The fresh smell of flowers and sprouts awaken the senses as you step out into your garden. The rain drops on the leaves of trees and plants smile as their thirst is quenched. These are all sign and wonders of nature, the environment that God created to be enjoyed. Its the earth working together as growth happens. You may have been growing your food or flowers for a long time, or maybe this is the year you want to try your hand at it. Wherever you are at, this article will give you some tips and a different perspective on gardening.
Getting connected with your creator
Gardening has so many parallels in scripture. Sowing & reaping, planting a seed & harvesting, weeds & bearing fruit. Everything in nature can teach us a lesson, if we let it. I'm amazed at how things grow in nature. Trees & plants in the wild don't have to be planted, watered, or cared for. God provides the rain and covering needed.
In Psalm 19:1-3, it says," The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them."
It's simply amazing how nature has all the things it needs to survive and flourish.
The Back To Eden Gardening method consists of steps. We will go into depth on each of them, but first, lets talk about permaculture and gardening. Permaculture is based on the care of earth, people, and the future (surplus of food). It is about creating diversity so insects and animals can't wipe out produce! It's looking at how you can use the space/soil you have and adding to it so the ground becomes more fertile and restored. At our homestead, we use a combination of ground beds and raised beds.
First things first, decide where to put your garden.
If you already have a garden space you can use that, or start with an area with good sun and use that (any where that has grass, dirt, rocks, etc). It's always good to remove more grass or weeds, but you can do this back to eden garden right on top if you want! Then comes the covering.
The covering is one of the most important things.
The ground is not dead, it's a living organism, with tons of microbes and insects to help nourish and balance the growing environment. As all living organisms, God has designed and made it so it is always covered with something. It's about the covering! Resist the temptation to till in your garden beds. You are putting down a decomposable weed barrier. The weed barrier also acts as a covering that is breathable and will break down over time. You can use items such as newspaper (i prefer not to because of ink), cardboard, kraft paper rolls (my favorite), or anything that will break down for the health of the soil, yet help with weeds. If you are looking for a cheap way, try calling your local newspaper companies or recycling centers and see if you can get free news papers and cardboard! If you are using newspaper, cover with 2-3 sheets thick. When I use the kraft paper, I only have to do one layer thick. Same as with cardboard.
Adding the next layer, compost.
After you have laid your weed barrier, you will add compost! Add it 3-4 inches thick in the area. You can use organic compost that is bagged or in a bulk truck load. This can be a combination of manure ( chicken or goat we prefer), grass clippings, leaves, vegetation, tree branches, etc that has been composted to a lovely loose compost to work with. Compost will provide many nutrients and make it's own compost tea, essentially, when it rains. You can also add soil if you want. Remember, over time everything will feed into the soil below.
Adding the protective layer
When you have your soil/compost down, it's time to add the wood chips. Composted wood chips are the best as they will break down quicker, but regular wood chips work too! This is what we had available to us. Over time the wood chips will break down and provides nutrients to the soil. Each year you will add a layer of it. You want the wood chips layer to be 3-5 inches thick. It seems like a lot, but if you don't weeds can come up. When you are looking for wood chips, it's best to find some that is the whole tree used (bark, leaves, and branches). No matter where you live, apply some kind of covering. If you don't have wood chips, use a combination of straw, grass clippings free of weeds, leaves from the fall raking, etc. The best time to do a back to eden garden set up is in the fall for the next year. In creation, nature drops its needles and leaves in the fall for covering for the winter. You will also not have to fertilize as much if you do it this way. If you are using composted wood chips, you may use them right away as they had some time to break down.
Organic fertilizer or manure.
After you have added your three layers and it's in the spring or summer, add a dusting of organic manure or fertilizer before planting!
Planting your seeds & plants
If using raw wood chips, pull them back a couple inches before planting so you don't put your seeds in the wood chips. You want to get them into the soil/compost. Allow your seeds to come up and sprout before putting wood chips around the base of the plants. I love planting starter plants because I can then put the wood chips around the base of the plant instead of waiting. We use both seed and plants in our gardens.
Genesis 1:11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.
Genesis 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."
When picking which kind of seeds or plants, we always choose organic or heirloom. These have not been genetically modified (GMOs). Heirloom seeds are able to produce for generations to come! Some companies we like are: Johnny's selected seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Jung Seed, Eden Brothers, Heaven's Harvest Heirloom seeds, and local farms.
Nourish new growth
Once you have your seeds or plants in the garden, it's time to water and nourish them! Water your garden regularly so it gets established, it will take a bit to get to the point where it doesn't need as much water.You will be able to tell when you garden needs water, just feel the compost or soil underneath. Eventually, when there is too much water the wood chips displace it and where there is not enough, they retain, just like in nature.
Add in organic fertilizers like Neptune's organic fish fertilizer (my favorite), organic blood or bone meal, or other organic fertilizers. When you see your leaves of vegetables turning yellow, your plants are nitrogen deficient. Add in some fertilizer to give them the nutrients they need. In the beginning years of your back to eden garden, before the wood chips gets broken down, you will need to fertilize. As time goes on you will need less, and then pretty soon, none!
Psalm 65:9-11 "You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance."
Psalm 1:3 "They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do."
Reap a harvest and reapply a covering
Once your garden is growing and you start to have fruit or vegetables, the harvest is bountiful! The patience and hard work has paid off. You get to reap the benefits of your hard work and care for your garden. As your garden grows, you will have some weeds pop up, but don't despair! When you get weeds in your back to eden garden, they are very easy to remove. The roots and all come out. You will have less as well then you would a traditional garden. Once the season is over and you clean up your garden, it's time to reapply a covering. Add some more wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, to help cover for the winter months. Over the year it will break down and add in more nutrients!
A few things to note:
*Wood chips are a great covering, however in some places they can attract slugs ( where is it really wet). Using organic slug control, having ducks around, and using plants instead of seeds help get rid of slugs! We personally don't have a big problem with them.
*There are some weeds, but not many compared to traditional gardens! Weeds in back to eden gardens pull out very easily and don't get a chance to dig roots deep. Your plants and seeds however, get to send their roots down deep and produce abundant growth.
*Wood chips over time will conserve water so you wont have to water as often!
*Wood chips take time to break down so make sure to fertilize the first year or two years so that your plants don't lose nitrogen.
Over time you will be getting a higher and higher yield with less and less input.
It's a life long rewarding way to garden for you and your family for generations to come. Eventually it will get to the point where you will barely have to weed and water and nature will take care of the rest. We are about 3 years into our gardens and still establishing new ones from this year. We can see the difference between them and our traditional garden. Our traditional garden currently has so many weeds and our back to eden ones, not many at all! The key is balance and layering. Taking care to cover and protect the soil and plants. Nourishing and watering when needed. You will learn much through experience and mistakes but you will gain so much more in the end.
Spend time outside and enjoy the fruit of your labor!
As you begin or continue your garden experience, don't be afraid of mistakes! You will learn each year something new. It's a life long experience, growing your own food. Something for generations to come and enjoy! You can even start with just a pot on your deck, a raised bed, or a bigger garden plot. You will see progress if you take the time to care for it and enjoy it. Enjoy growing food and other plants where you live out in nature!