GROWING VEGETABLES INDOORS LITERALLY PROMOTES HAPPINESS
Winter can be a difficult season for those of us who are obsessed with gardening as we anticipate the coming growing season. In fact, when we stop growing our own food during the winter many people literally experience negative impacts on our mental and physical wellbeing. Just because it's winter doesn't mean we can't get our hands dirty! Recent studies have confirmed that touching soil literally boosts levels of serotonin, the chemical in our brains that is responsible for maintaining a positive attitude. The bacterium called Mycobacterium Bacchae that lives in soil reacts when in contact with our skin to promote our bodies ability to reduce stress and anxiety. This may explain why many of us associate summer gardening months as a generally joyful time of year. It also serves as reminder of the benefits of growing food year round for our mental and physical health. Especially during cold and flu season our bodies need extra vitamins and minerals to maintain healthy immune systems. Growing a few simple vegetables and herbs indoors can have an immense positive impact on the way we feel and the way we eat.
Growing Food INDOORS IMPROVES NUTRITION
Growing veggies indoors also helps improve our daily eating habits. Winter is a time when our bodies tend to get less physical activity and we intake higher calorie foods. However, studies show that people who grow their own food are more likely to maintain healthier diets year round. Think about it, when there are a fresh array of herbs and greens growing in your kitchen windowsill you will be much more likely to reach for these healthy foods instead of grabbing processed junk foods from your pantry. Many people don't realize just how many beneficial vitamins and minerals are packed into even the smallest amount of home grown organic herbs and veggies! Compared to store bought produce, the nutritional value is up tp 70% higher in organic home grown veggies. Growing food indoors will save you tons of money and require less trips going to the grocery store.
If you want to get prepared ahead of time for your outdoor veggie garden this spring, you may want to start some slower growing fruits and veggies indoors at this time. Here in the US, we are in the heart of winter which is a great time to carefully organize your seed supply, regional planting dates, and plant any starters for crops you want to get a head start on.
Benefits of planting early starters indoors:
Problems to avoid with indoor starters:
FIND REGIONAL PLANTING DATES
The Old Farmers Almanac has a great gardening planting calendar where you can search your zip code to find planting dates for your zone. Click on the button below and enter your gardening area zip code to view your custom seed planting date schedule. The dates are very specific according to plant variety based on age old farming wisdom based on regional weather patterns and moon phases. I grabbed a calendar and scribbled in some key dates to make sure I don't miss any growing time this year!
Back to Eden Gardening is an organic, no-dig, no-till vegetable gardening method that utilizes wood chip compost as a growing medium and arborist wood chips as a sheet mulch. But can Back to Eden Gardening work indoors? Of course!
Back to Eden Gardening indoors may be beneficial for you if live in a climate with harsh winters, want to get a head start on your growing season with starters or lack sufficient space for gardening outdoors. If you already have a backyard Back to Eden Garden started making the transition to growing indoors as well is especially simple!
We recommend using wood chip mulch from arborist tree trimmings to top off your indoor pots and starter containers. This not only improves the moisture retention of your soil, but also deposits beneficial microbes and nutrients into the soil that are very important for indoor starters since they cannot access them otherwise like in the case of outdoor garden soil. Lets get started with the simple tools you'll need to get started!
How to GROW BACK TO EDEN GARDENS INDOORS
1) GROWING CONTAINERS: Buy pots or seed starter containers that allow for sufficient drainage of your soil. Some pots have built in trays to hold the water that drains through when watering. If yours does not, you'll want to purchase a silicon or metal tray to catch the run off. The container size should allow for your veggies roots to grow and should be at least 3-6 inches deep for hot weather crops like tomatoes. If you are planning on transplanting your indoor starters outdoors in the spring, this size container is great. We recommend steering clear of plastic containers containing BPA and chemicals that leach into your soil and food overtime. Stick with ceramic, clay, metal, wood or biodegradable containers. The advantage of biodegradable seed trays for those of you who will be transplanting your starters outdoors is they can help reduce the shock and damage to the root system during transplant. If you can't afford the ideal containers this year you can get ask your local nursery for extra free plastic starter containers. Or if your into DYI you can make your own homemade seed container pots with free materials! If you are planning on growing your plants year round indoors make sure you get a much larger pot, at last 1 gallon. You can even grow some fruit trees likecitrus indoors year round in a large pot located near the window to get adequate filtered sunlight.
2) COMPOST: First, you'll want to fill your indoor growing container with compost. If you have an established Back to Eden Garden you can simply use a hand shovel and scoop some of the composted wood chips from your Back to Eden garden into your pots! If you have access to other homemade compost from veggie scraps or manure you can also use this as your growing medium. Fill your containers only about 85 %, leaving a little space on top. You'll see why in the next steps. Wood chip compost is a great growing medium not only because it's easy to access for free, it's loaded with nutrients but it's also thriving with beneficial microorganisms that are essential for healthy soil. When you buy sterile bagged compost it does not compare to the amount of seed growth stimulation that homemade wood chip compost offers. If you have a pile or deep layer of wood chips that has been sitting outside for 3 months or more you can also use a compost sifter screen to filter out beautiful compost from the larger wood chips!
If your wood chips have not composted fully into dark rich soil or you don't have a backyard garden to harvest compost from we recommend you buy organic vegetable potting soil. We also recommend investing in beneficial Soil Microbes to add to your soil occasionally. Beneficial microbes stimulate healthy soil and better root growth in plants. The microbe fungi actually form a symbiotic relationship with the plant. They can be especially helpful to add to any indoor gardens or pots since indoor potting soil does not contain enough beneficial microorganisms. I have added microbes to all of my indoor edible plants soil and it makes a huge difference. Living soil is vital for healthy plant growth!
3) LOCATION, LIGHT & WARMTH: Seeds need sunlight to germinate. If you have a window sill with plenty of direct or indirect sunlight this works great for many indoor veggies. If you do not have a location with enough natural light, consider purchasing a full spectrum LED grow light. It's worth the investment and quickly pays itself off with the food you'll grow year round. You will also be able to extend your growing season. Also consider the temperature of your indoor veggie garden location. Most indoor veggies like to grow at 60°F/15°C or 70°F/20°C temperature range consistently. If you keep your home nice and toasty over the winter most starters will be ok without additional temperature control. Using an indoor seedling heating mat will help if your home is too cold.
Alternatively, if you are in an area with lots of sunlight year round outdoors but don't have a good location indoors to set up a grow light or access indirect light from windows then a greenhouse may be better fit for you to grow your vegetable starters in during the colder months.
4) PLANT SEEDS & WATER: Plant your seeds closer to the surface of the soil, just below the compost for best results. Soak them in water overnight for an extra growing boost. Water the seeds daily until they sprout. Always ensure your soil is damp but do NOT overwater. Especially once your plants are established their roots will help them draw moisture from the soil and they will require less watering. In fact one of the top causes of failed indoor plants is overwatering causing root rot. Consider a metal watering can to make your indoor watering easier and avoid a splashing mess.
5) WOOD CHIP MULCH: This step is really what makes the Back to Eden Gardening indoor growing method the most unique and leads to better results. Once the seeds sprout and get a few inches tall, add a light layer of wood chip mulch from your garden to the surface of the compost. If you are growing indoor trees or established perennial plants you can be much more generous with the amount of wood chip mulch on top. When you add wood chip mulch to baby starter plants be careful to only add a light layer to not suffocate seeds. It's best if you can add screened wood chips on top for a more delicate covering. The wood chips will help retain moisture, maintain soil warmth, build healthy soil and deposit nutrients into your soil that help the plants grow. Keep your wood chip layer light, just a dusting. Don't smother sprouts! Wait until they show are least two leaves to dust the soil surface with mulch.
6) FERTILIZE: Seedlings aren't able to absorb nutrients until they have a second set of leaves called the "true leaves." Get to know the fertilization needs of your indoor plants and starters. Some vegetables require more nitrogen to stimulate their initial growth while others can survive without any additional input. The best choice at this stage is to give plants an organic, diluted, balanced, liquid fertilizer, so that the plant receives overall nutrition. Once plants are larger and transplanted, start applying a more focused fertilizer (except potassium at transplant). For starters like tomatoes and peppers we you can add an organic diluted fertilizer every few weeks to help their initial growth. However, the compost you are growing in is so rich in nutrients that it will not need much help like normal indoor plants in potting soil would! In fact, in healthy Back to Eden wood chip compost you won't need fertilizer. It's just a bonus if you have access to it.
Some varieties of seeds don't do as well when started for transplant compared to being direct sowed. Although any of these varieties are possible to grow and transplant, these may have a more difficult time with the transition and be more susceptible to transplant shock.
easiest indoor GARDEN veggies
Even if you decide to wait to direct sow all your seeds in the spring and you don’t want to bother with any starters indoors you may want to consider growing some of the easiest edible plants and herbs indoors for year-round access. This part of the article will teach you how to grow the easiest veggies indoors using the Back to Eden Gardening principles!
7. Mushrooms Mushrooms also make the top list of easiest and most nutritionally beneficial foods you can grow indoors year round. They don’t require a lot of space or light to grow prolifically. They like to grow in environments with sufficient moisture. Plus they are packed with disease-fighting vitamins and minerals that you can’t find comparably in most other foods! Fungi grow from spores, not seeds so so keep them from getting contaminated by other fungi spores. You can opt to grow mushrooms easily in starter bags and even use the excess spore growing medium to start a mushroom bed outdoors. Shiitake mushrooms are one of the easiest edible varieties to grow for beginners.
TIPS FOR GROWING VEGGIES INDOORS:
Light: Ensure your plants have access to plenty of natural sunlight by setting them near a window. If you invest in agrow light you can grow almost anything indoors!
Soil: Use an Organic Potting Mix for Veggies with bagged Organic Mulch on the Surface or a Scoop of Composted Wood Chips from your outdoor Back to Eden Garden.
Drainage & Air Circulation: Ensure the containers you grow your veggies in allow for plenty of water drainage and air circulation. If you over water or the water cannot drain from the container your plants roots may rot. Drainage holes or proper indoor growing containers will allow air circulation and present mold and fungus.
Temperature: Most indoor veggies like to grow at 60°F/15°C or 70°F/20°C temperature range consistently. Using an indoor seedling heating mat will help if your home is too cold.
Fertilizer: Just like us, indoor plants like to be fed regularly in order to thrive! Use an organic, odor free fertilizer to add every few weeks as needed. Alternatively, add homemade compost.
Indoor GardenING KITS with GROW LIGHTs
If you don't have enough natural sunlight in your home for growing veggies indoors you may need to consider using a full spectrum LED grow light starter kit to start your garden indoors. Oh yeah, they are also self watering too! If you or someone you know doesn't have such an indoor gardening green thumb, this can be a helpful modern tool to ensure success without stress or work. Although my first impression of these was that I would not personally buy one of these, I can see how for beginner gardeners, gifting or urban growers that these could be a great option to get started.
Indoor Grow Light Garden Kits make growing your own food and herbs indoors easy. Their kits contain everything you need to get started with an indoor garden from the seeds and soil pods to the full spectrum light and easy self watering pot design. The plastic containers are also BPA Free.
For Back to Eden Gardeners we suggest a few upgrades to your Click & Grow system for better results. First, we recommend replacing the soil pods with Back to Eden wood chip compost from your garden beds outside. Also consider purchasing your own organic, heirloom seeds to supplement the seeds included. Remember to reference the herbs, greens and fruits list above to choose the seeds that will grow best indoors.
If you don't a self watering grow light kit like above you can opt for a full spectrum grow light that you can set up your own indoor veggie growing space with. If you are serious about growing a wider variety of food indoors during the winter than the varieties on the easy list above, you will probably want a grow light and heating mat.
INDOOR PLANTS MAKE A HAPPIER FAMILY HOME
Many of us are spending more time at home together this year than ever. Especially during uncertain and stressful times, it's important we do whatever we can to maintain good vibes in our homes. Growing food indoors is a great interactive experience for families of all ages. Watering and watching sprouts grow will keep your kids entertained, educated and inspire curiosity about trying new foods. Spending more time indoors together also means the parents are needing to make more of an effort to maintain a healthy and inviting indoor living environment for their families. Growing plants indoors actually helps purify and improve indoor air quality by releasing oxygen and therapeutic herbal aromas into your home. It also adds an attractive interior accent of color that triggers our brains endorphins and adds vibrance to any interior decor.
Many gardeners have never tried to grow food indoors during the winter months because they imagine it will be too difficult, or too messy. That's why we are sharing the easiest veggies to grow indoors with less work and no mess. We believe that you and your family will enjoy a successful harvest and experience the mental and physical health benefits of gardening indoors!
Benefits of Growing Vegetables Indoors:
During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing another surge of supplies emptying off the shelves as people around the country prepare for an uncertain future. We are especially seeing scarcities in food items, toilet paper, canned goods, sanitizers, vitamins, and heirloom seeds. We have faith that all of us will not just survive but thrive during this coming year despite any hardships that we face as a result of the pandemic. It is vital that we all share positivity, generosity, and provision that will enable us all to live healthier and more joyful lives. That's why we are recommending our top survival seed kits as one of the most beneficial investments to make for yourselves and gift those you love in this season.
AGRICULTURAL RESOURCE KITS
We also love the FREE Seed Guide that is included which gives growers detailed planting instructions, plant uses, and even teaches you how to save your own seeds. This kind of knowledge allows growers the freedom to replanting their own seeds for the rest of your life! Lastly, you can't find comparable packaging to this seed kit on the market. The unique design keeps seeds safe from natural disasters and helps preserve their viability for up to ten years.
The Cons: The cost of the ARK Seed Kits are higher than some of their competitors. However, when you consider the high labor and maintenance costs of a small family farm based in the USA, it is easy to understand the extra value of what you are paying for.
Conclusion: ARK offers the best Seed Bank in terms of packaging security plus the value of a seed saving book, if you willing to pay extra.
ALL-IN-ONE MEGA SEED BANK
Why we like it: The Seeds Now Mega Seed Bank offers comparable quantities of seeds and numbers of varieties to their competitors seed kits for a lower price. Due to Seeds Now being a larger company they are able to offer reduced prices on their seed banks. More importantly, they are set up to maintain the strict California Seed Law standards including regular testing and labeling of their seeds including individual germination rates and Non-GMO contamination testing.
The Cons: The Seeds Now packaging is similar to the ARK Seed Kit, however it is not quite as heavy duty of a material.
Conclusion: Seeds Now offers the best Seed Bank if you are on a budget and want to invest in seeds that have undergone the highest quality control procedures.
So, remember to shop smarter this year, Back to Eden Gardeners! It's easy to purchase items out of panic that simply do not sustain life in the future. Be wise and invest in self-sufficiency that will enable your family and our nation to lead lives of greater abundance and prosperity!
WHAT IS A Wood chip compost heating SYSTEM?
If you are a Back to Eden Gardener, you have probably witnessed how wood chip piles begin to steam and feel warm to the touch as they decompose after only a matter of days! But did you know that the center of these wood chip piles reach temperatures capable of heating water and air up to 140°F? We aren't talking about burning wood chips as a fuel for fires. We are talking about harnessing the natural heat generated from the composting process of wood chip piles. We have discovered an age-old heating method that enables you to heat your two story home, greenhouse, warehouse, or bath and shower water using composting wood chip piles!
JEAN PAIN INVENTOR OF COMPOST HEATING SYSTEM
Jean Pain was an inventor from the south of France born in 1928 who discovered a brilliant way to harness the heat produced by composting wood chip piles as an off-grid heating source! He created a highly efficient method of producing 100% of his own energy needs using nothing but wood chips! Not only can his method help reduce your energy bills, it also can help you grow food year round by heating your green house or indoor growing room.
Jean Pain’s system was able to heat water at a rate of 4 L per minute. That’s almost 1 gallon per minute of hot water produced with nothing but the heat from composting wood chip piles. That kind of heat output surpasses the capabilities of many modern water heaters! Jean Pain proved his system could satisfy his daily needs for heat and hot water from clothes washing to bathing and indoor heating.
How to Build A wood CHIP HEATING SYSTEM
All you really need to build a simple wood chip compost heating system is a large pile of wood chips and lots of polyethylene tubing. You’ll also want a wood chip compost soil thermometer to test how hot your pile is getting inside. Some people use horse manure in addition to the wood chips in their pile. Manure is another great heat producing resource that is often readily available and free to your wood chip compost pile. Of course depending n your needs you may want to build a slightly more advanced system.
Usually your pile will start with a compressed layer of compost followed by a layer of coiled tubing followed by a layer of compressed compost until you reach the desired height. When creating a wood chip pile for the primary purpose of generating heat, it is ideal to compress the wood chip pile together into a condensed mass. This will create anaerobic bacteria which conducts more heat in the pile. In our gardens, we try to avoid too much anaerobic bacteria by allowing naturally occurring air space during decomposition. However, in wood chip compost piles used for the purpose of a heating system we want to compress the air space out of the pile. We can accomplish this sufficiently by creating a cylindrical container for the compost pile. Jean Pain used chicken wire to hold the pile in a more upright, tall formation which allows the gravity to condense the air out of the center of the pile. Many people also add hay barrels as a final perimeter for their wood chip compost piles. The key to harnessing the best heating results from your pile is to use plenty of tubing material, coiling it throughout the wood chip compost pile. For example, for a 6ft x 6 ft compost pile you will need about 300 feet of 1 inch diameter tubing. The concept is actually very simple!
WOOD CHIP Compost WATER HEATER
The design of your system will depend on if your goal is to heat water or to heat a space with hot air. An open loop system means the input is attached to your tap water, and the output is hot water. This is the most is a simple design, capable of providing 140°F tap water for six months at a rate of 4 liters per minute from a large wood chip compost pile.
If you are building a wood chip compost heating system for the purpose of heating water, you will also need a metal water heating tank. This is placed inside the center of the wood chip compost pile and then the pile is wrapped with the plastic tubing. As you can see in the diagram below, it works best to contain the water heater in the center of the pile in a simple construct of wire mesh and wood stakes in order to ensure the water tank is hugged closely with the compost material.
WOOD CHIP WATER HEATER SYSTEM SUPPLIES
ADDITIONAL SUPPLIES FOR Green House & Home HEATING:
HeatING GREENHOUSE WITH Wood CHIP COMPOST
Does the thought of wood chips make you feel warm and fuzzy? In fact, wood chips literally can make you and your winter veggies stay warmer year round! Why waste your money buying expensive electric or gas heaters to keep your winter crops from freezing when you have free wood chip piles generating 140 degree temperatures at no cost!?
If you haven't already laid wood chips down on the soil in your backyard garden, farm or green house then this is the first thing we recommend you do for over-wintering vegetables. This will help insulate the soil and the decomposition of the wood chips will generate heat that helps plants grow more readily in colder temperatures. The thicker the wood chips, the more heat they will generate. Keep this in mind to avoid burning any plants. Some people heat their green house with very simple methods of compost heating. This can involve digging trenches in between rows of vegetables and adding fresh compost to decompose in place, generating heat at the soil level. A wood chip compost pile on its own left in an enclosed space will help generate some amount of heat during the decomposition process. However, wood chip pile left inside a contained space runs the potential risk of combustion if not turned and watered regularly. However, by far the hottest temperatures occurring in wood chip compost piles are at the core of the pile. Therefore harvesting the core heat to bring to the surface as Jean Pain teaches is much more effective in achieving higher heat output.
Heating Your HOME FOR FREE USING COMPOST
Of course, using the same heating system design that warms your green house can be highly effective for also heating your home. An artist living in Nova Scotia named Franz Fraitzel recently made headlines in the news for having put to use the forgotten concepts of Jean Pain by creating a furnace capable of heating an entire two story warehouse in the snow using free wood chip piles! He is applying the same principles of harnessing heat from wood chip piles pioneered by Jean Pain. Franz then used a converted industrial furnace to blow the heat into his workshop combined with donated materials and polyethylene tubing. He says he turned his industrial furnace heating bill totaling $600 / month into a one time investment of $1,000 for a lifetime of free heating. In addition to being a cheaper option for heating it is also uses renewable resource from wood chips from tree trimmings. Not only does this system offer a reduced impact on the environment it also provides a self sufficient heating source during power outages. One wood chip heating pile of the scale that Franz is using can last for up to a year of producing sufficient heat before needing to be refueled with a fresh wood chip pile!
recycle composted wood chips in gardens
After your wood chip pile has composted for up to a year, the composted wood chips should be removed from your heating system and a fresh wood chip pile for your heating system should be built for the coming winter. However, make sure you don’t let the composted wood chips go to waste! Remove the composted wood chips and add them to your garden beds in the fall. If the composted wood chips have turned into anaerobic compost they will smell like ammonia and be very wet. In this case, you should mix in some fresh wood chips and nitrogen to help the compost return to an aerobic state which means it has sufficient oxygen present and isn't overly acidic. Simply layer fertilizer, recycled wood chip compost and fresh wood chips on your garden bed and after a few months the soil will be noticeably enriched. Your plants will love it in the spring and your soil will absorb the nutrients from the compost tea that is created all winter as they break down.
For more details on how to build your compost powered heater there are many great plans, videos and articles available online!
So, you've watched Back to Eden Film on repeat a dozen times and you're feeling inspired and prepared to grow the best food with miraculous results just like Paul Gautschi. Sounds easy enough, right? While Back to Eden Gardening is in fact easy, when you are first starting a Back to Eden Garden you may experience some unexpected problems on your journey 'back to Eden' that you didn't see in Paul Gautschi's gardens. Please don't be discouraged! When you first start using wood chips you may face challenges but there are solutions! Almost all of the problems faced in Back to Eden growing resolve themself with time. And most importantly, Back to Eden growing technique gets easier with better results every year! Unlike conventional gardening and farming methods require more input and the same intensive labor process every year. Below are some of the most common problems Back to Eden gardeners and farmers may face and our suggested simple solutions.
Problem #1: Nitrogen Problems with Wood Chips
Do fresh wood chips or composted wood chips work better in a vegetable garden? Fresh wood chips are any wood chips from tree trimmings that are less than three months old. When you get fresh wood chip loads from tree trimmings you should be able to see green leaves mixed into the pile. Leaves are the wood chip piles primary source of nitrogen. Nitrogen is required for your garden plants to grow healthy, green leaves.
Composted wood chips are wood chips that have been composting for at least three months. The main difference between the two is the amount of nitrogen that has undergone mineralization to turn into an accessible nutrient for plants.
Understanding Carbon & Nitrogen in Wood Chips
Many people claim that neither composted or fresh wood chips are good for adding to vegetable gardens and that they should only be used in pathways or around perennial shrubs and trees. Those people usually go on to explain that this is because they expect the high content of carbon in wood chips to "rob nitrogen from their soil" and thus hurt their veggies and plants growth. This has been proven to be simply not true! Wood chip piles do contain enough nitrogen to break down and supply nitrogen for your vegetables. When the leaves and chipped wood branches break down the nitrogen and carbon turn into a healthy compost. The ratio of C:N varies greatly in each wood chip pile. Some researchers claim wood chips contain an average of 200:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. This would mean nitrogen would benefit from being added. However, a scientific study on the effect of wood chips on fields of crops that the addition of wood chip mulch did not cause the soil to show nitrogen deficiency even in the first year. In other cases nitrogen was found to be 'tied up' during the decomposition phase of the wood chips during the 3-6 months. But after the first year of decomposition the nitrogen would be released back into the soil naturally. Carbon affects the chemical and physical properties of the soil, such as water infiltration ability, moisture holding capacity, nutrient availability, and the biological activity of microorganisms. The addition of carbon and nitrogen to our soils are essential to building healthy, fertile soil and regenerative food growing systems.
How Do I Avoid Nitrogen Problems in My Wood Chip Garden?
Fresh wood chips usually benefit from an addition of nitrogen to get your garden started. Adding fresh wood chips to your soil will tie up nitrogen on the very surface of the soil initially. Nitrogen deficiency in the soil causes plants growth to be stunted. Signs of nitrogen deficiency usually include yellowing leaves and wilting. This is why we recommend using composted wood chips if you want to grow vegetables in your wood chip garden immediately. Paul Gautschi uses composted wood chips that have been screened before he adds them to his vegetable garden. Additionally, he adds composted chicken manure to fertilize his vegetable garden. Paul does not add fresh wood chips to his home vegetable garden. He only adds fresh wood chips to his orchard. However, Paul Gautschi also has a second property which is also featured in Back to Eden Film about 15 minutes from his home where he allows tree services to dump loads of fresh, unscreened wood chips. His veggie and fruit gardens on his second property that uses fresh wood chips grow with just as amazing results as his home garden. This is because after applying fresh wood chips to any soil for many years, the growing medium of your plants will be in the composted wood chips below the freshly added wood chips.
If you add fresh wood chips to your soil and want to plant in them in the first 3-6 months, you will need to add an organic nitrogen source such as Compost, Blood Meal, Kelp, Composted Chicken Manure, Composted Horse Manure, Bat Guano, or Fish Emulsion. Using fresh wood chips without the addition of compost, composted animal manure, or organic nitrogen fertilizers can lead to vegetable growth problems, initially. Again, the nitrogen levels will naturally improve with time even without the addition of fertilizer. See the photo below, on the left are beans growing in compost with fresh wood chip mulch and on the right are beans growing in fresh wood chip mulch without compost added. The leaves are turning yellow on the beans growing in fresh wood chips indicating a lack of nitrogen. If you see leaves turning yellow in your garden, you have a nitrogen deficiency in your plants and will need to add a source of nitrogen.
Most of us don’t have access to already composted wood chips from tree trimmings. Usually Back to Eden Gardeners end up getting fresh wood chips dumped at their properties and often begin laying them down on the soil as soon as possible. However, many Back to Eden gardeners have proven that issues with nitrogen deficiency naturally disappear after 3-6 months of applying fresh wood chips onto a vegetable garden or orchard. Wood chips added annually experience decomposition and integration of carbon happening throughout the year thanks to earthworms. Before you know it nitrogen will be fed to your plant roots by microbes and fungi.
Problem #2: Not All Wood Chips are the Same QualitY
Almost all wood chips are beneficial to use in vegetable gardens, orchards and farms. However, wood chips can be a difficult mulch material to analyze due to the many uncommon denominators in the size, tree variety, and quality of tree trimming waste. No two deliveries of fresh wood chip mulch will be exactly the same.
Hardwood vs. Softwood Wood Chip Mulch
The most important factors that will vary in wood chips for gardening include the types of trees used and the content of leaf matter vs wood matter. The species of tree your wood chips come from will affect the amount of time it takes to break down into compost and what naturally occurring chemicals it releases into your soil. Hardwoods are deciduous trees that have broad leaves, produce a fruit or nut and generally go dormant in the winter. North America's forests grow hundreds of varieties that thrive in temperate climates, including oak, ash, cherry, maple and poplar species. Some people think using any types of hardwoods as a wood chip mulch in gardens will kill plants. This is not the case. In fact, according to a study conducted by Cornell University comparing vegetable growth in fields covered with hardwood wood chips vs. fields without wood chips or with cover crops. The results were consistently better when using wood chips! In fact, the scientists were surprised to find that Nitrogen was not depleted even during the first year of decomposition of the Carbon heavy wood chips.
How can you tell the different between a hardwood and softwood tree? Hardwood trees the seeds are enclosed in ovary structures like a fruit, such as an apple, or a hard shell. Hardwood trees also tend to have more full appearing leaves, not needles. Softwoods come from conifer trees, or cone-bearing trees. North American softwood species have needle-shaped foliage and have "naked" seeds, not contained by a fruit or nut. Where Paul Gautschi lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington conifer trees are prevalent in the forests and surrounding his property. We can assume that a large amount of softwood varieties are likely present in the wood chips Paul often has access to. However, Paul successfully uses a large variety and of hardwood and softwood varieties of trees in his gardens and orchards. Both varieties offer similar benefits in vegetable gardens and primarily differ in their decomposition rate. Soft tree wood chips are nice if you are just starting a garden because they decompose faster. But hard wood chips will provide a slow release for a longer time and not need to be added on as often due to slower decomposition. Take note, the decomposition rate of wood chips is greatly effected by the size the chips are chopped up to and the amount of leaf content in a load.
TYPES OF TREES TO NEVER USE IN WOOD CHIP GARDENS
One of people first concerns when receiving a delivery of fresh wood chips is what type of tree am I getting. There are in fact some types of wood chips that will actually suppress seeds and plants from growing. Some trees generate naturally occurring chemicals that stifle the growth of competing seeds and seedlings. This process is called allelopathy. By definition, allelopathy is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms. These biochemicals are known as allelochemicals and can have beneficial (positive allelopathy) or detrimental (negative allelopathy) effects on the target organisms and the community.
Some varieties of trees to avoid using in your vegetable gardens due to their seed germination suppressing allelopathy include Black Walnut, Eucalyptus, Pepper Trees, Tree of Heaven and possibly Cedar. The studies testing the effects of the above mentioned trees on inhibiting growth found that not all plant species growth were stunted. Some of the allelopathy effects only target the suppression of certain plant species growth. However, it is important to ask, what type of tree was chipped up?
Don’t use bark nuggets, sawdust, or treated and dyed landscaping wood chips for your vegetable garden! None of these materials will provide the paper ratio of carbon to nitrogen to build healthy compost. You will likely see yellowing leaves of plants, wilting and stunted growth when you use one of the materials as a mulch due to the lack of sufficient nitrogen, nutrients and biodiversity.
In Conclusion: When you look in nature or take a walk in the forest, you will notice a diversity of leaves and branches covering the soil. When we talk about using wood chips in your garden we are referring to tree trimming waste made up of 90% branches and leaves. When using the ChipDrop App make sure you indicate in your free wood chip request any types of trees you don’t want delivered. I always make a note that I am using the wood chips in a vegetable garden and would prefer finely ground wood chips without logs.
Problem #3: Back to Eden Gardening TAKES TIME
It’s important to remember that Paul Gautschi started adding wood chips to his gardens and orchards decades before we showed up to film the documentary BACK TO EDEN (2011). You should expect to allow your wood chip mulch in your garden bed to compost in place for several months before seeing soil improvements. Benefits you will see immediately in wood chip gardens include less watering, less weeds, and less soil erosion. However, if you have access to already composted wood chips, you can add a layer of 3-4 inches of composted wood chips before covering it with fresh wood chips for immediate growth benefits.
If you don't see Eden in your backyard immediately, don't give up, it takes time! Remember what Paul says in Back to Eden Film? "I always go to that Scripture where God says, It's good for man to bear the yoke in his youth. God is saying upfront, if you're going to have anything of value you've got to work for it, but He says if you do it the right way you want to do it early on, do the work upfront, and if you've done it right over time it will produce for you. And this is what I think is so neat about the wood chips and God's way."
If you are adding fresh wood chips with the addition of any organic nitrogen rich fertilizer and keeping your soil covered you will see incredible improvements after just one growing season. Fresh wood chips can be used in your garden as mulch immediately. However, adding a layer of composted material below them and some organic nitrogen fertilizer will help the wood chips benefit your garden more immediately. If you can find or create composted wood chips they will offer the accessible nutrients for vegetables immediately. Make sure to seasonally add a layer of visible wood chips on top of your composted wood chips material to experience the most benefits of mulching. A healthy compost ratio is usually 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Look at your wood chip pile and if it looks like there aren’t enough leaves (nitrogen), add more leaves, manure, or organic fertilizer to help them break down.
Problem #4 Find Free Wood Chips Near ME
Getting good wood chips can test your patience. It can require persistence to find wood chips. As the Back to Eden Gardening method continues to grow in popularity, so has the demand for free wood chips from tree trimming service companies. We recommend signing up on ChipDrop App to request a free load of wood chips several months prior to really needing a wood chip delivery in your garden. ChipDrop was created by a tree service professional who watched BACK TO EDEN and decided he wanted to help gardeners get access to free wood chips. After ten years of getting loads of wood chips from different tree trimming services we have learned a lot about the diversity in the quality of the wood chips. We’ve used everything from composted piles found on the side of the road to massive dumps of fresh wood chips made of huge corse tree trimmings.
If you don’t get a delivery using ChipDrop, search on Yelp for tree trimming services and send a message to all local tree trimming businesses near you with one click. Make sure to mention you will pay for them ($20-$40) to drop off wood chips at your property and this will save them time and money having to dump their wood chips at a landfill. It’s worth the price when you consider you'll pay $10/bag of mulch at the local nursery. Remember to make notes of your preferences and follow up with a quick phone call to explain the details of your needs for best results.
Problem #5: Wood Chips Spread Pathogens and Disease
It’s important to also ask if the trees that were chipped were diseased or sprayed with herbicide. It is extremely rare to find that trees have been sprayed with herbicide but important to ask. According to a study conducted by the University of California, “If you chip and allow mulch to dry out before use, most plant-pathogenic bacteria and viruses and many fungi that infect the branches, flowers, fruit, leaves, and twigs of trees and shrubs will not spread in the mulch. Likewise, most wood decay fungi that affect the upper trunk and branches do not survive in chipped, thoroughly dried wood.” If you get a pile of wood chip load contains too much large debris or is from uncertain origins allow the pile to compost in place for a season before using it. Wood chip piles will reach over 140 inside while composting. This process will also help purify the wood chip compost from any disease or contaminates that may be present in the tree. Make sure to wet any wood chip pile occasionally to help it compost and prevent overheating.
More is always better right? Not necessarily. Using too much than 4-6 inches deep of fresh wood chip mulch on your vegetable garden could cause growing problems in some plants until it sufficiently breaks down. Volcano mulching is when someone piles a huge mound of mulch at the base of a tree trunk, causing the base of the tree to rot from lack of oxygen. When too deep of a layer of wood chip mulch is surrounding the base of plants in your garden the stem or root system can rot due lack of oxygen and too much moisture. Too much moisture in the soil caused by excessive mulching can also make your plants more likely to contract fungal diseases or burn the plants roots while they compost in place. Lastly, if you plants that are having trouble reaching the soil below the wood chips their growth will be stunted. Adding organic nitrogen fertilizer can help in this case.
In conclusion: It’s best to stick to 4-6 inches deep of wood chip mulch on your vegetable gardens. For the first few years add another layer of 4-6 inches every fall and as needed. You can add thicker mulch in an orchard or around perennial plants in your garden as long as you leave some air space surrounding the base of the plant or tree to avoid root rot or trunk rot.
Problem #6: Planting Seeds in Wood Chips Is DifficulT
Wood chip mulch hides sunlight from the soil preventing many weed seeds from germination. The same can be true for some types of vegetable seeds if you plant beneath thick wood chip mulch. Especially small seed varieties like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, oregano can be difficult to germinate when underneath a thick layer of mulch. On the other hand, vigorous weed seeds and many hardly plants like squash will have little difficulty pushing their way up through the wood chips on their own. A common issue when raking away the wood chips for planting seeds is when the mounds of chips pile up on the sides of the seed furrow, you walk away thinking you’ve done such a great job taking extra care for your seeds and you come back a few days later to find wood chips covering your carefully cleared rows. After all, the bare soil wants to be covered by nature’s design! Gravity, wind and watering will easily cause wood chips to cover a narrowly cleared area of soil and prevent sensitive seeds from growing.
Composted wood chips can be planted in more easily since the wood chips are not corse and thick enough to bury the seed before it sprouts. You can add some compost directly to your rows before planting to prevent the wood chips from burying the furrow made in the wood chips. It’s also beneficial to add composted fertilizer to your garden before planting to improve growth.
Allow the seeds to all come up and reach 2-3 inches in height before side dressing them with the removed wood chips. If your seeds are not germinating well in place try seed starters to transplant into your garden after they reach at least 2 inches or roots are established. Make sure when you transplant the wood chips will not bury the base of the plant until it is well established. A trick for preventing small seeds like carrots from falling into the soil or wood chips too deeply to grow is to play a layer of toilet paper down in the furrow, add about an inch of compost to the top of the toilet paper, surface sow your seeds and then water to keep the paper from moving. All of these challenges with geminating seeds in wood chip gardens will be eliminated with time as your soil improves. You will find yourself able to grow anything easily the longer you have been growing a Back to Eden Garden. For improved seed germination in your wood chip gardens remember to add your wood chips to your garden in the fall or winter so they have time to break down instead of waiting until the spring. When plantings seeds in any type of mulch, wood chips straw, grass clippings, leaves, cover crops, the same tips apply to improving seed germination in your no-dig garden garden or regenerative agriculture farm.
Problem #7: Garden Pests in Mulch
Some people experience challenges with increased insects or tunneling pests when they first start their Back to Eden Gardens. After all, you just turned a barren desert-like environment into a lush life-giving Eden, flourishing with nutrient dense plants, soft soil, beneficial microorganisms and an abundance of growth! People and animals alike will likely notice your gardens. How you treat these problems can be a personal preference but a lot of these problems will resolve themselves when you learn to restore balance to the garden environment.
As Paul Gautschi shows us in his gardens and orchards, when your plants are in good health they will be able to naturally fight off the occasional damage from insects and even the occasional animal damage. Even though a thriving Back to Eden Garden may see signs of minor damage from slugs, aphids, squash bugs, etc. the plants will be strong enough to survive abundantly due to their healthy ideal growing conditions. In a garden environment that is in balance you will see very few occasions of any out of control infestation that cause significant damage to your plants. This took me a long time of trial and error and speaking with other Back two Eden Gardeners dealing with pests to fully wrap my mind around. I understood it in theory but did not comprehend how to make my plants healthier and keep the pests from killing them aside just adding more wood chip mulch and organic fertilizers to the soil. Now I understand that many factors play into creating a balanced Back to Eden Garden with healthy, hardy plants including humidity, too much or too little moisture in the soil, lack of nutrients and minerals, too much raw material in the garden. All of these problems are of course caused by us as humans interfering with the environment improperly instead of mimicking the design of nature.
Trying to mimic nature can be challenging! It’s easy to overwater because people do not take the time to reach down into their soil below the wood chips and touch it to see how wet it really is! The mulch on top can appear to be very dry even when it’s very damp below. Too much moisture again causes rotting in plants and therefore attracts more insects to your plants when they begin showing symptoms of weekend immunity. If you see a plant with an infestation try to understand the root of the problem. Plan your garden plot carefully so that only seeds needing to germinate are getting watered regularly until they sprout and not your established plants too that do not need watering. In conclusion, water less, add fully composted wood chips to avoid attracting insects that feed on raw organic matter like slugs, snails, and roly-polies.
There are some OMRI certified, natural insect control methods that are deemed safe for use in organic gardens.
In conclusion: To avoid insect and pest problems in Back to Eden Gardens:
1. Don’t overwater to avoid attracting harmful insects! In fact, if you live in many climates you don’t need to water at all unless your germinating seeds! “I realized that Texas provides enough rain for all our native food producing plants I decided to give it a try (Back to Eden Gardening). And I'm so glad I did! This one 15x20 garden gave us over 1500 pounds of food without a single drop of water from us, and when temperatures were well into the 100s!” - A Modern Homestead
2. Don’t add too much raw material during the growing season. Add sufficiently composted material. Insects are attracted to organic matter and green waste. It’s part of their job to feed on cellulose and fiber from vegetable scraps, leaves, plants, wood. In fact, insects and beneficial bacteria actually help break down cellulose like raw wood chips into compost. However, when you add too much fresh wood chips or even vegetable compost that hasn’t fully decomposed, the insects will crawl in like a magnet to feed on the raw organic material. Adding a layer of raw wood chips that is 4-6 inches is usually not enough to attract a ton of insects on its own. But when combined with excessive moisture, compact soil without drainage etc.
3. Don't overcrowd when planting. This can cause plants to be more prone to excessive moisture and decomposition which can attract insects which can in turn attract animals.
4. Don't use toxic pesticides! Like Paul Gautschi always says, it's best to treat the root of disease not the symptoms. Think about what this means. Its easy to ignore what is causing a problem and just attack the symptoms of it relentlessly without ever resolving the problem! For example a slug infestation happens in your garden. Find the cause. Water less. Rake away debris to allow soil to dry from excessive moisture or attractant food for the slugs. If you must reduce the population, do it naturally using Neem Oil sprayed on your plants. An old DIY trick is to place a small cup with beer placed flush with the soil surface. The slugs will down in it.
BACK TO EDEN GARDENING WORKS!
Back to Eden Gardening is simple and sustainable. Even though the wood chip mulch you use many vary in the time it takes to break down and the ratio of carbon to nitrogen it contains depending on the source of the wood chips, the end results of the gardening method are consistently beneficial. The most important rules to remember in Back to Eden Gardening are 1) the goal is to build healthy soil 2) have a wood chip covering on top of the soil will help achieve improved soil with time 3) adding organic Nitrogen or compost to fresh wood chips helps provide more immediate benefits 4) Don’t bury the soil so deeply that your plants roots can’t access it. If you follow these rules, you will not only have a successful Back to Eden Garden. Cover it with just enough compost and wood chips to improve the soil slowly while allowing your plants roots to grow in the soil below the mulch. As Back to Eden gardeners we tend to forget that the soil is the ultimate food source for our vegetables and trees and we are simply trying to help improve the soil by covering it with wood chips. It’s easy to forget about the soil when we don’t see it below the wood chip mulch! Results in a properly installed Back to Eden Garden are significantly better than tilled gardens and farms. Just remember to check in on the soil regularly and adapt your fertilization and irrigation practices based on the condition of your soil.
Adding mulch to your vegetable garden is one of the best things you can do this year! Mulch is an attractive way to cover your garden resulting in countless benefits which include retaining moisture and nourishing your plants year round. Back to Eden Gardening promotes the use of wood chips as the premiere mulch for growing fruits and vegetables. Wood chips are a free resource that can be delivered directly to your address using the free Chip Drop app.
Before you make a request or free wood chips, take a minute to figure out, "how much mulch do I need to cover my garden?" The Back to Eden Gardening method recommends adding a depth of at least 3-4 inches of wood chip mulch to your vegetable garden.
This is the best mulch calculator that you can customize to measure your garden area and easily calculate how much mulch you need for your garden and orchard.