Intro to ‘Back to ‘Eden gardening
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Aug 01, 2012 | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It seems that gardeners meet other gardeners at some strange and unusual places. Case in point, I recently met a most interesting and knowledgeable gardener at Vanderbilt in the holding room waiting for a pacemaker to be implanted, as was I. We struck up a conversation and I soon realized that I was on to something very important in the gardening world.

My new gardening buddy, Kenny Jackson, from near Murray, called this new method “Back to Eden” wood chip gardening. It would take several columns to cover all the information needed to use this method so I will just try to give you an idea and at the end of this column I will give you the web site which you can read to your heart’s content. It is a movie which lasts about 1 ½ hours if you slowly read it all. I have watched it twice and learned something new each time.

First you will need a source for wood chips. Kenny gets all the wood chips from the city of Murray when they pick up limbs. You can get the wood chips from tree trimmers and if you have a chipper, you can use yard waste such as leaves and weed-free straw and hay. Wood chips are not the same as bark and sawdust. To start a new garden, it will be necessary to let the chips lay out to decay through fall and winter. Then, lay out the space you want for a garden and lay damp newspapers, three deep, all over the area. Before you put down the newspapers, you will need to pull out the largest of the weeds. You will have to gather newspapers from recycling centers, from businesses and from your neighbors. DO NOT PREPARE SOIL. Simply add a layer of wood chips. If you add 4 to 6 inches of wood chips in fall, it will be ready to plant by spring. The thicker the layer, the longer it will take to break down. If you are using composted wood chips, you can plant immediately. Most cities are happy to get rid of these chips and will deliver them.

The advantages to this type of gardening are many. Some that Kenny mentioned are that the older you get, the less work you want to do in the garden. The garden is never muddy. Soil will be soft and damp under the wood chips. In the very beginning of using this method, you will plant your seeds and when they germinate, pull chips up to around the plant and add more chips in the middle to keep pulling the chips up around the plant. Kenny uses only heirloom or open pollinated seeds and the movie gives you sources for the seeds and you save your seeds each year (just like Ma did).

Some of my tomato growers will be interested in his method of planting tomatoes. He mixes Epsom Salts, powdered milk, tablespoon of soda, and then mix these with worm castings which he gets from a man who grows worms (a worm farm). He digs a hole for each plant, and puts the above mix in the hole with the tomato plant and then puts wood chips all around.

Kenny and Sandy Jackson came over today from Murray to have lunch with my son and his wife and me and he brought me two huge, really huge, tomatoes which are totally unblemished.

Remember that with this method of gardening, you do not till or mix. Just add another layer of chips. You water as needed to germinate the seeds. In the beginning you may need to use an organic fertilizer as a supplement since nitrogen will be used in breaking down the chips. You would use organic blood meal as a good source of nitrogen or organic fish emulsion.

Few weeds will be found in this method and if a few germinate, they pull up easily. I asked if they needed to water during this extremely hot and dry weather and he said that he watered about once a week on only some part of the garden.

Some subjects covered in the film “Back to Eden” are: The covering, Soil preparation, Fertilization, Irrigation, Weed control, Pest control, Crop rotation and PH issues.

The film has some beautiful pictures of Back to Eden gardens and so much more information than I can cover in this short column.

I keep thinking, “Oh, if I could roll back the years about 30 years”.

To download the movie, use:

At the end of the film, you will find that you can order a Back to Eden DVD.

I hope I have given you a glimpse of a totally new concept in gardening.

If you have any questions, please call me at 270-522-3632.
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