First Eden Experiment Update

About 6 weeks ago, I filled you in on a new gardening concept from a movie called Back to Eden. You can read all about it in my post Experimenting with Eden. Since then, we've noted some interesting aspects of this gardening style, some that are good, and some, not so good. Here's the list.

1. As promised, the soil does stay much moister now than without mulch.

2. The worms LOVE the new layer of mulch, and are now evident in astounding numbers. In fact, I can scarcely sink a trowel into the earth without uprooting a half dozen fat crawlers.

3. The weeds are no where near as bad as last year, with the exception of our old friend Perennial Bindweed. This European invasive weed has been known to bubble asphalt driveways, so it's no surprise a 6 inch layer of mulch hasn't slowed it down. Even the bindweed is easier to pull though in the mulch.

Potato patch
4. The potatoes and onions are happy and prolific in the mulch. The movie claims that no mounding is necessary for potatoes using the "Eden" method, but that remains to be seen. I was pleased to discover though, that my potatoes are strongly out performing the ones at the nearby demonstration gardens.

Yellow onions from sets
5. Only a few rows of my direct-sown seeds have emerged. Of those, only one or two are thriving. The others like the beets & lettuce died instantly, and the radishes stalled in their maturation and are the same size now as they were 3 weeks ago. We have speculated at length about why this is happening. The theories include bad seed, predation, cold evening temps, longer germination period because of the added layer of insulation, or that the deep mulch too heavy for seedlings to push through. It is clear, however, that I will either have to re-sow many of the veggies I planted, or buy starts from the nursery to catch up on production. Fortunately, we started so early this year, that I should be able to keep up with prior years' production even after replanting.

The dill seems happy!
6. Several transplanted starts have stressed badly and burned up their leaves. This is another mystery. I picked up a bunch of starts from the greenhouse, hardened them off over a few days and put all but one of them in the ground. The soil was moist and I planted them close to the drip line. Within 3 days, the starts I planted in the garden shocked badly, but the one I kept out and didn't plant was fine. The survivor was still in the 4-inch pot so it would have been even more affected by the evening temperatures or daytime sunlight if that was the problem, so I am frankly totally baffled...

Watermelon in shock
Basically, this continues to be a learning experience as we determine what works and what doesn't. Periodically, when I'm feeling frustrated, I look over at our parsley plant, and am encouraged. Parsley, you see, is a single season annual here in our climate, and is notorious for being temperamental about reseeding. However, its placement here in the mulch by our patio has allowed it to be productive beyond our wildest dreams, and it comes back larger and with renewed vigor every season. It's the parsley that reminds me that this is a good system designed by God, and I just have to learn how to work with it, not against it, and remember to give it time.


  1. We are doing this for the first time and in the process of preparing bed now. I opted to make "pre digested" layers similar to lasagna gardening using both composted and uncomposted manure, chopped leaves and grass clippings. These break down faster than wood chips and give the tender plants a more soil like place to rest their roots. I may use some woodchips for mulch after everything is established, but plan on mixing it in with more chopped leaves and grass clippings. Since we will never till again (thousand hallelujahs!) there is no need to worry about the decaying leaves on top grabbing all the nitrogen lurking below.

    Looking forward to hearing about your successive growing seasons. I like the idea of having a garden one year older to learn from.

  2. I recently read the book "Gardening Without Work," and it helped explain some of our failures. I wish I'd read it before starting. I will be employing more of those principles next season. I'm interested to know how the "pre-digested" layers work!