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jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#1
I'm not a hardcore gardener like Wannabe, but I like to put a few plants in the ground. I've been viewing a bunch of videos on Youtube about Back to Eden gardening . This guy has re-discovered what used to be called deep mulch gardening only he uses wood chips. He gets truckloads of wood chips delivered free to his place by the powerline tree trimming sevrvices. It helps them by cutting their costs to dump the stuff and normally a lot of the driving time too.

The basic thought behind the deep mulch method is to use some kind of organic material to cover the ground several inches deep. That smothers out weeds, conserves moisture and self-fertilizes every time it rains. So it claims , it also eliminates the need to till the soil ever again. Supposedly , the moisture draws worms, bacteria, microbes and fungi which breaks down and aerates the soil. I'm more than a little skeptical, but I'll give it a try.

Well, I have been looking at a free , sustainable supply of mulch and didn't know it. The next door neighbor tends to let her grass grow fairly tall and cutting it leaves big mounds of cut grass.......perfect for mulch. She lets me have all I want. I just rake it up and haul it 75 feet to where I need it . Win -win situation.
 

Wannabe

Well-Known Member
Apr 5, 2007
2,645
1
on the bank of Trinity Bay
#2
Joey,
I have heard that using wood chips as a mulch in the garden is not a good idea. Decaying wood is supposed to use an enormous amount of nitrogen so your plants would suffer unless you added a lot of nitrogen. I would think for the deep mulch garden you would need raised beds or some other means to keep from walking in the area you are planting. If you walk on it you will compact it. I have friends that have conventional row gardens that did not plant anything this last Spring because it was too wet to get into their garden. My feed tubs worked great. I was able to plant and care for them without bogging down in mud. Let me know how it works out.
Bob
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#3
Bob, according to this guy, you don't have to worry about that because you never till the chips into the soil. You spread them on top and let them slowly decompose. After a year or two, you can add more chips or other organic matter on top. You only get in trouble if you DO till.

He says that nature never tills the ground, it just adds new leaves and twigs every fall. Nobody plants, fertilizes, waters or weeds in nature and plants have been growing for millions of years without man's help. Makes sense to me.

Now this guy in this Back to Eden method makes some pretty bold claims and, I think, stretches the truth some, but he seems to be on the right track considering how much food he grows.
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#5
I would suggest to anyone interested in gardening look at a few of his videos on Youtube. Search "Back to Eden gardening". One point he made was really interesting. Wherever there are drought conditions and crops are suffering, check out the surrounding forests. Chances are the forests are nice and green with a lot of small underbrush. Same temps, same rainfall, no one to water or fertilize..............just growing and thriving. Hmmmmmmm.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,972
68
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#6
Joey, I fear that Bob is right. If you put wod chips, sawdust - wood in most any form - down, it will tie up nitrogen as it decays. Mix it with lots of chicken dung, that is rich in nitrigen. The combo mix is good.Better tha wood, is old hay. It will enrich the soil rsther than deplete it.

Whatever you use, might snakes enjoy living in there?
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#7
Jack, a bunch of PhD's went to this guy's garden and basically told him he was full of Cr&p. He showed them what he had, they tested the soil, found it was about perfect and left scratching their heads still thinking he was crazy.

I grew cucumbers this year with only cypress sawdust as a mulch. I planted one cucumber plant and got vines 10-12 feet long and had to give away cucumbers. Tomatoes didn't do so well, but everybody I talked to had a lousy tomato crop. Too many days in the high 90's , I suspect.

Now, this is all on the Internet, which has to be true, right? :lol: This guy has nothing to sell. No books , movies, seeds, autographed rakes and shovels......nothing. He just believes in the system and thinks more people should try it. He's a little overboard with the bible quotes and such for my taste, but he makes some great arguments.

Anyway, I'm retired now and can experiment to my heart's content. I figure failure is also a learning experience.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,972
68
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#8
Those results sound good. While you're experimenting, may I suggest that you do a side by side experiment? One test plot with wood, the other with old or moldy hay? Dry grass clippings work too.

6"-8" deep. Pull the hay aside to plant. As the vehetable grows, snug the hay up around it again. Any weeds that do succeed in growing up through will pull easily. Lay it on top to dry and serve as more mulch.

The test plots may prove equal, or one prove better? Differing conditions may favor one, or the other at different times?
 

oldsparkey

Well-Known Member
Aug 25, 2003
9,838
36
75
Central , Florida
www.southernpaddler.com
#9
I use to use grass timings and Horse manure. We could get all the horse manure we wanted from the race track. All of it had sawdust mixed in with it after they cleaned the stables and piled the manure up. Never noticed any bad results from the horse manure and sawdust mix being used.

Cow Manure works just about as well but if you use Chicken make sure it is a inch or more from the plants stems , it is some HOT stuff , and will burn the stems of established seedlings.
The Chicken we would use it and let the area sit for a while before planting anything in it.

Starting a new season..........
I would take the manure ( Horse or Cow ) and grass ( mulch ) and spread it where the plants or seeds would go then rototiller it in with a walk behind Gravely tractor. Ran that rototiller over it several times to really mix things up.
 

Wannabe

Well-Known Member
Apr 5, 2007
2,645
1
on the bank of Trinity Bay
#10
Joey,
I watched the video ans was impressed with it. Did he live in a part of Washington that gets 15feet of rain a year? If you could get access to the materials you need to do that it would be worth trying. Having chickens and or ducks would be a big plus. I think you have found something good Joey.
Bob
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#11
Bob, he lives near Sequim, Wa. , which gets less than 16 INCHES of rain a year. The mountains play a big part in the rainfall in that area. I read where the rainfall can vary from 20" to 220" in just 50 miles or so.

From the looks of it, my neighbor's yard should supply me with 8-10" of grass clippings in the area set aside for the garden as well as the areas mulched just to control weeds. Almost any organic matter can be used. In your area, that might be straw , hay, leaves, wood chips, sawdust, shredded paper, rotten logs, peanut hulls. Heck, even large sheets of cardboard would probably work. I've read that people go around on trash day in the fall and pick up dozens of bags of leaves that people leave out on the curb. Some big cities even give away leaves and mulch.

Joey
 

Wannabe

Well-Known Member
Apr 5, 2007
2,645
1
on the bank of Trinity Bay
#12
Joey,
If you know a rancher that uses high quality hay see if you could pick up his left over hay. When they feed round bales they set it on the ground, cut the strings and plastic (if any) and the cows eat on it. There is usually some left on the ground that has been trampled on and not eaten. There will also be some manure in it or around it. Maybe in the spring the rancher would lit you gather some up for your garden. Just a thought. Tree services that trim for the power companies love having places to dump chipped wood for free. Sure wish I had about five acres. :mrgreen:
Bob
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#13
I got 2 pickup loads of scrap hay from a cane farmer that raises a couple hundred head of cattle. I started with 25' x 40' piece of St. Augustine lawn and covered it with a couple layers of cardboard, a 6" layer of hay and a couple of inches of grass clippings. Come next spring, a lot of that should be decomposed and starting to make some nice soil. It really takes a couple of years to really start seeing the benefit of the mulch.

The cardboard and hay have been there for a couple of months and the cardboard is almost all rotted away and the hay is starting to break down. A couple of test holes show that the soil underneath is wet, but not soggy and breaks up pretty easily. Almost no sign of the St. Augustine roots and that's a pretty robust turf grass.
 

Wannabe

Well-Known Member
Apr 5, 2007
2,645
1
on the bank of Trinity Bay
#14
Any and I mean any kitchen scraps need to be dun into it. Egg shells, spent coffee and tea bags, vegetable matter watermelon and cantaloupe rinds, or anything should be dug in. It all helps. You can also din in any printed matter such as newspapers and cardboard boxes. Seems like I remember something in the past that said color print is not good for the soil. Might want to look that up. It will be a Great Adventure.
Bob
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,972
68
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#15
You're doing well, Joey. Bob's right about garbage. A cautionary note here is that some kitchen scraps can turn the soil acidic. Grapefruit rinds are particularly strong, lemon too. Wood ashes in the soil can bring it back.

Ruth Stout, 93 at the time, used moldy hay from farmers, similar to what Bob suggested. I'm wondering if cardboard might tie up nitrogen like wood does? Don't know. I've also read of gardners getting hair clippings from barbershops. Mainly, because the human scent can be a deer deterrent. Dead fish will be good fertilizer, but may call in pests. Bury it nnext to a plant. Early Indians were said to plant a fish with every hill of corn. Later, they replaced those fish with colonists. Bigger, and easier to catch. ;-)

Do you have county extension agents in Louisiana? If so, they could be helpful too. As advisors - not as fertilizer!
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,015
3
South Louisiana
#16
Well, wood products are SUPPOSED to tie up nitrogen in the soil. I haven't seen any evidence of that yet. So far I've put down old hay, fresh grass clippings, cypress sawdust and 6 month old sugar cane bagasse as a covering. I transplanted a half dozen banana plants in late April and used the cypress sawdust and bagasse for mulch and they have doubled in height and quadrupled in the number of shoots emerging from around the base of each plant. They look mighty happy.

Cucumbers were mulched with the same and produced like crazy. Tomatoes mulched with straight bagasse grew like weeds but not many tomatoes. Most everyone I talked to didn't do well with tomatoes this year.

The problem of tying up nitrogen mostly is found in very young plants with shallow root systems. It just affects the top inch or so of soil. As the lower layers of mulch begin to compost, the balance begins to flip and there's MORE nitrogen available to the plants.

We'll see.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,972
68
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#17
Great results! You're the first person I ever heard of growing both tomatoes and bananas together. (I know of no recipes combining them.)

Ruth Stout would spread the vines etc. of her plants around on TOP of her mulch, and pull up mulch around the stalk of the plant.

Joey, you may want to limit the fresh geass clippings. They can be soggy, and rot with anerobic bacteria rather than with aerobic bacteria. I've cleaned the snotty crap out from under enough rotary lawnmowers to know that it isn't good stuff. Fresh clippings could be spread on top of mulch that is already in place to dry, then break down.

Of course, with this kind of a garden, you don't get the fun of tooling around on a riding garden tractor. And, you look GOOD on a riding tractor: straw hat at a jaunty angle, corncob pipe clenched in your teeth, flashy red bandana tied around your neck in John Wayne style, sounds of Cajun music swirling around the potato patch and drifting along the bayou, new leather boots looking snazzy on your feet! Aye od, Joey, I can see you now. Julie's waving at you.
 

Wannabe

Well-Known Member
Apr 5, 2007
2,645
1
on the bank of Trinity Bay
#18
Jack,
Lots of folks down here grow bananas. Most rarely make fruit, but the leaves are wonderful to cook stuff in. Mexicans and other South and Central Americans will come beg leaves off of you to cook with and you can usually look to get a bit back to taste. Wonderful trade. I think of planting some now and again, just never have. My buddy had some and he got some tasty eats now and again.
Bob
 

Wannabe

Well-Known Member
Apr 5, 2007
2,645
1
on the bank of Trinity Bay
#19
Joey,
I almost forgot. Watching the video the other day I could not believe what he did.
Most of the weeds he was digging up and chunking was good to eat. Beautiful dandelion plants with nice big roots wasted. He dug up some (I think) plantain which is very good. I had some plantain at the back door and the patch got so big I had to put roundup on it. Not to worry, it'l be back and it is growing in other places also. It grows wild. I'll never plant mustard greens again. I went fishing on an irrigation canal last year and did not catch any fish. Was looking around and saw that mustard greens were growing everywhere. I picked a big bunch and took them home. Wife said "I thought you went fishing"? I told her I did but the fish weren't biting but the greens were. I washed, blanched, cooled, bagged, and froze the greens. That saves on garden space.
Bob
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,972
68
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#20
For wild food gstherers, take a look at "Nature's Garden: a guide to identifying, harvesting, and preparing edible wild plants", by Samuel Thayer. Probably available at your local library - or, they can get it shipped in. You can also buy it.