No Work Gardening! Back to Eden Gardening, and Lasagna gardening are a lot alike. I don't think I could call any of them No Work gardening, just less work or smarter work gardening. I like the idea of doing all the work in the Spring when everyone is excited about gardening and working in the soil after the long Winter. Getting all the hard work done before we are on to other Summer projects around the farm such as making hay, canning, and playing with horses (obviously the most important).
There are as many ways to garden as there are personalities. That is what is so great about gardening.
Today I'd like to share my family's garden. What is currently working for my family is the Back to Eden Gardening method, and it may change as we continue to learn and grow.
A few years ago, we went to a Compost Exchange to learn how to make the highest quality compost for our farm. (We're still working and perfecting that.) While there, the host family shared with us their Back to Eden garden. They had established the Back to Eden garden four years prior and had not had a weed problem in their garden and the few weeds that did grow were easily pulled out.
Wow! An easy weed-free garden! I had to try.
Plus it fits in with our holistic lifestyle and goals.
Working within the confines of nature as God designed it
So what is a Back to Eden Garden?
As you can see in the picture there are four layers to it.
newspaper 3-4 layers thick or cardboard or other biodegradable layers.
compost about 2-4 inches thick.
Wood chips 3-4 inches thick
Manure about an inch thick or slightly composted manure (I like to use compost to make sure that there are no weed seeds)
While I won't say it's a no-work garden, it does cut down on the work tremendously once you get it established. The hardest part is keeping the mulch layer on. We have used old hay, straw, and now switched to using wood chips as the mulch. It still takes some effort to cover the garden but once the mulch is out, it is easy to keep weeds under control.
Drought resistance is a great advantage since you never know what the weather will do. Having that layer of mulch holds in the moisture but also buffers the soil and keeps the plants from getting dirty when it does rain. This helps prevent different types of viruses and pathogens that may be in the soil from getting on your plants and causing problems. The mulch also helps keep the soil at a more stable temperature. Plus now I can go out into the garden right after a rain and not get my shoes full of mud.
No-till and Nutrient-dense go hand in hand. There are some researchers that have found that in the first few inches of soil you have about a ton of animals that are doing some major work microscopically. These microscopic animals set up working relationships that help each other out. Don't get me wrong, it is eat or be eaten down there. They have found that some of these networks can send minerals to a plant up to a mile away. Keeping these networks and establishing more by not tilling your garden is what gives your plants the extra nutrients to keep your plants healthy and keeping you healthier too. Also, interestingly, by having your fruit and vegetables more nutrient-dense, they are less prone to rot giving the fruit or vegetable a longer shelf life.
God's creation usually always has something growing in the soil (no bare ground). I like to relate it to our skin. When you get a scratch, your body covers it up with a scab while new skin grows and heals underneath. Well, weeds are the Earth's scab. Since I do not want weeds, (although some weeds make really good medicine) I need to keep a bandaid on my garden and that is why I use the mulch. You could always have a living mulch by growing a cover crop in your garden, but for me, that has been harder to manage. I like using mulch better.
Last Spring and Summer we ran out of mulch and compost so once again I did a modified version of the Back to Edan Garden. Even with that, we did not have to deal with weeds until the end of Summer and only in the places where we skimped on the mulch.
So once again I am looking out the window dreaming of my perfect weed-free garden that will produce the best-tasting vegetables and the biggest, boldest, most beautiful flowers yet!
"Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?" Luke 12: 27-28