For a minute there, I was starting to wonder about my skills as a gardener.
Very few of my seeds germinated and those that did were off to a rough start. This probably partly due to the fact that the nitrogen in the soil has been locked up where the mulch was added.
Of course there are things that can be done to offset some of the obstacles you will inevitably encounter with this type of garden style. I’ve come to the realization that I will need to modify this gardening style to suit the unpredictable Colorado climate since it will likely take twice as long for the wood chips to decompose vs. a back to eden garden planted in the pacific northwest where moisture abounds.
I’ve also concluded that this medium is not the best to directly sow seeds. Most of my seeds did not germinate so I tried a couple of variations on this model. Now I need to preface this with some information that might have some part in the reason why. I decided that this year I was not going to buy any new seeds, so I emptied out most of my seed inventory which spanned as early as 2006 to 2013. I’m not sure how likely it might have been that my seeds were no longer viable, but I don’t exclude that possibility. Unfortunately, my other friend Evan who also employed the back to eden garden method experienced similar challenges as I did.
The seedlings are rather flimsy, stunted and have had a hard time getting established. If you are going to create a back to eden garden you should be aware that it will not be all daisies and roses the first year, just prepare yourself mentally for that realization and you at least won’t be disappointed as I have been.
That is not to say it was all in vain. Because we have had an exceedingly moist spring with temperatures hovering below intolerably hot as they normally are at around this time of the year, I do anticipate having a rather generous crop once the seedlings get past a certain point of growth. They are struggling and in the meanwhile, getting nipped at by bugs, snails, birds and squirrels so if they can survive the trial period, things should hopefully take off.
What would I recommend to those trying to establish a back to eden garden, or how would I modify my method if I had it to do over? Firstly I would have still laid the foundation of woodchips as I had done last fall, but I would have tried to mix in a nitrogen rich substrate with it such as horse manure or freshly cut grass clippings to balance out the ratio of carbon to nitrogen. I think that would have been a good idea to at least get everything established.
Secondly, the areas of the garden that have been better off are where I double dug rows directly into the mulched areas, overturning the mulch and exposing the rich soil beneath. I then directly planted into that soil upon having mixed it with the rock dust. The seedlings in these areas are doing significantly better than the other parts of the garden.
I also have an area directly beneath two large pine trees that were not too successful. I suspect it is due in part to the fact that the soil there is rather acidic and as my friend Whitney pointed out, the shallow root systems of those trees can basically take over the area and pull all moisture away from the plants.
I’m probably going to remove have the garden boxes from that location, the two I will leave there are going to be double tiered and I will fill it with compost and woodchips next year and then plant flowers in that section of the yard to attract pollinators since I have very little faith that I will manage to get vegetables established in that part of the yard.
It’s totally ok because I already have my hands full with the rest of the garden, trust me, some flowers would also help brighten the place up.
Next year what I will probably do is create rows of mulch and in between them I will fill in compost/soil/manure mixture where I will germinate the seedlings an them I’ll mulch around them once they have established themselves. This should hopefully result in a higher yield and will help jumpstart the process in addition to providing new material and fodder for the bacteria and fungus inhabiting the domain.
What I have noticed however, is the increase in insects and wildlife on my property. Seems that with the enhanced moisture retaining qualities of the mulch and all the organic matter available for consumption, my little piece of land has become a rich landscape of diversity.
I’m excited to see how this property evolves as the mulch breaks down and the plants grow. Everyday on my lunch break, I spend some time watching everything grow through their varying stages and I wait and wait, patiently for each new plant to make it’s appearance. I can’t wait until things are large enough to start harvesting.