First-hand look at ‘Back to Eden’ garden
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Sep 26, 2012 | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a recent column, I described a new and interesting method of gardening and gave the name of a short movie describing this method of gardening with wood chips. It is a little late in my life to start a new gardening method but I enjoyed the movie, “Back to Eden” and went back to it several times. I learned of this method from a man whom I met at Vanderbilt Hospital where we were both waiting to have pace makers installed. We kept in touch via e-mail and telephone, and Kenny and Sandra Jackson came to see us during the summer.

I had wanted to see his gardens, and my son and his wife and I went to Murray last week and I got to see his beautiful home which he designed and his wife decorated. But the main attraction to me was their few acres just a few miles from Murray in a lovely development of homes with lots of space. They have been in their home less than two years and it is a wonder what they have accomplished. The gardening seems to be Kenny’s project and Sandra takes care of the canning and freezing. Just last week, they were gathering two bushels of green beans which were just coming in. I was amazed that he got a second crop of green beans during this hot summer.

Kenny has two spaces in the big backyard devoted to vegetables. And between the gardens and the house, he has planted many fruit trees which seemed to be thriving. To the right of the gardens and fruit trees, they have a chicken pen and chicken house which is shaded by a row of trees which goes down the length of one side of their lot. How they raise their chickens made me think how crazy the old method of feeding chickens really is. Kenny has no compost pile. His chickens do the job for him. It is like this: he feeds the chickens all the green scraps from the garden and most scraps from the house, including melons and other kitchen waste, even leftover food. Now, the chicken pen is covered with wood chips a few inches deep, it seems. Then he shovels all the wood chips up to take to his vegetable gardens, including all the chicken manure. Then he starts out again with wood chips all over the pen. I can’t believe how clever that is and, as far as I know, that’s unique.

Incidentally, the city of Murray delivers their wood chips from picking up tree limbs, leaves, etc. throughout the city. However, I understand Kenny is running short of wood chips. I imagine he will be taking a look at his trees bordering their property.

To make this a perfect place, there is a creek that runs down the opposite side of their lot. The creek also has trees all along the length of their lot.

I noticed that all the foundation around three sides of their house has beautiful and healthy shrubs and perennials and they also are planted in wood chips. The reason for the exceptional produce from their garden and the health of the plants around the house is that they are planted with layers of wood chips and their roots go down to the dampness under the decaying wood chips. Layer upon layer of wood chips keeps the soil under all those layers cool and damp, as I understand the theory. I got to see the theory at work and I am still amazed.

Thanks to my new friends, Kenny and Sandra Jackson, I have seen the garden of my dreams. Would that I were 30 years younger.

A good worthwhile project for September and October is to get ready to pile dirt around your roses. When it’s time for this job, it is always cold and windy so if you pile some dirt or mulch near each rose, it will be there to use when you need to make that mound around each rose. Be sure that the dirt comes from somewhere other than near your rose. You don’t want to disturb the rose roots. It is a no fun job in the first place and getting that dirt ready helps.

It is not too late to start a fall salad garden. It only takes a few feet to plant lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, radishes, onions and kale. Only a very small space will give you many fresh vegetables for October.

It’s getting near time to dig your glads, dahlias, cannas and tuberous begonias. Dig the glads just after the leaves turn yellow and the rest before a killing frost. After digging them, remove the foliage and let them dry for a couple of weeks. Then store them in a dry place where they won’t freeze. You can store them in peat moss or sand or you might get by storing them in a paper bag, which I have done a few times.

Please feel free to call me with questions or suggestions at 270-522-3632.

You can still order my book, “Going Through the Garden” by sending a check for $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.
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