Monday, July 22, 2013

Back to Eden

Your gardening concerns in the comments the other week were overwhelming to say the least.  I'm with you on many of them (blasted squash vine borers and poke weed) and I feel your pain!  I so wish I could give you all the perfect answers for each and every problem adjusted for each of your climates and growing conditions. I even started drafting a post to address them the best I could.   But, you know what?  This growing of our food which was initially meant to be a breeze (think Garden of Eden) became part of the curse.  It's not meant to be easy, friends.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it

    all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Genesis 3: 17b-19

I'm going to be pretty bold here and say that we deserve what we get- even though I don't like it.  It is a constant reminder, not that we were naughty but, that choosing our own way comes with consequences- some seen and some unseen.  It's a reminder to me that I want to choose God's ways- not out of fear but out of appreciation that despite our human screw-up-y-ness, God wants to reconcile us to Him- draw us back to Him so one day we can live in His presence and -can you imagine it?!- walk through a garden with Him. It's not about defeat- it's about hope.

Will we ask these gardening questions then?  I don't know...but I bet it won't seem nearly as important to us as they are now.  Once we recognize this, I believe we can take steps to better our experience as long as we don't expect those nasty garden pests to start weeding for us.  Wait.  Maybe that's what heaven is like?! Ha!  Now that I would love to see.


When we (Jamey and I) have a gardening dilemma, we usually search online- specifically on the Mother Earth News website. If you just search "Mother Earth News" you'll end up on their magazine subscription website.  If you want to find an article online, search in this way "Mother Earth News squash vine borers" (for example) and you'll get better results.  Mother Earth News is an excellent resource of organic gardening tips and solutions.

Speaking of Mother Earth News, reader Christine emailed me a few weeks ago and told me about a documentary that she read about on their website called "Back to Eden".  She said she thought we might be blessed by it.  The documentary is available to watch online FREE here.

Jamey and I watched it a couple weeks ago and it rocked our gardening world. It's about the gardening practices of Paul Gautsch and much of the film is Paul explaining gardening revelations he's had that have lead to some pretty incredible results.  Paul is a Christian and his faith is entrenched in his gardening.  He quotes a lot of scripture and speaks readily about his prayer life and how He hears God speaking to him. My hope is that even if you don't share Paul's faith, that you will be patient with him and hang in there so you can see what it is that he's doing.

We were practically drooling over this man's garden.  It was almost hard to watch knowing the weeds and other issues that can plague our garden.  And the changes he recommends?  Simple, simple, simple. I think we've been on the right track, but he takes it all one (huge) step further.  Make plans to watch it soon- with the whole family if you like!

You'll be seeing us make some changes to our gardening in the coming years thanks to Paul.   So, if you're not quite ready to jump in, see how it goes for us first.  But I imagine, you'll be pretty inspired, too.

Blessings, friends, as you garden.  As frustrating as it can be, it sure has it's perks- perks I can't imagine living without.


P.S.  For the record, no one asked me to promote Mother Earth News or Back to Eden. Pin It


  1. I have had huge success with companion planting this year. :)

  2. The documentary was very good and Paul G's garden is inspirational. I actually have been unknowingly practicing a similar type of gardening already and have been pretty successful. I don't till the soil and use lots of mulch. I acutally use slightly raised beds in most places, but maybe I'll run my beds together and create something like shown in the video. I agree that it's so much easier to maintain this way although I do find that I have to pull weeds very infrequently. I also still have some pests (mainly squash bugs, but not too many. I don't have quite the space that Paul G has so garden beds wherever I can work them into the yard seemed like a good idea when I started gardening. I did have a good start with some free wood chip mulch, but I also use rabbit manure and hay that drops under the rabbit cages for mulch as well as straw that we put in the chicken runs. My only issue this year was the fact that we've had monsoon weather here in central NC and sometimes it's been a little too wet with heavy mulch. I had a tomato drown in one spot :-). I've never had this problem before this year. I do still have to water some, but like Paul G, my main reason for gardening this way was a low producing well and weeds. I have set up water barrels at all the house downspouts and I'm working on getting gutters on most of our outbuildings to collect. When you have to lug water around you're really inspired to find ways to keep the soil moist without hauling heavy buckets. I'm not sure I'll ever have the option of never watering (unless we continue to have the unseasonably wet weather we've had this year). I do like this method much better than tilling. I was raised with large tilled gardens and before I started gardening in beds my husband kept a small tilled garden with mainly tomatoes and peppers. It always started off well, but within a few weeks was full of weeds and so unsightly that I couldn't stand it. I would weed and they would just come back. It was never ending. It also dryed up quickly and with only 3 gallons a minute from our well it was either water the garden or wash our bodies and clothes. I really like not stinking and wearing clean clothes so...

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I keep bees as well so I've throughly enjoyed your bee adventures.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences- I love hearing what readers are doing in their gardens. :-)

  3. This is our second year trying "Back to Eden" methods. We have had huge success so far! I hope you like it as much as we do!

  4. Chris and I watched this video about a year and a half ago and it rocked out gardening world, too. So amazing...matter of fact, I think I need to watch it again.

  5. We were introduced to this video a couple years ago. This is summer number two of implementing it in the garden. Incredible. Hardly any weeds or watering. I have been doing a Garden soil mini-series on my blog about this method. Who would have thought gardening could require so little time.

  6. Ok. All I officially want now is a chipper. Paul's methods make sense!

    1. You and me both! It's the perfect Christmas list item, no?

  7. Hi Jane, just talked with my local tree trimmer and he will be dropping off wood chips in the fall when I put my garden to bed. SO glad you were blessed by Back to Eden.


  8. We saw the video the week it was released and at the beginning were thinking Paul was crazy, but by the end we were sold. Then the next week I spoke with Paul on the phone and he is such a God fearing, God Glorifying man that I was blown away.

    We had one huge problem, we are an hour from the nearest tree trimmer and couldn't find a source for wood chips. However one thing Paul told me to always remember was that God would provide and he has. We are using old hay as our covering and it is amazing, even with a drought last year I have always had enough hay given to me to be able to keep about a foot of hay on top all the time! We started covering with Hay in Dec of 2011 and by planting time in March the ground that was rock hard the year before when we tilled was so nice I was able to turn it over a foot deep with a pitch fork.

    We do have to take a few minutes each week to weed, but the soil is so nice that weeding is not a huge task.

    I planted a plant yesterday in our garden and the soil under the hay was soft and moist, almost mud, but 10 feet away in our yard there are cracks that go down about a foot. Another really nice feature of using a covering is that we can work in our garden when it is wet and not get covered in mud.

    I could go on and on, by the point is that this method is amazing!

  9. We were riveted by this documentary last year when we saw it also. We have been practicing to-till gardening (in the vein of Lasagna Gardening the book), but this wood chip gardening seemed awesome for our new endeavor for a permaculture orchard area etc on our new land. We prepared the orchard area last fall and this summer I was looking forward to planting all my annuals in all the space in between apple trees in all the lovely wood mulch.

    I have been a bit disappointed this summer that it didn't take off as I was hoping. A few problems I believe we have encountered so far is that the soil was super compacted after being a hay field for so many years and having tractors running over it. With lasagna gardening you layer things like hay, leaves, grass clippings, etc. and so it is inherently more fluffy and less compact.

    The second problem I believe is that Paul was using "composted" wood chips. I looked this one up on their website once I was realizing that my pea seeds weren't coming up. The wood chips we used were only a couple of months old when we put them on and then only sat all spread out in the orchard over the winter (not a whole lot of composting going on). I don't know how long I would need to compost them to have them be a little more plant friendly.

    Anyway, if anyone has had more experience than me on this, let me know any suggestions etc.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think I remember either from his website or the documentary that the first several year you'd need to dig down enough to reach the soil below because the chips wouldn't have composted enough in that amount of time. Beyond that, the lower layers are broken down enough and the additional layers of chips added to the top are much thinner. You make a very good point, though. Those little seeds need dirt/finely composted chips, not just chips. :-)

  10. My husband and I recently watched Back to Eden and were thinking we were going to try to find wood chips to cover our garden. Until we read this...

    The garden biology that she describes in this post makes sense to me. So now I think we're going to stick with using straw as our cover. This is the first year we've used straw at all, and I've been impressed with how moist the garden has stayed and how few weeds we've seen. It also just looks so much nicer than bare dirt, you know?


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