Tag Archives: Gardening

Our ‘Back to Eden Garden’ Progress – One Year On

 

Back to Eden Garden pin

For the past 12 months, we’ve adopted a method of gardening, sometimes called the ‘no dig’ method, and more recently popularised by the super documentary ‘Back to Eden’, which is free to view online.

With summer just behind us and the cooler months approaching, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pass on how we’ve done over the last 6 months.

In all honesty, the weekends have been so filled with other activity since Christmas that our little garden has been somewhat neglected. We just let the summer months roll by, and enjoyed the produce that came from it, when really we should have continued with the relatively small amount of maintenance that it needed to thrive.

So I’ll pass on some things we’ve learned in this process, and the how we’re moving forward from here.

Soil

Fresh wood chips

Fresh wood chips

It’s all about the covering, right? What we really needed to continue with, was adding cover on top of the existing wood chips. Because we didn’t start from scratch initially, we couldn’t just heap 6 inches of cover on top of our existing plants. So we put down compost first, then added wood chips on the top but not at a thickness that was going to produce the kind of results we wanted. Decomposing just takes time – there’s no rushing nature!

Our wood chips have been decomposing nicely, but we have needed to keep adding fresh wood chips on the top. The other thing the garden could greatly benefit from is some chicken manure or similar.

Remember how Paul suggests you put in a garden? Newspaper first, then compost, wood chips and manure on the top. Have a read and watch of this on the Back to Eden website on covering.

Our plan is to source some wood chips locally (we had bought them in from out of town) and keep a supply elsewhere in our back yard. This way, we can keep the garden replenished. We also want to make use of living on the coast and collect up some seaweed from the beach to use on the garden. I’ve been told by a local veteran gardener that it’s the trick to the hugest and juiciest strawberries. Here’s a great write-up on why to use seaweed.

In the meantime, last weekend we put some fresh mulch on top of our existing wood chips, and will keep doing this through the winter months.

Weeds

Our weeds have definitely decreased significantly. But as we slackened on the cover, there are patches in our garden where there is little cover and some weeds have come up. Because we’ve had the wood chips and it has lessened the weeds, it probably lulled us into a false sense of security as we didn’t feel the need to tend to the garden!  We’re paying for it now, as we’re having to put some work in. But we’re happy with getting through a long hot summer with not too much that’s sprouted.

Plant Health

You can see from this photo, we have way too much clay and not enough decomposed wood chips underneath.

You can see from this photo, we have way too much clay and not enough decomposed wood chips underneath.

Again, because our soil health has needed some attention, namely some manure and/or nutrients, some of our leafy greens were a little woody instead of being juicy with water. The outside leaves particularly, and that is where we had some problems with insects or clusters of insect eggs. The inner, juicy leaves were insect free, even those exposed to the air. It just goes to show that the principles do work if you actually use them.

Harvest

We enjoyed plenty of summer harvest through the warm months, including different varieties of tomatoes, spinach, squash, and towards the end, pumpkins and butternuts. Next year, we’ll be better at preparing for the upcoming season and planning ahead. We still have time to get seedlings in for the winter, but it will be from seedlings we purchase from the garden store and not our own seeds.

Lessons Learned from Our First Year

Our little garden with the remains of summer's growth

Our little garden with the remains of summer’s growth

  • The soil is a living organism. We need to remember to continue to replenish the cover and check that the soil underneath is damp and rich.
  • While transitioning our garden to this method, we need to still water sometimes through dryer periods until there is adequate nourished soil underneath our wood chips.
  • Healthy soil makes for healthy plants, and less weed and insect problems.
  • Manure and sea weed are great for ongoing soil health!

In 6 months time, I hope to tell you that we’ve found a rhythm to keeping our garden maintained and healthy!

Finally, whether you’ve watched Back to Eden or not just yet, have a read of this great article on ‘How to Grow a ‘Back to Eden’ Garden’. Tell me what you think!

You might also be interested in my other posts on No-Dig Gardening.

Our ‘Back to Eden’ Spring Garden

Eden

In February I wrote on how we were transforming our garden using the principles from the film ‘Back to Eden’.

Now more than 6 months later, after having started the transition at the height of summer and now a few weeks into Spring, we are continuing to reap the benefits from this method of gardening.

We found that during the summer, we decreased our watering by about half (as the wood chips hadn’t broken down adequately) and haven’t watered at all since.  We’re hoping that this summer we won’t have to water at all, or at least very little.

Eden post 3 (11) words

Sowing Seed and Raising Seedlings

We now mostly sow seeds straight into the ground, simply by raking back the wood chips, putting some compost in, and the leaving the cover back until the seedlings sprout.

We also have some seeds under cover in seed raising trays.  Our seed raising mix consists of homemade compost, vermaculture (from a worm farm), and some sand to lighten the mix.  This seems to be working well so far.  After three weeks we have seedlings that are already 2-3 inches tall (tomatoes, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, zucchini, pumpkins, and capsicums).

Eden

Our mini green house is made from a piece of glass inside a wood frame and angled towards the sun.  Underneath the glass (about 2cm in) is clear plastic fixed to the inside of the frame which creates a good condensation and diffuses the bright sunlight.

On the ground is concrete so we always had problems with having to put seed trays on a waterproof tray – the dirt would be wet then dry out.  So now we have some old carpet over the concrete and 3 inches of mulch on top of the carpet.  Our seed trays sit on top of the mulch.  This creates a forest floor in our greenhouse and keeps it moist.  We water a little every 2-3 days with a watering can.

Planting

One of the things we’ve enjoyed was when our plants have self-seeded and new plants have sprung up on their own in various places around the garden.  We wondered if this might stop once the garden was covered in wood chips.  But gladly this has continued and they can either grow where they’ve landed or we can move them to a better place.

We recently planted some broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seeds straight into the garden with a month of winter left, but they still came up and are doing well.

Eden post 3 (8) words

Weeding

As we’d hoped, we haven’t had to pull many weeds at all, and the few that do crop up are easy to pull.

The great thing is that now that it’s time to plant our spring garden, there’s no weeds to pull or soil to till (which would normally have taken about 8 hours) so the motivation to get out in the garden isn’t spoiled.  We have some seedlings on the go and these will be ready to plant at the traditional summer planting time in October.

Eden post 3 (6) words

Composting

We have two composting bins that we alternate and keep them covered with a black rubber mat.   We introduced a bucket of vermaculture from a worm farm, which had a good amount of worms in and have flourished in the compost.  The compost is rich and the system is working well.

Eden post 3 (3) words

Some Things to Plan

Finally, here are some things we have yet to plan.

  • Utilising the space well so as to plant all our seedlings in limited space;
  • Keeping the wood chips on the garden replenished;
  • Finding a local source for more wood chips and a place in the garden to store them;
  • Introducing more herbs into the garden;
  • Being more intentional about companion planting (eg. flowers);
  • Getting a beehive.

You might also like to read:

{Linked up at Natural Family Friday}

Organic Food on a Budget

Organic food on a budget

Why Eat Organic?

Organic food is quite simply more nutritious, more ethical, and safer.  It is higher in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, flavenoids, and organic food is grown in nutrient-dense soil with sustainable practices.  It doesn’t contain harmful pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners, genetically-engineering, and the like.  It is also fair trade and ethically produced.

One of the things to consider when weighing up the cost of eating organic food, is the actual cost in eating conventional food, as the true cost is measured in terms of every part of the chain – the cultivation, the effects on farmers and local economies, the manufacture, the distribution, and the waste.  We are not only responsible for what we put in our bodies and discard at the end of the day, but also for the additional load we have contributed to the environment via our purchasing.  Something to think about. 🙂

If you have to compromise somewhere, buy the spray-free alternatives or visit the EWG’s list, ‘Clean 15’, for the things you can buy with the lowest pesticide residues (although these still won’t be as nutrient dense as their organic counterparts).

eggs smallAs you are deciding how you can afford to eat organic food, consider that by making this choice you putting the highest quality nutrients into your body and ensuring the best health for you and that of your family.  It may mean making some budget cuts elsewhere, but it is a worthy investment if you can take steps towards greater health.

For our family, we very rarely rent movies or eat out, and have started get better about being more creative with our gift-giving – which has been a little beyond our means at times!  It also means we simply go without things sometimes.  But we have chosen to make organic food part of our family’s quest towards what we believe is responsible stewardship of our bodies and the environment.

Where To Start

First things first – you’ll need to do some research.  Find (preferably) local sources for fresh produce, meat, dairy, and other sources for your pantry goods, many of which can be found online.

It may be stating the obvious a bit, but I’ll say it anyway: you’ll also want to write up a detailed budget worksheet, and see how much you can put towards your groceries each week.  We looked at Dave Ramsay’s helpful resources 10 years ago and still use his suggestions in how we manage our finances.

Turkish market

A beautiful spread of fresh produce at a farmers market

Sourcing Food

  • Find your local farmers markets – turn market day into a fun family day.  Get to know your local growers.  They’re often a super source of wisdom and advice.
  • Find a good fruit and vege box supplier online if you can, which contain seasonable varieties of fruit and/or vegetables. You’ll probably still need to buy the more expensive items that aren’t usually in the boxes.
  • Join a co-op or start one.
  • Start a garden, or at the very least, plant herbs such as parsley, coriander, mint and sage. You could do these in planter box off the window sill.

Buying Tips

  • Buy in bulk (eg. flour, nuts, legumes)
  • Avoid buying processed snacks and simply make your own.  It just takes some creativity.
  • Buy specialty items online (usually for much cheaper) for things such as salt, spices, cacao products, bee products, sea vegetables, etc.
  • Ditch buying the organic versions of processed foods, such as boxed cereals and bars as these are not usually nutritious anyway and can quickly bump up your grocery bill.
  • If you can’t get organic meat, eggs and dairy, always buy grass-fed versions.

Preparing and storing food

  • Make bone broths from chicken frames and beef bones that are left over from your meals.  You could also buy them for next to nothing from your meat supplier.  Freeze tons of the stuff!
  • Buy fresh produce in season, and freeze, ferment, make simple sauces to add to meals and freeze these also.
  • Source simple and nutritious recipes for your meals, print, and store in your recipe folder
  • Create meal plans, so you are only shopping for exactly what you need that week.  If you have some room in the budget, stock up on pantry items.
  • Don’t throw anything out – I use all my leftovers somehow.  Vegetables can be diced and added with eggs and cheese for a frittata; small amounts of meat can be turned into stirfries and rice dishes; ratatouille can be blended and turned into a sauce.  Try putting your ingredients into your search engine and see what you come up with.

You might like to consider making a gradual transition into making the switch to organic food.

One of the things I noticed with us, is that I tried replacing ‘apples for apples’ in the beginning, until eventually (after a few years) our eating habits themselves changed and as a result our overall grocery bill dropped.

Did I miss anything?  Comment below!

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Vegetables – designed by the Creator for YOU!

Things are a little full around here at the moment, so not much time to blog or do anything else for that matter. 🙂  But I did want to share something I watched last year that I found very inspiring.

capsicums

Dr Terry Wahls was diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which is said to have no cure.  She became wheelchair bound but began to study nutritional therapy and successfully cured herself of MS.

Watch this inspirational TED talk (about 18m) to see how she did it – and yes, she ate a lot of vegetables.  Here’s the same talk in 2 different places, in case you have trouble getting it to work in either:

On the subject of vegetables, here’s something that I came across some years ago on how some fruits and vegetables resemble parts of the body that they bring benefit to.  You will love this.

God’s Pharmacy – YouTube clip

Maybe you can think of some others.  Here’s a couple I came up with not mentioned in the clip above:

Ginger – resembles the stomach and digestive tract.  We know that is helps settle nausea and soothe inflammation in digestion.

ginger

Kiwifruit – I think when cut, it looks like the heart and capillaries going out from the centre.  Kiwifruit are a good source of Vitamin C, which we know is key to heart health.

kiwifruit

Banana – I found this one mentioned online: eating a banana will put a smile on your face. It contains tryptophan which converts in digestion into a neurotransmitter called serotonin, the mood regulating chemical in the brain.  Brilliant.

banana

I love how God’s fingerprints are evident in his created world.  He is the ultimate Mastermind.  I also love how I don’t have to think so hard to remember what fruit or vegetable adds what benefit to which part of my body – it is literally right in front of my eyes.

That same scripture from a recent post comes to mind again:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:20

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.

meslun

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.

seedling

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

Back to Eden – Small Beginnings

Our humble garden with its recently added cover.

Our humble garden with its recently added cover.

We consider ourselves fairly good gardeners, and have spent considerable time over the last few years developing our small plot in our urban rented home, having put in organic soil and compost and purchased organic seedlings from the local garden centre to get us started.  The next step was to purchase packets of organic heritage seeds and we have successfully grown many different plants in our patch this way. There is something very satisfying about growing your food from seed.

More recently, we’ve begun to save seed from our harvest, and enjoyed the learning curve of the different ways to cultivate seed from plants.  Some are very simple, such as pumpkins and kale, and others have a little more knack, such as tomatoes. You might consider us a little more dedicated than the average urban-dweller, although we’ve found there’s a lot of work involved in keeping the plants healthy when not using sprays and such, not to mention the amount of water our garden has required.

So when our good friends forwarded us a link to watch the online film Back to Eden, we soaked it up like eager beavers and were left feeling very excited about the possibilities, not just for our own small patch but also for many others.  In fact, we’d like to see widespread transformation of thousands of communities using these principles, as people seek to become re-connected to the land and the natural processes that have existed since ‘In the beginning, God…’.  The knowledge given to us via this Film fed right into our hearts desire we already have to steward the gift of life that the Lord has given us with greater revelation and an increased sense of co-operation with Him.

Imagine enjoying the bounty of your garden without the tilling and toiling that most of us have come to expect.  Imagine letting nature do what it does best itself, without our constant interference.

Curious?  Let me tell you a little more about this simple and profound film.

Paul Gautschi takes us on a journey through his garden and demonstrates the power of reconnecting with the simple rhythms and cycles in nature – those that take place without the involvement of people.  He encourages us to go out to where nature hasn’t been disturbed, look what is taking place, then copy it.  It is simply our task to co-operate with creation, adapt the principles to our own environment, and in the process, listen to how God leads us in the journey!

Back to Eden

The parts of this film that have particularly left their imprint on us:

  • At the Fall, we lost our connection to our Creator, and as a result, began to till the land.
  • Tending to our garden should not feel like toil.  If it does, then something isn’t right so listen to how the Lord leads you as you seek to apply these things to your environment.
  • God reveals something of His nature and character in the nature’s cycle of life: Romans 1:20 says: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
  • It’s all about the covering – find a local source for wood chips, collect grass clippings, save your own mulch from leaves etc, and keep your hay or straw (with no seeds) if you have it.
  • Over time you will have an increasing yield and have to do less and less. That’s one of the best bits. 🙂

Once you have watched the film, visit the ‘how-to’ on the website and arm yourself with the knowledge to put in a garden of your own, or transform your existing garden.

The Film also covers soil preparation, weeds, irrigation, crop rotation and everything you need to know about applying the covering to your garden or orchard.

Next time I post, I’ll write how we have begun to transform our garden and how it’s all going so far.  We’re excited!

Please leave a comment if you watch the film and are inspired to do the same!

Watch the Film here.