Back to Eden – No Till, No Water, No Fertilizer, No Thinning, No Weeding, No Rotation, No Pesticides

We are past the coldest days of our mild winter here in Chico and I am recovering from a sinus migrane and a cold. Spring is around the corner and already the days are warming up.

This got us into a mad rush to prepare for the growing season. We have started all manner of seedlings and have been daydreaming about what to do with the yard around where our tiny home will be. I will write about our plan soon when its concrete.

We have a pile of wood chips sitting on a corner that hasn’t seen much use. I’ve used it to mulch around the fruit trees but have shied from using it in the vegetable garden, due to the overwhelming consensus among the discussion boards on the internet that wood chips would drain the soil of Nitrogen. That is, until I saw the movie “Back to Eden”.

In it, Paul Gautschi, an organic gardener and devout Christian, talks with much enthusiasm about his amazingly simple method of layering 12 inches of wood chips over his orchards and 6 inches over his vegetable beds every few years, like a simplified form of lasagna bed gardening. Among his claims are that the method amounts to:

  1. No Tilling – the soil is instead conditioned by adding layers of wood chips and allowing them to decompose. The resultant composted soil quality resists compaction and holds moisture readily.
  2. No Watering – the wood chips form a thick mulch layer that keeps the soil moist. After his vegetables are sprouted and established he stops watering them. His orchards survive only on rainwater.
  3. No Fertiliser – the soil balances itself naturally after a period, and is continuously enriched by the decomposing wood chips. As the wood chips are layered on the surface and are not incorporated into the soil, the soil’s nitrogen is not taken up by the decomposition process.
  4. No Thinning – his carrots and potatoes naturally push and space themselves apart because the resultant conditioned soil texture is so amazingly good.
  5. No weeding – actually he does weed, but the weeds come out easily for the same reason as (3).
  6. No Crop Rotation – he’s been growing his potatoes in the same spot for years with no issues!
  7. No Pesticide – his plants are so healthy they resist damage from infection and pests.

It does sound too good to be true but, after watching the movie in amazement and marvelling at his productive, easily worked vegetable garden, I soon found myself googling for gardeners’ experiences of using this method for their gardens. The feedback has been pretty positive.

Can gardening really be so simple? We are keen on trying.

But first, we will need more wood chips!

Watch the movie here.

2 thoughts on “Back to Eden – No Till, No Water, No Fertilizer, No Thinning, No Weeding, No Rotation, No Pesticides

  1. Thanks for this article. I had the very same experience. Last summer, our neighbour hired a tree service to cut down five huge poplar trees. The owner of the business offered to give us as many wood chips as we wanted for our gardens, saying it made excellent mulch. I did some research online and then politely *declined* because everything I’d read said that adding wood chips to the soil would tie up too much nitrogen. Plus, we have always tilled the gardens in the spring to incorporate compost and to try to make our soil lighter and softer.

    I discovered Back to Eden a few weeks ago, watched with great interest, and am now kicking myself for not having accepted those wood chips! I would love to experiment with the Back to Eden method this summer. It looks so simple and let’s face it, Paul Gautschi’s gardens look clean, lush, and abundant.

    If you try this with your garden, please post lots of updates! 🙂

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