This picture gives you an idea of just how bad our soil was when we moved into our house. Grass wouldn’t grow and even weeds struggled. The topsoil was a rock hard mix of sand and clay. It cracked when it was dry, and every heavy rain flooded the yard, because there was little organic matter in the soil to absorb water. We transformed this barren soil to highly productive garden soil over time simply by adding compost, vermicompost, and mulch to the soil surface in our shallow raised beds. We also mulched our pathways with wood chips to suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil. What I discovered last summer is that soil in our wood chip covered pathways is just as fertile and productive as the soil in our garden beds. Last spring, in my never ending quest to grow more and more food, I broke out of the confines of our raised beds and planted tomatoes in pathways that had only been amended with wood chips. I didn’t add compost or other amendments when I planted them, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The plants were vigorous, healthy, and incredibly productive. They did just as well as tomatoes we grew in raised beds that had received a lot more attention over the years. Of course, the compost and vermicompost added to the beds probably improved the surrounding soil too, but nevertheless I was impressed with the results of the tomatoes grown in the wood chip covered pathways. I’m now sitting in about the same spot where our cat Maya was in the picture I showed you earlier. And what I thought I’d do today is to dig down into this pathway to see how much the soil has changed since that picture was taken. This pathway has been covered with wood chips every year for the past 8 years. Let’s start digging and see what we find. The first thing I notice is that the soil is no longer grey. Instead, it has the dark rich color of a soil that is rich in organic matter. With all this organic matter, the garden soaks up water like a sponge and doesn’t flood like it used to when we get heavy rains. I also notice that the soil is no longer hard. And my task of digging into it goes quickly and easily. The soil here used to be rock hard but in no time at all I was able to dig a 16 inch hole. The only resistance I ran into was some fine tree roots. And what is remarkable is that the soil has been transformed not just at the soil surface where the mulch was applied but all the way down to the bottom of the hole. Let’s take a closer look. The soil on top is from 16 inches down. It’s dark and rich, and like good soil should it holds together when I squeeze it but easily crumbles apart. When I reach down to the bottom of the bucket for the soil that was removed from the soil surface, I find it has the same characteristics as the soil from 16 inches down. Now let’s see how deep I have to dig before I see a change in the soil characteristics. Much to my surprise, as I dug deeper and deeper, the soil maintained the basic characteristics of being dark and rich in organic matter. It wasn’t until I reached a depth of 26 inches that I started seeing less organic matter and more sand and clay. Let’s take a closer look. At this depth, the soil loses its dark rich color, has less organic matter, and has more sand and clay. I was surprised to see that the soil was transformed to a depth of 26 inches, and I should reiterate that this happened simply by applying wood mulch to the soil surface over a period of 8 years. So, if you think you need to till organic matter into the soil to see something like this happen this is good evidence to the contrary. So, let’s get this hole filled in before I fall in. I wanted to share this with you today because people often comment on how good our soil looks, but, of course, they don’t know how far we’ve come and how bad the soil used to be. So, by sharing this transformation, I’m hoping to encourage those of you who are struggling with poor native soil. If we can transform our soil, so can you. And I focused on the pathways instead of the raised beds because I wanted to show how much native soil can be transformed by doing something as simple as keeping it covered with wood chips. Yes, the compost and vermicompost added to the adjacent beds likely played a role as well, but I’m certain the wood chips made a huge difference, and, after 8 years of mulching, the soil in our pathways is just as fertile as the soil in our raised beds. Given how well our tomatoes did last year when grown in soil amended only with wood chips, we plan to do more of the same this year. If you’ve used wood chips in your garden, please let me know what impact you’ve seen it have on your soil and on your crops. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.