Back to Eden: Our story so far

In my last post, I talked about a free online film we watched recently, which has inspired us to adopt its principles in our own garden.  In a word, it’s all about covering.  Read here if you missed it.


I thought I’d give you a glimpse into how we’re going so far.  We’ve found that it’s very simple in principle, but to transform our existing garden, it has taken a bit of care and patience.  This is mainly due to the fact that we can’t just dump thick layers onto our garden, as there are existing plants that don’t need 4 inches of compost and 2 inches of wood chips put on top of them. 🙂  And then there’s some patience as we allow the moisture and compost to permeate down into the original garden bed.

Finding Wood Chips

One of the first things we did was note where in our country New Zealand we could find others doing the same thing.  On the Back to Eden website, we located three places on the world map who have noted their involvement so far.  One of them happened to be a couple of hours north of us.

My husband got in contact with him, and on his next work visit to his city (a few days later) he picked up half a wool-sack of free wood chips from our fellow ‘Back to Eden-er’s’ source.  This was enough to get us started in our existing garden, before discovering a local one-off source a week later which gave us another wool-sack full.

Laying the cover

We have two average-sized compost bins already, containing our food scraps and garden waste, which gave us a good covering of fresh compost.  So we put down a layer of this first, then we covered the compost with the chips.  [Just to clarify, raw wood chips are not sawdust or bark etc, they are freshly chipped tree branches and leaves that haven’t started to break down].

At the height of our southern hemisphere summer, we were watering a fair amount each day, as the exposed soil gets so dry.  Now we are only watering once or twice a week, and mainly just the younger seedlings that don’t have deep root systems yet.

There’s no formula for how many inches of compost to lay down, or how much watering you’ll still need to do for a time – you should be able to tell by pulling back the chips and checking the soil underneath.

soil underneath

Planting new seedlings

The other thing we are doing for now is to continue rearing our seeds in potting trays with organic seed raising mix, as well as trying to plant seeds directly into the soil.  It’s a bit of an experiment to see where they will grow best – and interestingly, the seeds are coming up in the garden while very few of our most recent attempts in the potting trays have come up yet. 🙂

I love the fact that the soil in our garden is only going to get better and better as the months and years go on.


Our next step

I have a hunch, that plants that are native to our country probably contain nutrients that are needed in our soil.  It’s just a hunch.  But knowing what I’ve discovered in my years researching food, and that our soil in New Zealand is deficient in a number of nutrients that are critical to good health, I wonder if this need can be met through simply laying cover down and allowing creation to work its wonder.  Something to ‘dig’ into further!

The other thing we’ll be doing, other than finding a local source for wood chips, will be to continue to add compost on top and rake it through.  But to clarify, no tilling the wood chips through the soil.

Something that we won’t be doing much of is… weeding.  Or watering.  It sure feels good to know that Shawn won’t be stuck in the garden as much as he often has been.  I’d like to have some more time with him.  More family time sounds fantastic.

So here’s the plan going forward: listen, touch, feel, look, taste – and respond to what our garden is saying to do to tend it.

Lots of love and appreciation to my husband, who has done all the hard work with getting us started.  Thanks hun. xx

13 thoughts on “Back to Eden: Our story so far

  1. 2livelovelearn

    How inspiring! Best of luck on this endeavor! I also wanted to ask if you mind if I share your article and link about Creativity by Ken Robinson. I loved both and wanted to comment a bit about it and another discourse by Ken on my own blog…would you be O.K. with that?

  2. Kelli

    Thank you for stopping by my blog! I’m glad you did because this is a technique that I’m just getting familiar with as well. And, I’m excited to watch this video. We are getting ready for growing season here in the States (Kentucky) and I’m going to be doing medicinal and culinary herbs in raised beds, and hopefully some foraging and transplanting. Your beds look lovely. 🙂

    1. homemakingwithheart

      We would love to do medicinal herbs as well! We’re a little pushed for space though and as it is, have started to burst out the garden and plant things in random places. 🙂 I wonder where we could squeeze in some more herbs. Planter boxes off the house maybe? 🙂
      You will love this Film. Let me know what you think.
      I’ve heard the principles are similar to a well-known book written in the 80s, called the No Dig Garden (I think) by Ruth Stout. I googled her name and seems there’s quite a bit floating around on her techniques. Maybe another source of info for us. – Victoria

  3. Carol

    I’m curious, how did you get in touch with the other BTE gardener’s near you? I checked the world map, and found a garden close enough for me to visit/talk to the owner about, but do not see a way to contact them on the BTE website! Thanks for any response! I’m so excited!

    1. homemakingwithheart

      Hi Carol, we were fortunate enough that the BTE gardener north of us posted a website on growing tomatoes which contained some contact details. He also had contact details under his google profile. It will depend on how much people have put under their google profile.
      You might also google ‘ Back to Eden garden’ (or even ‘no dig garden’) with your location and see what you come up with. 🙂
      Short of that, you could go a little further afield of your area and see who you can come up with that has enough details online for you to contact.
      Were you wanting to source wood chips or just wanting to connect with someone (and maybe see their garden)?
      The Back to Eden Film Facebook page has a discussion area if you have specific questions.

  4. kartwheels

    Great luck with the garden! We are big into composting and mulching in Sequoia, for so many reasons, but just the water retention and lessening (or eliminating) of weeds is enough. We get a couple of bales of straw to spread out for mulch instead of the wood chips. Where we are, it is much less expensive, and does the trick! Your garden will be lovely…

  5. Rhonda Uren

    Hi there. I have just found your blog online, having googled to see who might also be applying the BTE principles for gardening here in New Zealand. We are just starting using this method of gardening ourselves. Thanks for sharing via your blog about your garden.

    1. Victoria Post author

      Thanks Rhonda. I’ll be writing on how we’ve done over the summer in a couple of weeks. It’s been a bit of a learning experience so far, the main thing being how we keep our garden replenished, and learning what the soil needs more of based on how the harvest looks. Some things have done better than others.
      Have you managed to find a local source for wood chips?

    1. Victoria Post author

      That’s awesome. We’re in the BOP. Did you read my other posts on it? I’ll be posting again in about 2 weeks on how we’re doing so far. It’s basically all about our mistakes. 😉 But we’ve learned heaps. The main thing is, keep the cover and compost replenished. We’ve yet to find a good local source.


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