"Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter allows you to remember who you are. Simplicity doesn’t change who you are, it brings you back to who you are."

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Lissa over at Lissa's Garden Journey posted a link about Back To Eden , a movie about a fellow in the Pacific NW and his theory on "wood chip" gardening that he's developed over the past 15 years.


It's a beautifully made movie but a little long at 1 1/2 hrs.  He gets a bit repetitive and could have wrapped things up sooner but it was worth the time I spent watching it.  (*Saturday turned out very cold with the gusting winds.  SM managed to mow the lawn and I started to prune some rose bushes but we called a day and took our frozen buns back inside.) 

There was a lot to take away from the movie but in retrospect I ultimately feel that if I'd been gardening the same patch of land for 15 years, adding rich composting elements to the soil along the way, observing my results and then having a few years of a "eureka" garden...Well, I'd likely be shouting from the rooftops too.

The fun thing to me about gardening is all of the opinions that are out there.  Lots of variables.  Sharing what works and what doesn't with each other.  Whenever I see videos or hear opinions on a new "miracle" for gardeners, I always take it with a grain of salt.  "Well...maybe" is my thought process.  I like to research a bit, dig a little deeper so to speak.  Is it really the miracle you think it is?  For example, I found this link at Garden Rant with comments about what people think about adding wood chips to your garden.  Who knew it was such a hot topic? 

Now please don't think I'm poo-pooing his theory.  Not at all.  It's obvious that he feels passionately about his method.  And his results speak for themselves.  But I've learned that to embrace just one "theory" is a dangerous thing.  Common sense must be considered.  I did like that he addressed the fact that you just can't toss a huge pile of wood chips on the ground, toss in some seeds and expect something to happen.  His wood chip garden took years to produce.  He shares with us his building blocks of a successful garden. 

Now, I don't want to wait years before I get good results. So while I will consider his methods for building up the future of my garden, I do need to consider right now too.

In life, I believe that moderation is a good thing.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I try to tell myself this daily because I DO tend to commit whole hog to something I like.  (I could eat popcorn everyday of the rest of my life.  Do I do it?  No.  But wait... I do manage to eat ice cream everyday though.  Ha, shoots that theory in the foot doesn't it?)

This year is the start of my third year gardening.  I still consider myself a "newbie" in many ways but I have learned a few things in a short period of time.  

So I thought I'd share with you a few of my personal list of reminders.  Almost a chant, that I make myself say over and over.

Try not to fuss too much.  I've discovered (much to my shock and amazement) that if I just let things be, it turns out all right.  This is hard for me as I'm still breaking a lifetime of habits.  Tomato cages and pruning, Sven dust, compost piles...everything is up for review.  The less I interfere the better off things are.

Go organic.  Well, Duh.  Just the thought of applying those chemicals we used to use as a child gives me the willies.  Funny that I STILL eat non organic things though...

Lasagna just makes sense.  I know that everyone's got an opinion.  From "till" to "no till" gardens, raised beds vs straw bale gardening, double dig vs lasagna.  I think you can mix and match like I do but both SM and I see the sense in a "no till or lasagna method".  Time will tell of course but that's where we're heading.

Quality mattersI will never again buy seeds from a big box store.  GMO?  No, Thanks.  My first year I planted all big box seeds and the return was pitiful.  The second year I bought from Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek.  BIG difference. 

These are just a few of my lessons learned.  Do you have your own "chant" that you'd like to share?


  1. Last year I discovered that using wood chips as mulch draws nitrogen from the soil.

    Who knew? My reasoning was the forests have a plentiful amount of wood lying on the surface, so what would it harm if I add wood chip to define some paths. Guess they don't grow vegetables in forests though, so the above disadvantage is probably correct.

  2. Just keep adding the good stuff!

  3. Hear, hear! Especially the organic and no-till parts!

  4. Key take away points from the movie for me was not so much that you should cover you garden with wood chips but that you should “cover your soil” and water retention. I think it was unfortunate that he uses the word “wood chips” over maybe using “mulch” to describe what he is doing because it can be misunderstood. It is very clear in the movie the “wood chips” he is talking about is the waste from tree trimming and another garden waste that is put through a chipper which means you get pine needles, leaves, and flowers as well as the wood in all different sizes and shapes. These elements will in fact feed the soil over time as they decompose just like what we see in nature in the forests and grasslands.

    The woodchips or bark that we use to fill our paths will not work and that is pointed out in the movie by a gardener that tried it and failed. He also failed because he dug the chips into the soil which will in fact rob the soil of nitrogen while they are decomposing. This is all very well known and pointed out.

    Yes he has been gardening in this garden for 15 years but it did not take that long for him to see results. In fact he is says the garden is getting better and better over time with little to no work by just covering the soil and letting nature do what it does best by feeding it’s self and conserving moisture.

    There was one family that did a test garden and applied these rules in the Fall and planted the next Spring. They also failed because they planted in the “wood chips” and did not give the seeds contact with the soil. They tried again in a different garden covering grass with a layer of newspaper, mushroom compost and then the wood chips. They planted the same week this time moving the wood chips to get to the mushroom compost. They pulled the wood chips up around the plants once they were big enough had good results. If they continue to follow the rules laid out in the movie the garden should continue to improve with each season.

    I think the lasagna method is much like what he is doing in the way of feeding the soil and I think you will see great results from it as well. My biggest issue in my garden is water. I would like to try the method in the movie to help retain water in my garden so I can water less. I would also have to get use to not turning over my soil which I think will be easier to get away from if I have good soil to start with.

  5. Agreed Lissa...All very good points. I actually thought I heard a wood chipper going at it in the neighborhood and hustled out to beg the "chips" off of them. Turns out it was just a commercial lawnmower making all that racket.