines. I am getting as many truck loads of wood chips as they generate while they're in my area. I'll use what I need and make the rest available to my friends who also garden. It saves them going to a land fill which is where they were headed.

My observation is that those most people who are opposed to this method haven't actually tried it themselves. There is theory and then there is practice. I'm on my second year of this style gardening and it's just getting easier and better as time goes by. When it's done well and given time, it's a really effective method that I'm very happy with.


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Wood chips, at its best, Is an UNCOMPOSTED organic mater. Why bother composing in your vegetables bed? If there is any benefits (nutrient available for the plants) it comes when it is broken down ( = composted )

There are other problems with it even using it as mulch:

-- attracts all kinds of insects and bugs like termite, ants, pill bugs, fungus gnats among others.

-- being an uncomposted organic matter rich in carbon, it would tarp/bind lots of nutrients before if gets fully saturated.

I think wood chips make a good mulch around the trees, to keep the root ball cool but it is not a choice mulch in veggies garden:

BTW: I watched that guy's video ; Lots of heated/exited talk with very little results, Other than some squash.

JMO


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Little results?, some squash?? - you did not watch the film then. Here's the link:

http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/

and here's the link to Thatnubs( L2Survive ) follow up and more in depth information on BTE gardening

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM_gtZb8qyk


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Seysonn,

You are here making pronouncements based on theoretical reasoning in the face of many including myself who have actual good results with wood chips.
I find this all the more interesting because some weeks ago you were all over the forums championing your use of pine bark as a container filler.
I'm not criticizing your choices, but there are many here who have positive results.

Quote from AudreyJeanne
"My observation is that those most people who are opposed to this method haven't actually tried it themselves. There is theory and then there is practice. I'm on my second year of this style gardening and it's just getting easier and better as time goes by. When it's done well and given time, it's a really effective method that I'm very happy with."

Very well said


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Seysonn is correct that any nutrient value in wood chips comes after a long period of decomposition. The moisture-retention value comes right away.

Also certain negatives such as encouragement for ground-dwelling rodents can come right away. Anyone who does not think those can be a problem hasn't had them.


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Umm..no..Seysonn is wrong because as the chips are sitting there breaking down every time it rains their nutrients are flowing down to the roots, sprinkle a bit of compost on top every so often and its tonic tea time.
I don't know about anyone else but I've never had an issue with any rodents or bugs in my 10+ years experience using them.


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What is it about some BTE supporters that insist non-supporters who have actually seen this method with their own eyes...in gardens that they know...with examples that they can cite...are either seeing something that doesn't exist or they're seeing someone doing it wrong? ...or there's some conspiracy going on against the method?

There's nothing natural or "replicated in nature" about dumping a humungous amount of outside sourced organic matter in a highly raw state to slowly compost where you're trying to garden...and adding more and more of it replacing the mineral portion of your soil as the years drag on.

If your climate and base soil works for it...cool. If you have the time to make it work...cool. Some people don't have one or all of these in play for this method.

A highly organic soil you can drag your fingers through without effort is perfect and beautiful to some...for some of us it's an indication of an unhealthy, high-maintenance soil dependent upon bringing it human inputs to maintain volume.


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Audrey Jeanne,

That is my point, that I don’t live on a wooded lot and not everyone does. I have a small lot, but a lot of trees surrounding me. Lots of silver maples which are notorious for dropping litter and being brittle and losing branches in the winter. I haven’t had enough branches to justify even renting a wood chipper, let alone buying one.

And that's another objection I have, is that I try to do without power equipment as much as possible and I certainly would not want to adopt a method that required me to have a power chipper.

If you have wood chips available to you on a regular basis, and it adds to your composting, that’s great. That is local to your property and may be an ongoing resource for you. Other people live near the ocean and beaches and collect seaweed for their compost piles and building soil fertility. Others live near farms and collect hay. I live in a suburban area that has access to none of those things and I use my own yard waste, leaves from neighbors who don’t garden and I cover crop.

I did not oppose composting, improving soil fertility, mulching, or using natural raw materials to do so. I question whether a gardening ‘method’ that is promoted as something every gardener should do, can be said to be sustainable gardening, if it’s necessary to have a quantity of wood chips for every gardener that wants to follow this method.

You suggest that you’ve tried it, when you are only in your second year. That to me is a very minor amount of time in gardening terms. I don’t feel that is a lot of experience to base a recommendation to other gardeners that this method will be good for your soil over the long haul or will not attract unwanted termites or critters, due to the high volume of wood chips you are mounding up on your property. Come back in ten years and tell me how wonderful this method has worked for you.

And again, even if it works for you in your situation doesn't mean it is the one method that everyone should follow. I would rather hear people encouraging gardeners to aim for doing whatever is most sustainable on their property, in their location.


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NC, I can only surmise that the idea of "back to eden" is very emotional for some gardeners and they get a bit worked up by any critique of it.

Lorac, you can sprinkle some well-finished compost from time to time and crops will generally do pretty good. So you have made the point, unwittingly, that others have made: if the only input to a cropping system is wood chips, sooner or later the system is going to run low on fertility. At risk of being ignored (but what else is new), I'll point out as others have before, the original subject of the BTE video uses other sources for fertility. The wood chips are serving as moisture retention and long-term SOM. That latter as NC points can eventually get overly high. I have a plot where I dumped wood shavings for many years that I later put into crop production. It does well at moisture retention due to the very high SOM but fertility is not higher than other plots. Crops that prefer bacterially-dominated soils don't do that well there.


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"Crops that prefer bacterially-dominated soils don't do that well there."
pnbrown, what plants are you thinking fit into this category?
Thanks.


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" I would rather hear people encouraging gardeners to aim for doing whatever is most sustainable on their property, in their location."

I have to say that out of all the GardenWeb gardening posts I have read in the last decade, the above quote by Prairiemoon2 is by far the wisest, most unifying, and perceptive post I have seen.


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I, personally, was talking about that guy (Mr. Eden ?), with a rake in his hand talking and lecturing like for ever. Should I give him encouragement ?


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The major chips were a one time thing in the 10 years I had that property.
The film, Back to Eden, is not just about woodchips, thats about covering your soil with whatever your region has..chips is Paul's favorite, he states that in the film.

I think what gets overlooked is the real biggie - no tilling and sustainability, without having to use a ton of water, no chemicals, gardening without insane weeds, bugs not being pests..doing all that without backbreaking work.
And as we age - the gardens/orchards age with and for us - they gets better, produce more with less effort.

Pnbrown I think as the years go by and the chips continue to break down, in that process they continually add more nutrients to the soil, but I am nooooooo expert on the science side of it. I used a spray fertilizer that first year, twice I think but never anything after that, no compost at all.

Why ya'lll so against something that works so easy??
Watch both those links a few times..theres really a lot of info there..let it sink in.
Try it out if you live in an area where they trim trees.

When your 60 or 70 using your rake to plant dinner you'll be sooo glad you did.


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Lorac -OK

If it works for you do it. Nobody is preventing you from doing it. But then you say that it takes for years

((..The major chips were a one time thing in the 10 years I had that property. ..))
BTW: Are you Paul (Mr. Eden ) ?

Talking about age: I am more or less 70 years of age. But the topic and discussions is not what is convenient for the seniors (like me) but what works best for what we plant. .

BACK TO WOOD CHIPS:

Not all wood chips are created equal. Where and which part of tree (trunk, limbs, small twigs,..), from what kind of tree, soft wood, hardwood, conifer, ... the chips come from ?
Some will take for a decade or more to disintegrate (decompose) some (soft tree tops) will melt away in a year or two and in the mean time it can generate a lot of hear, just like any conventional compost pile.
Up until the time a wood chip is composted, what may come out of it could be things like sap, no NPK. Maybe some minerals (??)

SURE< wood chips make an excellent mulch to save water, but I dont think I can plant things like lettuce, pepper, onion,... in it. If you can , go for it.


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Lorac, why do you assume some of us have not "tried it out"?

There aren't many styles of gardening I have not tried, at this point. I don't mean to set myself as a great expert, but it is fair to say that I have experimented a great deal. One thing I have learned is that things can change, sometimes pretty rapidly. For example, one plot I have been using for years was dominated by what deer cared to eat, and what I could protect from them, and by low fertility due to low inputs and sandy soil. A couple years ago I excluded the deer finally with fence, and bumped the fertility way up with dehydrated chicken manure and rock powders. Huge increase in crop production. Seems good, right? Not necessarily bad, but voles, present in low numbers all along, exploded in an old testament fashion, and ate almost every ear of my bread corn last fall. I surmise that a large potato crop left late in the ground the fall before fueled immense population growth. So if one is growing big crops, a lot of material on the ground all the time is highly likely to lead to a rodent problem. One rather sensationalist video about a part of one gardener's experiences, simply because it does not mention such things doesn't mean they won't happen.

Just one example of the hundreds of real-world dynamics. Next I can tell you about birds...


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Dirtguy, notably brassicas don't do as well in that plot as in other plots, and we know brassicas are the least fungal-associated of all common garden crops. Potatoes and tomatoes love it, and we know those are very happy in high fungi-soils. I attribute this largely to the very high OM in the soil, a lot of it still breaking down, though the fact that the ph is still a bit low is no doubt a factor (but not a big one because beans do pretty good).


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This weekend while spreading sawdust mulch beneath my blueberries I thought about Paul the BTE guy and wondered why he chose "cover" rather than "mulch." I had to write a review of the film, so I watched it three times and winced every time he said no fertilizer needed. Glad the filmmaker showed the manure-producing chickens, which appeared a bit overcrowded to me.


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I would like to experiment with this method but doubt that I will have access to enough wood chips (for free/reasonable, I wouldn't pay to chip my own trees). If it is what you have, go for it!

I have made a couple of hugel type mounds to observe. I have slow composted stable manure containing wood chips. I have tried intensive planting in raised beds, with rather predictable results - I am a reformed intensive gardener. Of course, I have double dug beds, and sometimes I have layered. One thing is for sure, doing something is better than nothing.

Home gardening in the US is a very confused subject. It has been complicated because a rather important part of our culture has been shunned by previous (and current) generations to the extent that if a perfectly able human being were to aspire to work the earth using their own labor and inellect to provide for his or her own sustinance (without even being able to provide for others ; small children, elders) is almost entirely laughable - even with fancy tools and small gas engines (I would easily bet that even most with a small tractor and unlimited fuel would starve to death within months eating only what they could produce for themselves and their livestock). Just two, three, or four generations ago (depending on your family's speed) this type of self reliance was commonplace.

Our culture now dictates that there is a new quick and easy solution to everything. I know that it is laughable to many gardeners, but from my reading many posters who even raise the subject seem to want to provide a substantial amount of their *family's*! nutritional and caloric intake from a raised bed that at most is 4x12! and this year! - It is just NOT going to happen. There is a yearning to replace the knowledge that we know we should have - which is why many reach for the first solution they try and defend it with the "zeal of the newly converted." - I know that "this method is different" - but go to the square foot gardening forum and find someone who has actually harvested something - browse the list or even search for "harvest" in that forum and see if that meets your expectations of a garden (I'm sorry, but it is time someone said something). The similarities to any "new" gardening method would be that there is a lot of hype and expectations that do not in any way match up to reality. It is always fun to learn, but a lot of the mistakes have already been made and it is stunning how near eons of work is tossed aside because someone has an easy to follow method, preferably supported by a book.

I would encourage anyone who is trying to provide more for themselves to work their native soil and improve it as is practical. I am also asking a favor, - even if it is just for me, try to SPREAD OUT! there is NO reason to have an eigth of an acre back yard, want to provide food for yourself over space for your lawn, and think that you have to plan your garden in plants per square foot! - even if year one you just space out pizza boxes on your lawn and stab a tomato start through it, working the ground over time is what makes a garden ( I know that stating even working the earth is now somehow controversial - but try it, if just for me. - if history is any guide, it just might work).
- best of luck to all!


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

hi seysonn. My experience it in this garden was pretty normal last year, (year 1) our last freeze is tonight, I'll start planting all the new beds this week.
I've used chips that are from last summer in these new beds, they are from our county cleaning up the roadsides chipping small limbs with lots of green. Because they sat over winter they are a bit broken down but not enough to plant right directly into so we have started everything peat pots and will brush the chips aside to get to the broken down part, add a bit of soil and brush chips back.
I only have one garden from last year (tornado damage took out half my yard) so far just the onions are up looking great.
In the garden I had for 10 years at about year 3 I planted directly in the chip material, onions, herbs, lettuces..fig trees, mulberry, pomagrante..bananas - they all grew like crazy..I remember at about year 5 I had 400 bags of bananas to give to the local zoo there. Never watered, really never did much of anything except sick stuff in the ground and trim..lots of trimming and thinning out.
I grew up in a gardening family - but I'd never seen growth like that.
It was accidential, I used wood chips because my lot had been covered with compacted oyster shells, I could not dig thru it - it was the only thing around and free, I just wanted to cover it with the thought of getting soil when I could afford it, I'd just bought the house and lot and was pretty broke..(remolding a 200 yr old house) - I had no idea it would become my soil. I never put it together until I saw the Back to Eden film.
I am very excited about it especially after learning why I had such a great garden, just thought I'd share here since this thread was about the BTE method.


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

Very good post Cheapheap. You've made a lot of good points. I would like to hear about your experiences with intensive gardening, but since it is a little off topic, maybe you could start a new thread?


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

pnbrown, thanks for the info. I did convert one 4 x 8 bed mid summer to very well aged chipped branches with leaves and needles. (I think this is the most important misunderstanding about the covering) Anyway, I planted a fall crop of bush beans that produced 3 very full harvests with absolutely no issues. I realize fall plantings do not have a lot of the pressures of summer crops but I was amazed at the production. I converted a couple more bed to the BTE last fall to overwinter and will try some of the crops you mentioned to experiment with this spring. I am about KISS method. You know, " Keep It Simple Stupid." lol

This post was edited by dirtguy50 on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 23:05


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

For those who don't like the method - great. Honestly. Don't use it. No pressure, no proselytizing, we're just sharing experiences. I'm fascinated by many types of gardening systems.

I want to correct a few errors I hear repeated in posts above. You would be right to question the method if these false perceptions were true :-) :

1. Equating sawdust, wood bark, or ground up stumps with the wood chips that are recommended. These are Ramial wood chips (the smallest branches and leaves such as those trimmed by power companies and tree services then chipped). They are substantially different in nature than the trunk wood. They also break down incredibly fast - sometimes in months not years. There's a link earlier in this post to an excellent article about building soil through ramial wood chips. It also explains the difference between the soil formed using the mulch method versus composting. They are not the same results even though using the same materials.

2. Paul says "no fertilizer" but it's a poor choice of a phrase - in the context he's speaking about no artificial fertilizers. His entire context is of garden waste going to his chickens to feed and then using the soil/manure they create tossed back on his garden.

3. You don't plant in the wood chips. 2 inches of compost is laid down first, then 3-4 inches of wood chips (Paul states that aged are best). He mentions that his wood chip piles are actually several years old. You plant in the soil and compost not the chips. If someone is in a hurry and wants to plant quickly - the film even shows the method being done wrong and the failures it led to. Nitrogen will need to be added if using new chips.

4. Manures and compost can and should be added seasonally, but they only need to be spread on top and watered in.

5. Over time, less and less chips are added. Paul says he adds new chips every 5 years or so. It is a long term process that can produce excellent results in the short term as well depending on original soil conditions and how well the process is followed.

I enjoy hearing each person's perspective, there's really no need for animosity :-)


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RE: Back to Eden Method experiment

I located the articles I mentioned in the post above. They were actually in another forum post so might not have been able to be found:

Ramial Chipped Wood: the Clue to a Sustainable Fertils Soil http://www.docstoc.com/docs/83576769/The-Clue

Redefining Soil Fertility: http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=700

The Hidden World that Feeds us: http://www.ipcp.org.br/References/Solos/MadeiraRamial/doc59b.pdf


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