Regular readers probably remember that I have put into play a Back-to-Eden Garden. I can summarize the approach fairly easily: Smother your proposed garden area with wood chips. The wood chips will kill everything underneath it and decompose, leaving you with lush loamy soil. You just have to pull back the wood chips and plant. It’s that easy.
The premise seemed sound, so I went to work on it last Fall. Starting in September, I started bringing in dump truck loads of wood chips from a local tree service. By early October, I had the entire area covered with wood chips, plus piles of leaves/grass clippings from my neighbor’s huge lawn. By mid-November, the wood chip layer was about six inches thick. By late December, it was at least nine inches thick.
I started digging into the wood chips last weekend. The results? Not pleasant, not pleasant at all.
1. It was arduous to pull back the wood chips. I’m not the world’s fittest man, but I can deadlift 125% of my own weight multiple times and ride a stationary bike ten miles in 30 minutes. Again, no iron man, but neither a cripple. The wood chips were extremely difficult to pull back. After five minutes, I was a sweaty mess. After 45 minutes, I limped back inside to take a nap. I then came back and worked on it for another 30 minutes, until I had cleared away a planting area: about 30 square feet.
2. The wood chips didn’t kill all the grass, and even some of the newspaper hadn’t decomposed. My grass had definitely been hurt by the wood chips, but there were still hundreds/thousands of green blades. That’s hardly the result I expected (see), plus it meant I couldn’t plant without hoeing up the turf.
3. The wood chips didn’t decompose. They were discolored and wet, but they were very solid and definitely didn’t leave behind anything I could plant in.
The bottom line: This gardening method would appear to add nothing to the gardening method people have been using for years: roto-till some yard, sow, then mulch heavily. I would’ve gotten the exact same result if I had merely followed that approach, with far (far, far, far) less effort.
Now, might the wood chips decompose over the next year or two, leaving behind the humus/loam? Sure, that’s believable. And since I’m already stuck with this method, I’m going to ride it out and see where it takes me. My only objection is: Nowhere do people mention that this is, in reality, an 18-month project . . . or maybe a 30-month or 42-month project.
I would also point out that I went to their Facebook site and posted a pointed, yet very polite, message, that laid out the same objections you see here. The response? It got deleted. I find that troubling. They apparently don’t want any naysayers out there. I appreciate that it might be rude of me to post something negative on someone else’s Facebook page, but I honestly thought they’d appreciate a counter-perspective based on first-hand experience.
Apparently not.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList
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