If you've ever noticed how well your flowers grow in a garden enriched with wood mulch, others have already turned it into a science. Back to Eden filmmakers profiled Paul Gautschi, a Christian, who grows vegetables and fruits in Washington state using wood chip mulch. He explains how wood chip mulch increases the oxygen supply in the soil, holds needed moisture, which in turn attracts microbes and earthworms to produce his lush organic garden. He claims that this method of gardening needs little water and is a low maintenance way to garden. Has this spiked your interest?
As you watch the film, you learn that you can't just mix fresh sawdust or wood chip material directly into your soil, because it will deplete the soil's nitrogen and delay the growth in your garden plot. Paul recommends that you either use it as a ground cover, or begin by using his method of sheet mulching that prepares the soil for a new garden bed. You will notice that this isn't bagged mulch, but the type you get from a wood chipper.
Sawdust and raw wood are a great mulch for perennial crops, as long as you scatter a bit of organic fertilizer, poultry manure, or other nitrogen source over the surface each time you throw on a fresh layer of sawdust. Paul recommends the use of bloodmeal and other composted animal manure fertilizers (that don't contain weed seeds) when adding ingredients to a garden bed. The wood chips alone are not the magic bullet that will make this garden grow. You do need to supplement the soil with natural fertilizers at first, then after time it won't need to be done as often.
As a side note, in a YouTube video, Paul mentions a visitor to his farm who had spent hours learning permaculture gardening. The visitor became emotional when he realized that permaculture is a flawed way to garden, and that Paul's method was far superior.
An illustration showing the layers of permaculture gardening
I highly suggest that you closely read Paul's directions and watch any additional videos you can find on YouTube if you decide to give it a try. The Back to Eden method is interesting. You can watch the documentary film here or on Vimeo.
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