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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.