With the first official day of autumn already behind us, I’m asking, where did summer go? I can feel the change of seasons in the air. The temperatures are definitely cooler and refreshing rain has dotted our landscape a few days this month. Our Back to Eden garden is still producing, but some of our crops are starting to slow. The summer squash leaves are browning and only a few sunflowers are holding their heads up for these last sunny days. It’s Oregon and the nonstop clouds and rain are coming. Then it will be goodbye to our first summer Back to Eden garden.
Since I’m 6 months pregnant and feeling it, we are not planning on planting any overwintering crops. We can always experience winter gardening next year. For now, we are reveling in the abundant harvest that our summer garden has supplied. It has been an interesting season of learning and growing in our knowledge about mulching with wood chips. After my article in July, Our First Back to Eden Garden (Part 1) – Early Summer, we have come to more conclusions. I encourage you to read that post, as it gives a full overview of our initial successes and failures. Now that autumn has arrived, I wanted to review our experience of the summer months.
Our First Back to Eden Garden – Early Fall
4 Out of 5 Stars
My rating earlier this summer would have been 3 and ½ stars but now that our garden has come to fully maturity, I’m feeling better about it’s success. We had difficulty with spring planting, as most of our seeds kept being eaten by slugs or smothered by the wood chips. But as starts turned into full plants, the summer sun helped produce thriving vegetation and lots of fruit. We had so much bounty, I started trading zucchini and yellow squash for used baby clothes!
The summer crops, like zucchini and patty pan squash, are slowing down. We are planning on pulling out several plants this weekend, as they look too brown and unsightly in our front garden. But the root crops, like turnips and carrots, and the green leafy vegetables, like kale and collards are looking fantastic. We’ll be harvesting and eating them well into the next month. The winter squash, like the spaghetti and buttercup you see in the photo above, will store quite nicely in our cold garage through the winter for meals into next spring. (It’s true that all winter squash with a hard outside shell will last for several months in cool, dry storage.)
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Wood Chips
- Weeds are a minimal nuisance. Just as I chronicled in my original post, weeds have not been a major problem. We’ve had a few here and there, but they have been easy to pull. What a relief, compared to past gardens full of hostile, entrenched weeds!
- Watering is easy and diminished. We only watered once a week this summer, even in hot 100-degree weather days. And now, we have stopped watering the gardens altogether, since the rain has visited a few times in September.
- Bugs are not an issue. In previous seasons, we’ve had major aphid infestations, especially on kale and chard leaves. We still joke about the aphid soup we ate from the “buggy” cabbage in our first garden four years ago! But this summer, we had little evidence of bugs. There are a few leaves with holes, but overall our plants look strong, better than in years past. The wood chips have nourished the soil, creating robust, hearty plants.
- Our vegetables are larger and healthier. Our kale leaves are long and luscious. And our squash! We continuously watched the summer squash for fear of monster zucchini! They grew so big and fast; we had to harvest daily. We also noticed the amazing water content in each sample. We would break open any summer squash and water beads would immediately form. So juicy! They have been delicious raw, as well as cooked. Again, we believe the wood chips are creating a biologically diverse and moist soil where vegetables can thrive. I liken it to building a healthy immune system in the human body.
To be honest, I don’t see any disadvantages from our experience this summer. The main problems came early on, when we were planting. Our seeds died more than not, and we struggled to get the garden off the ground, so to speak! Read my original post, Our First Back to Eden Garden (Part 1), for more information about our early failures.
Our Back to Eden garden shined more this summer, compared to the spring months. I hope that upcoming plantings will go more smoothly as the wood chips degrade and become a part of the soil. Right now, the bulk is still 4-5 inches deep. As time goes by, the chips should recede and not cause any many planting hassles.
If our first Back to Eden garden has gone this well, I’m excited to see what future gardens will bring! Hopefully less work, and more beautiful vegetables. In the mean time, stay tuned for more gardening posts from Restored Roots!
Have you mulched with wood chips? Have you seen the inspiring documentary film Back to Eden? Please share your experience and leave a comment below.