As I was planting my garden this spring I realized I’d been nurturing this same plot of ground for about 15 years! That’s a neat feeling, to see the reward of steady care over the long haul.
Last year I really struggled with keeping up in my garden. I hate spending time weeding which could be spent visiting family and friends, dancing, making music, or helping others.
I’d heard about wood chip gardening from the documentary back to Eden last year, and tried to acquire wood chips last spring to no avail. I called every tree company I our phone book, all of them said they’d deliver, and none of them showed. Finally, in desperation, I made a sign one morning before work, and put it up by the road. By evening we had our first load, and since, I’ve received two more which provided plenty of fresh wood chips!
I’d already planted most of the garden, but quickly set out to cover it in the mulch. I used two layers of newspaper down first, then about 4″ of wood chips on top. It took me about 6 hours of work total. I would spend and hour or so in the garden before work, weeding, laying newspaper and hauling the chips. It really was very manageable, and the time savings since those initial few hours has been immense.
I’ve not had to water once since I planted nearly 7 weeks ago and the soil has stayed consistently moist below the wood chips. Everything that sprouted except a couple tomato plants that seem to be messed up is thriving. Weeding only takes a couple minutes once a week…really it’s just a bit of grasses that poke through and thistles. The thistles are very persistent creatures and will clearly require constant care to keep under control, but, it really only takes me 10 minutes once or twice a week to pull them all up. The mulch keeps the soil moist enough that they pull out easily.
I’m taking pictures to help document the progress–failure or success– of this experiment. I found it frustrating that there are lots of people who talk about starting their garden with wood chips, but hardly any talk about the final result. I want to know how it works long term. What will it be like in the middle of August? How difficult will it be to harvest my potatoes? How well will everything grow? What will fall clean up look like? What about planting again next spring?
So, here come my pictures to date!
This is from a couple weeks ago. I’d just finished my first hulling of the potatoes in the fore ground.
This is from the same place taken this morning. I’ve hulled my potatoes twice now. As you can see, they appear to be thriving!
These are pinto bean plants and some onion sets. I have fishing line and bird netting set up as deer protection because they decimated these poor plants once. Thankfully, they recovered once I put up protection.
Kale on the left and Swiss Chard on the right. I used old seed for this which is why I think only about half the seeds came up! I’ve sown more Swiss Chard, and will sow more Kale August.
Two of my tomatillo plants in the foreground and my raised bed of onions in the back.
Two more tomatillo plants and two hills of spaghetti squash with two plants per hill.
Tomato plants. These are a hodgepodge of ones I started, some I bought from Home Depot and some I purchased for a coworker. The ones I started got hailed on and only a couple survived.
And last but not least, my Concord Grape Vine! It’s covered in grapes! I’m so excited for harvest this year. In a couple days I’ll be putting up a bird net to keep them off the grapes.