“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” -Matthew 11:28-30
No More Tilling With BTE!
For years Barb and I have had a backyard garden. We’ve tried many different methods and only one has made our gardening experience less back-breaking and more successful… Back to Eden gardening (a.k.a. BTE)! In fact, BTE saved our garden this year. If you’re an experienced gardener or just getting started, then Back to Eden is for you. Actually, it’s for everyone!
BTE gardening has become really popular in the gardening world and there are multiple reasons why. First and foremost, there is no more tilling with this method. You heard me right “NO MORE TILLING”. If that doesn’t make you want to try this method then keep reading I have many more for ya.
In the Beginning…
Before I get into the pros/cons of this method and how it saved our garden. Let’s go over a quick rundown of Back to Eden.
BTE was started by a man named Paul Gautschi on his 5-acre property. Paul will tell you that he had prayed to find a better way to break the hardpan and water his garden. While walking through the forest on his property God gave him the answer. Paul stopped by the side of a tree and after brushing aside inches of leaves, pine needles, and plant debris he found a rich, soft, and damp soil beneath. With this knowledge in hand, he began to change the soil of his garden and orchard. Which we all know is the key to a great garden, it all comes down to the soil. Paul soon sold his tiller and never went back to modern methods of farming or gardening.
If you’ve never heard of Back to Eden then I’m sure you are asking… “What exactly is BTE?”
Well put simply, it is what some of you may have heard or read as being called the mulch method. Yep, it’s that simple but I’m not talking about the store-bought mulch. That stuff has everything you need taken out of it and some even have chemicals put in. No, what I talking about is the woodchips you get from tree services.
“WHAT!?!” you say.
That’s right, the free stuff from your local tree service with all the leaves, bark, wood chips, etc. in it. And if you’re thinking of tilling it into the dirt the answer is… “NO MORE TILLING!”
How To Start…
Back to Eden is pretty easy and simple to set up in your garden space. In my post “Insanely Easy Raised Garden Bed” I showed a simple and easy setup for a garden bed. Actually, I had created this for our BTE garden. I just didn’t have the wood chips at the time.
Once you have a space for your garden all you have to do is cover it with four inches or more of wood chips, usually done in the fall. If you wish to amend and/or add compost to the soil do it before adding wood chips. It’s not a necessity to do so, but it can help the first year of gardening.
Another option to help your garden space if it has grass or weeds is to lay down a few layers of newspaper before the wood chips. Again, it’s not needed with a Back to Eden garden, but helpful in the beginning.
Last, is to just plant! Pull back the wood chips in rows or spaces you wish to plant. Plant your seeds and water like you do every year. Leave the chips pulled back until you start to see sprouts. When you do, carefully push the chips around your plants to cover the soil, walk away, and let God take over.
Besides some minor weeding, there’s not much else for you to do.
Now that you have a general idea of what BTE is let me go into the benefits. Oh, and I’m sure you’re asking how it saved our garden too. I’ll get to that as I explain the benefits.
- As I mentioned above the Back to Eden method helps keep weeds under control by creating a barrier between weed seeds and the soil. This does not mean you won’t get any but that there will be much less of them to pull out. Speaking on that point, pulling out weeds in a BTE garden is so much easier.
- BTE helps promote worms to come into the soil of the garden space to break up your hardpan. The worms also help aerate the soil. Which is one of the reasons that weeds come right out with little to no effort.
- Again… NO MORE TILLING! Sell your rototiller you no longer need it. Tilling mulch into the soil is not a good thing for gardens. Let the worms do all the work for you and not kill them when you till the soil.
- Adding an amendment is easy. Just cast it across the wood chips and allow the rain or your watering to do the work.
- Doing the Back to Eden method also helps balance the soil’s ph. A balanced ph allows you to grow just about anything you want anywhere in the garden. Just because a plant can grow in a more acidic soil does not mean it should and vice versa.
- As the mulch breaks down it is adding nutrients to the soil and creating new soil in the garden. Hello! It’s composting on the surface of the garden. That also means your garden is getting a compost tea every time it rains… or you water it. Which brings me to the last point.
- The wood chips not only create a barrier for weeds but the sun as well. By doing this it keeps the soil moist even on the hottest of days. Paul will tell you that he never waters his garden. He just lets the rain do it for him and because of the mulch layer on his soil he can. This is what saved our garden this year.
Let me explain that last bullet a little more thoroughly.
This year has been an exceptionally hot and dry one for us in Western Washington. I had to water my garden close to twice a day to keep the plants alive. That is until I finally got some wood chips to place in the garden. Even though I had already started growing some of my plants, I carefully went in and put 4 inches of wood chips in the garden. Do ya know what happened?
My watering went from twice a day to keep plants alive to about once every two weeks and if it rained I’d postpone the watering for another two weeks. You heard that right!
Not only did I start watering less, but my plants started to grow like crazy. They eventually took over more space than I had planned for. We also were able to grow plants that we had very little success with and have some plants rebound back to health. If that’s not a gardening success I don’t know what is.
I’d say that with less work, no chemicals, easier weeding, plus healthier plants Back to Eden is a winner in the gardening world. But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself and let me know how your experience was.
With that, I’ll leave you with two final thoughts. “Work smarter not harder!” and “Science is not always the smarter way.”