Garden Photo of the Day

Dana and Sarah’s Garden of Eden

Turning a patchy lawn into edible abundance

woman holding a large harvest of kale

Our 2,400-square-foot backyard vegetable garden is located in Los Angeles (Zone 10B). It is an edible garden of Eden that features over 100 heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. We are growing many rare varieties that are listed in Slow Foods’ Ark of Taste living catalog of foods facing extinction. Additionally, we have planted 24 citrus and fruit trees.

We are Dana Richardson and Sarah Zentz, two women filmmakers who are producers/directors of the gardening documentary Back to Eden, which went viral, receiving over 50 million views in every country in the world. It is currently the top-viewed gardening video on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

In the midst of a global pandemic, when we were in lockdown due to COVID-19, the interest in gardening skyrocketed. In 2020, our decade-old film received over 1 million views. We installed a backyard garden to teach how to grow food using no-till organic gardening principles. Our original goal was to grow our own food and share our journey from planting to harvesting on Facebook and Instagram (@backtoedengardening).

When we moved to Los Angeles two years ago, the backyard was a patchy grass lawn overgrown with tenacious weeds. The dirt was so compact you could not dig a hole with a shovel. In 2020, we applied over 10 tons of arborist wood chips to every bare inch of our property. We diligently spread the wood chips over the surface of the soil as a sheet mulch, never tilling, mixing, or disturbing the soil. We applied a layer at least 4 inches thick on the annual vegetable garden plot and 4 inches deep around our perennial plants and fruit trees. Within 6 months we transformed the backyard into a lush, sustainable, edible ecosystem with healthy soil that grows nutrient-dense food year-round.

The regenerative organic gardening methods we implemented are based on biomimicry—working with the design of nature instead of against it. Respectfully, these nature-based food-growing methods are rooted in centuries of indigenous cultural wisdom and traditional farming practices. We specifically used a gardening method known as Back to Eden Gardening, which applies wood-chip mulch to the surface of the soil with the goal of mimicking the forest floor.

All of the loads of wood chips we received were delivered for free from local tree-trimming companies through the website ChipDrop. Arborist wood chips are a plentiful, renewable natural resource that are considered a green waste by-product from pruning tree branches. Typically, freshly chipped branches, needles, and leaves are an ideal soil microbe–feeding mixture of carbon from the wood and nitrogen from the fresh green leaves. Wood chips are an abundant, affordable, and ecologically sustainable material that has tremendous potential to regenerate soil, suppress weeds, boost plant growth, and conserve water.

Living in a drought-stricken state, we know our biggest challenge is conserving water. In 2020, Los Angeles received less than 6 inches of rain, the seventh-driest season in recorded history. Considering this, it is quite unbelievable that we only need to water established plants in our garden once a week in the heat of summer. It is essential to save water by covering the soil with mulch.

We are growing everything from apples to zucchini using regenerative organic agriculture principles. We know our food system cannot depend on monocultures for the future of food. One of the perks of growing your own food is planting varieties you can’t buy in the grocery store. We plant rare, heirloom, open-pollinated, non-GMO seeds and rare fruit trees. Our hope is to inspire growers to increase biodiversity within their gardens.

In addition to our urban garden, we raise egg-laying chickens who help reduce pests naturally and fertilize the garden organically. We make our own compost with kitchen scraps, green yard waste, wood chips, and chicken manure.

We are consistently overflowing with an abundance of produce and eggs and decided to freely share the harvest with our community. This summer, we are hosting a “Garden to Table Crop Swap,” where other gardeners in our neighborhood can bring a selection of fruits or vegetables to share with other growers. We place a table in the garden for everyone to share their harvest.

Our garden reflects our deep passion for growing and consuming healthy food. Our garden is colorful, open, and always changing and growing, which is something we strive for in our daily lives. Our gardening principles are in line with our environmental interests in regenerating soil, conserving water, increasing biodiversity, and sequestering carbon.

kitchen table in the middle of a vegetable gardenHosting a Garden to Table Crop Swap in Los Angeles

woman holding a large harvest of kaleHarvesting blue curled scotch kale to build a big salad to share with our community

basket full of tomatoesA vast selection of heirloom tomatoes ripened on the vine

squash beginning to growAn heirloom Italian Costata Romanesco zucchini squash growing on the vine

Navel Orange growing on a treeOur Washington navel orange tree is growing strong and healthy in the midst of a citrus quarantine.

harvesting green beansHarvesting green beans with our dog, Anika

 

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Comments

  1. Carolyn3134 06/15/2022

    Wow, Wow, WOW!! Thank you for sharing this, but especially for DOING it--and demonstrating to others how they can DO IT TOO!!! Kudos!!!

    1. backtoedengardening 06/15/2022

      Thank you! It's been so fun!

  2. User avater
    VanhaTaloSuomi 06/15/2022

    Congratulations!
    I must be the only person who has never heard of Back to Eden gardening. Thanks for the introduction and inspiration.
    Here's to your continued success!

    1. backtoedengardening 06/15/2022

      Glad you were introduced to Back to Eden gardening! We hope it changes your life and helps transforms your soil!

  3. User avater
    SimpleSue 06/15/2022

    Fabulous! I saved the link on Youtube that you shared, to watch later this evening- I'm looking so forward to it!
    Love that photo of the table and the dog, and the kale, I love your story and learning how you added the wood chips- you two are an inspiration! What an amazing accomplishment making a great garden and making a movie!

    1. backtoedengardening 06/15/2022

      Thank you! Enjoy our movie!

  4. BTucker9675 06/15/2022

    Amazing!!! Anika must be a most excellent garden assistant!

    1. backtoedengardening 06/17/2022

      She is the best and keeps a lot of critters away. She will eat absolutely anything from the garden but her favorites are carrots, peas, and kale!

  5. User avater
    BDOwen 06/15/2022

    I want to know more about ChipDrop. How do you know that the wood chips are not from diseased trees? Sounds like a wonderful resource. Lots of good information in your post- thank you!

    1. backtoedengardening 06/17/2022

      The delivery will come from a local tree trimming service company. Our experience has been that you can ask them questions about the load before they dump it! They are always transparent and tell us exactly the species and reason they did the trimming. You can also make notes in your request for a delivery such as, no diseased trees. Another feature on the site is to get smaller amounts from your neighbors who have extra. You can sign up and check it out here: https://getchipdrop.com/?ref=backtoeden

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