Row by Row Episode 22: Why “Back to Eden” Gardening Isn’t for Us

The “Back To Eden” Gardening Technique

On this week’s episode, the guys discuss the recently popular “Back to Eden” gardening technique. This technique involves mulching the entire garden area with straw or wood chips in an attempt to reduce weed pressure and conserve moisture. Travis mentions that while it does suppress some weeds, there will still be weed seed inputs from wind, water, and animals. And those weeds would require pulling by hand because of the inability to use a cultivating/weeding tool in a heavily mulched area. The guys agree that there preferred way of keeping weed pressure to a minimum is by planting cover crops. Also, adding cover crops will increase soil nutrients back into the soil. Overall, it does keep some weed pressure to a minimum, but frequent cultivation is much easier and effective. Another Back to Eden claim technique is that you will need less water and fertilizer in the garden. Travis says although it may reduce water usage it will not reduce fertilizer usage because of our location in the deep south. In the South, because of our soil types and weather, it is hard to keep nutrients in the soil for the plants to uptake. So we have to add fertilizer supplements to provide plants with the nutrients they need in the soil. Greg mentions that replicating a forest environment is not a good idea for vegetable plants. When growing a vegetable garden, we must manipulate the environment because these plants such as tomatoes, peppers or watermelons are not native. As a result, mulched areas create an unnatural environment for these cultivated varieties. Using wood chips will tie up your nitrogen nutrients in the garden which is a natural process that has to decay. Travis also mentions that the Back to Eden method is not a very time-efficient method of gardening. With short-term annual crops, it requires too much time to remove mulch when you plant versus simply cultivating the area once a week.

Show and Tell Segment

On the Show & Tell segment this week, the guys talk about their upcoming event at the Sunbelt Ag Expo. Greg says the garden is looking good with corn, collards, cut flowers and more. Greg also has some Seminole Pumpkins that he recently harvested from his personal garden. This pumpkin variety is very resistant to viruses and diseases that typically plague pumpkins grown in southern climates. Travis mentions that the Seminole variety has great flavor and is perfect for making pies or even baby food. The tool of the week is Chilean Nitrate which provides a natural source of nitrogen for the vegetable garden. Travis used it recently to side dress his broccoli, collards, and cauliflower. Greg used it also at the expo to side-dress corn and all the greens and it ended up making a huge difference in the plants. This is the best product to use if you need to add some nitrogen to a nitrogen-loving plant.

Viewer Questions Segment

On the question and answer segment, the guys answer a question about tillage radish spacing as a cover crop. Tillage radish works great in heavy clay soils because it grows deep in the soil and provides great nutrients. Travis explains that recommendations suggest a spacing of rows 6″ to 14″ apart, but that he would err on the side of having rows closer together. He suggests planting rows 6″ apart if planting tillage radish with a walk-behind seeder. Greg talks about the benefits of tillage radish as a cover crop because it acts as a sponge for nutrients and breaks down easily when incorporated into the soil.

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