Back to Eden garden FAQ

Back to Eden garden FAQ

Here are the questions I receive the most about Back to Eden gardening.  If you have a question about Back to Eden gardens that is not answered on this page, please fill out the “Question for Paul form on the bottom of this page and I will take it to him on my next visit then, add it to this FAQ.



Q:  Where does Paul get his chicks?



Q:  Why doesn’t Paul breed his chickens instead of buying them?

A:  If the world ended, he would probably let some of his eggs hatch but, for now, it is just easier to get 20 chicks every year or two.


Q:  What does Paul feed his chickens?

A:  Table and garden scraps.  Paul doesn’t really eat meat that much.  Leftovers of meat go to the dogs.


Q:  What is the best crop to grow to keep the chickens fed during the winter?

A:  Kale.  Really any leafy green but, Paul always says kale.


Q:  Does Paul ever use feed for his chickens?

A:  He does have a trash can in the chicken coop that has chicken feed in it.  Paul said that he will only use it if it snows enough for his chickens to not be able to dig in the ground. I do not believe it was any special brand or type of feed since he only uses it maybe once a year if at all.  I’m sure it was organic though.


Q:  What does Paul feed his baby chicks?

A:  He gives them an organic chick starter.


Q:  Does Paul clip the wings on his chickens so they cannot fly.

A:  Yes


Q:  I didn’t see a watering system for his chickens.  Is it inside the coop?

A:  In the first few seconds of the first video I ever shot at Paul’s house, you see a shallow pan of water.  That is what they drink out of.  He does change the water a couple of times per day.  Paul does not really drink anything throughout the day.  His vegetables have enough water in them where he does not have to. See my Two Minutes of Strawberries video.  If they provide Paul with enough water, I’m sure it is good enough for his chickens.


Q:  How does Paul water his chickens in the winter?  Does the water freeze?

A:  There is nothing special about Paul’s water so, I’m sure if it gets cold enough it will freeze. He gives his chickens fresh water a couple times a day so, I do not think there is a risk of them running out of water even if it is freezing out.


Q:  What is Paul’s idea of the perfect chicken coop?

A:  He hasn’t really talked about building a chicken coop. The first few seconds of my first video of him is the closest you will get to his thoughts on the matter. He has 4 laying boxes on the right wall and 3 on the left. With all of his chickens, that is all he has used. He just took an old shed then put laying boxes and a few bars for the chicks to roost. A door that can close and a window that can open with a screen. Put some woodchips on the floor and you are in business.



Q:  What happens when there is no availability to get woodchips say in an economic collapse?

A:  There have been wood chips long before there was a guy with a truck and a wood chipper. The basic idea is to try to recreate a natural environment. Most people would be chopping wood for fire. Take the small twigs and branches and use those or leaves or hay. Paul also said that he only gets a load of wood chips once every couple of years now. The wood chips give a nice base but, add in compost from your chicken coop and you will be fine. It may be harder in SHTF but, still easier than trying to till.


Q:  I live in a rural area and cannot find wood chips.  Can I use sawdust alone??

A:  If sawdust is all you have, sawdust is what you use. The point is to cover the ground. Sawdust is just small wood chips. The only thing about sawdust that I can think of is that there will be less airflow and no green. Maybe try to find something to mix it up with like grass.


Q:  Are there any trees that you would not use for woodchips?

A:  No.  Paul says that there are trees that he would shy away from or that he prefers.  Any cover is better than no cover.  Pine trees are abundant in the Pacific Northwest where we live.  This biggest thing to remember is that you want different shapes and sizes of mulch.  You also want the green from the tree mixed in with the woodchips.  Pine trees have pine needles which add to the mix to give proper airflow.


Q:  Where can I get woodchips?

A:  Start with the phonebook.  Look for tree services in your area.  Contact your public works department, they have to cut down trees when the wind blows or they want to put up more power lines.  Try the free or wanted sections on  Put a request up on  There is a great website that will put you on a national woodchip list called  Drive around your neighborhood just after a big storm or when they are doing road work and look for the tree service trucks.  Tell them that you live around the corner and they can dump the woodchips in your driveway.  This will save them time and gas so, they are usually up for it.



Q:  Does “insert company name here” sell GMO seeds?

A:  Not to you.  It costs so much money make, sell or buy GMO seeds and there are contracts involved.  You would know if you are buying GMO seeds.  There is a great video talking about GMO seeds from mhpgardener at Everyone should watch this one.


Q:  I only have indirect sunlight.  What can I grow?

A:  The indirect sunlight you are receiving will allow you to grow greens and root crops quite well. Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, Celery, Parsley, Cilantro, Collards, Onions, Mustard Greens, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Celery, Carrots, Beets, Radishes.



Q:  What is the correct order for starting a Back to Eden garden?

A:  Most people want to do Dirt > Newspaper/Cardboard > Compost > Wood Chips. I do it in the order in which I get the stuff. The reason people do not want compost on top is that the weed seeds can land in it and grow. Another reason is that the compost will have to go through the wood chips to get to the ground. Nature doesn’t care. You never see an animal pull back the woodchips in the forest, add their compost, then cover it back up.

Some people cover the grass with compost then add the rest.  It can be done any way you want.  I just do not see the need to fertilize something I am trying to kill so, I wait a month or two to put the compost on. I put the compost on top of the woodchips and let the rain take it to the ground.   Just make sure that when you plant, you plant in the dirt.


Q:  We already planted.  Can we just put mulch and woodchips on top of that without first laying down any newspaper?

A:  The main reason to put newspaper and cardboard down is to kill off the grass, although worms really like it. If you have no grass then you can skip this step.  Remember that you want to place your woodchips under the bottom leaf or your plant/tree.  I would wait until the really start growing before covering them with woodchips.


Q:  I live in an apartment, 18th floor walk up, parents basement or underground bunker and my balcony, carport, window seal or hole in the ground doesn’t get much sunlight, water, worms or air.  Can I do the Back to Eden gardening in 5 gallon buckets, pots, an old car or an empty fish tank?

A:  Yes.  When I first found out about Paul, I had just started a container garden in my front yard. You do not get all of the benefits with containers but, it helps a lot. I don’t think I got any weeds and I had to water a lot less but, I did still have to water.  All in all, I will add woodchips to the top of anything I plant for the rest of my life. I even put them on my Topsy Turvy hanging tomato containers.


Q:  Can I till my ground one more time?

A:  No.


Q:  What if I already did?

A:  That sucks for you.  When you till the ground, you take all of the good dirt and bring it to the top to die.  All of the bad dirt you had on top just got pushed down to where you are going to plant your seeds.  Plus, you just compacted the soil under what you tilled.  You can come back from this but, it would have been better if you had not tilled at all.  Follow the steps from here on out and sell your tiller.


Q:  We never get rain.  Will we still have to water?

A:  Paul has said that he could turn the desert into a garden if he had the time. The woodchips will create the wet areas by not letting the sun dry out the ground. You could use swales to direct water to certain areas of the garden. Jack Spirko talks a lot about this on the Survival Podcast. There are ways out there to keep the ground wet without having to water. You could even get some rocks and make an air well.


Q:  Does he ever let the land “rest”?

A:  Paul says that he ground is not stressed so, there is no need to let it rest.  He plants in the same spot throughout the entire year and never rotates his crops.  Well, not on purpose.


Q:  Is it feasible for 200 acre vegetable patches?  Is it possible to supply enough woodchips to these agricultural projects that have been conventional?  Can every farmer in the country do this?

A:   Would it be possible to do the whole country today?  No.  In time?  Yes.  You really only have to put the woodchips down once or twice.  You can add more every year if you want but, once it is covered, you’re good.  Trees grow every year and get cut every year.  In the right area with willing tree services, 200 acres can be done.  It would take a lot of work that first year to move all of those woodchips into place. I am content to start with my yard for my family. Next year, the neighbors and so on.



Q:  Is cat, dog, squirrel, crow, chicken or rabbit droppings or urine poisonous, bad for or will kill my garden, grass or tree?

A:  Yes and no.  Urine is full of nitrogen.  Plants love nitrogen.  If you put too much of anything in one spot you will start to have adverse affects.  When your dog pees in a spot over and over again, it will burn that spot from over fertilization.  Dogs and cats eat protein which is a big cause of the high nitrogen in their waste.  Horses, chickens, cows, rabbits, sheep and goats all eat greens which will cause less nitrogen in their waste.  Still, you want to let it sit for a while in some kind of compost area before putting it on your ground.  A little, from time to time, is fine.  If you really have issues with it, water down that spot or keep your critters out of that area.


Q:  Will I get termites if I use woodchips.

A:  Paul does not have any issues with termites.  He told me that even if he did, he would welcome them.  They are just going to help break down the woodchips into a better compost just like the worms do.


Q:  How do you keep deer, cougars or bear out of your garden?

A:  With dogs.  Well, except for the bear.  The dog will let you know that there is a bear but, you want to keep your dog from becoming dinner.  If you do not have dogs, there are some things you can do.  There are motion sensor sprinklers that will turn the water on when you walk by it.  You could put up a fence.  You could hang cans with a couple of pebbles in it on the bigger plants.  You could even take some very fine fishing line and make a fence out of that.  Some animals are smart, most are not.  When a deer gets some fishing line across the face, they get confused and back up.  After a while they will just give up.  Paul has so much food in his garden that he just lets them eat what they want until the dogs chase them off.


Q:  How do you keep snails, slugs or other pests out of your garden?

A:  Why would you want to?  Paul says that every pest or disease tells you something about your garden.  The slugs only attack the dead, dying or stressed plants.  Every critter in the world serves a purpose.  You just have to figure out why they are there in the first place.



Q:  How does Paul get his trees to sag down that way?

A:  It is not by choice. His ground is so fertile that fruit starts growing before the saplings can develop enough to hold their weight. I have seen a few of his two year old trees that had to be propped up with sticks because they had too many apples.



Q:  What does Paul feed his dogs?

A:  He feeds his dogs scraps from the table and garden.



Q:  What does Paul think about aquaponics, hydroponics, Hugelkulture, Mittleider, Square Inch or your grandma’s way of gardening?

A:  I have asked Paul about every type of gardening you can name.  Is it better, is it worse, why don’t you do this or that?  He pretty much always comes back with the same answer, “Cause this works”.  He knows about the other methods and thinks they are great for some people but, how much better and easier can his garden get?


If you would like to suggest a question that I ask Paul Gautschi on my next trip, fill out the form below and I will add it to the list.  If I get the same question a few times, I will add it to this FAQ.


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