During one of the coldest days this winter, a group of gardeners gathered at the Winkler Library for our second Nature Talk of the season – a screening of the documentary film Back to Eden. It was the perfect time to dream about gardening.
The film follows the story of Paul Gautschi, a gardener who moved to Washington from California with the intention of growing a big garden for his family. When he arrived, he discovered that his well did not provide enough water for his garden. Over time, Paul realized that in nature, the ground is always covered. And so he tried implementing this concept in his garden by spreading six inches of wood-chip mulch onto his soil. He quickly found that he never needed to water his plants or till and rarely needed to pull weeds; the wood-chip mulch kept his soil loose, hydrated and weed-free. Plus, thanks in part to the compost from his chicken coop, his vegetables were bigger and more delicious than ever.
In addition to the practical skills in the film, we saw that gardening can be an impacting spiritual exercise. The gardeners in the documentary told many stories of the spiritual growth they experienced while spending time in the garden. One learned that not every seed they plant (literally and metaphorically) germinates. Another learned that God wants to give in abundance. Paul explains that he asks God questions about gardening and, to his amazement, God reveals many of these answers.
Afterward the group discussed the film’s content. Several of the gardeners in attendance expressed that they had been using similar techniques through the use of straw or leaf mulch. Many people shared stories about how they connected with God through gardening. Some people experienced awe at the miracle of growth, others were overwhelmed by the example of God’s rich provision through the garden, and some people learned specific lessons through the details of the garden.