You may be hearing about wood chip gardening more often these days. This style of gardening is growing in popularity because of it’s lower maintenance and abundant harvests. We learned about Paul Gautschi’s way of gardening several years ago from a family member. We watched his videos and were intrigued at how easy he made gardening look. Then we thought it has to be too good to be true.
After we moved to our farmhouse and after many frustrated years of gardening, we decided to give the wood chip garden a try. Last summer we collected wood chips from local tree trimming companies. In early fall we planted the garden with a cover crop of rye and turnips to add nutrients back into the soil. In the spring we mowed the rye and made rows of thick wood chips without any tilling. Did you hear that? NO TILLING! I planted my pea seeds directly in the wood chips. I was very skeptical of any germination happening under that kind of covering. We watered and waited and after a few days we were doing the happy dance. In the back of my mind I still wasn’t sure. The real test would come in the middle of summer. Our plants always had a great start, but would wither away before we could harvest anything.
It is the dead of summer and I am happy to report that with occasional watering throughout the dry periods, our garden in is in full bloom and we are harvesting zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, onions, cabbage, and herbs. The best part is the lack of weeds! A couple times a week I walk the rows and easily pull out a few random weeds. The only two vegetables I had trouble with were beets and carrots. I planted them heavily, but they came up patchy.
Essentially the wood chips help hold moisture in the ground and keep weeds out. As they decompose they are adding nutrients to the soil. The decomposing chips make the soil soft and easy to work with when pulling random weeds or planting seeds. We are beyond amazed and we want to share with you how you can start preparing for next years garden. This year we only had enough chips to make rows, but eventually we want to cover the entire garden. If you have a large garden, making rows is an option for you. You can mow or lay grass clippings between the rows. If you have a smaller garden, you should be able to source enough chips to cover the entire surface of the garden.
PREPARING FOR A WOOD CHIP GARDEN
- Start sourcing wood chips from local tree trimming companies now. Make sure you have a place to pile them up on your property. You may be able to find them for free or for a small fee. The most we paid was $50 for a full dump truck load. If you have a small garden you should only need one truck full. We used three loads to make 8 rows. Another option is to invest in a wood chipper and do it yourself. Check with your township because some townships have a community yard waste drop spot that you may have access to if you pick up yourself.
- Plant your garden with a cover crop in early fall when your harvest is over. Leave enough growing time for the crop to come in before the first frost. We used turnips and rye.
- In early spring add your chips to your garden and start planting. The heavier you lay the chips the less weeds you will have to worry about.
- This is what worked for us but you can do your own research by reading about Back to Eden Gardening.