GARDENING BY RONELLA: ‘Wood chip’ gardening another good method
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Aug 28, 2013 | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Quite some time ago, I wrote a column about an alternative method of gardening called Back to Eden. I had met a couple from Murray, KY at Vanderbilt Hospital where he and I were having a pacemaker procedure and while waiting, he described a method of gardening which really impressed me. He gave me the name of the film, Back to Eden, and I have watched it several times, wishing I were younger and able to start a garden using this method.

Recently Kenny and Sandy spent the day with me and they brought a basket of produce from their garden. We talked a bit about his “wood chip” garden and the great advantages of this different method of gardening.

This is something anyone could do and this is how he started. About the middle of last summer, he put compost and wood chips between the rows of his vegetables. At the end of summer, he covered the whole garden with wood chips. By the following spring, the wood chips have begun to decay and the garden is ready.

To answer a question, which you may be thinking of: this method does not affect the acidity of the soil.

Kenny makes his compost by putting a layer of sawdust in his chicken pen and chicken house. Occasionally, he scoops it all up and puts it on his garden. It then washes down into the wood chip soil. He feeds his chickens any green waste from his garden or kitchen, thus skipping one step in making compost. He lets the chickens, all twelve of them, do the work of converting green vegetable matter into compost.

Kenny gets his wood chips from tree removal people and he says he has a lifetime of wood chips all piled up.

Recently he and Sandy took a two-week vacation and when they returned, they were able to pull up all the weeds in his garden in thirty minutes. The weeds are that easy to pull up in his wood chip garden. They just lift out. Another advantage is that he seldom needs to water his garden. It is not possible for me to tell you all the advantages of this kind of gardening.

I asked Kenny how he kept weeds from encroaching on his garden and he said that about two times a year, he uses a shovel to edge his garden to keep Bermuda grass out.

If you would like to know the whole story of this method of gardening, go to “Back to Eden” on the Internet and watch the film. Kenny says that he has watched it at least six times and still is learning something new each time. I strongly urge you to give it a try.

If you have poor garden soil for your vegetable garden, consider planting a “cover crop”. This adds organic matter to the soil and depending on the crop used, may add nitrogen. Check with your local agriculture advisor who will most likely advise a legume.

Also, save all your fall leaves for use as paths in your vegetable garden. Eventually, the leaves will be added to the soil also.

Get out your camera and take pictures of your flowerbeds before they start turning brown. You may find a bald spot where something died or maybe a plant has overgrown its spot. Next spring, when you are planting and moving things around, you can get out your pictures and get an idea of how to improve the beds. You may find that you would like a bed with all plants that like dry soil, thus eliminating watering. Plants like lamb’s Ear and Red Hot Poker love that dry spot.

Don’t add fertilizer to your roses at this time but continue a spraying program with a combination fertilizer/fungicide. If you have had much rain in your area as we have had in my area, you may have a problem with mildew. A good spraying with a fungicide every week or two will help your plants.

Check with your local nurseries for sales of evergreens, both broad leafed and coniferous. They can be safely planted from now to mid-September if you are careful to saturate the root ball and the hole where it will be planted and then water again after planting.

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