Tag Archives: Sustainable Permaculture

Our ‘Back to Eden’ Spring Garden


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.

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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).


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.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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{Linked up at Natural Family Friday}

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

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.