The Fastest, Easiest And Cheapest Way To Fertilize Your Garden Written by: JD Lara
By JD Lara / offthegridnews.com

The Fastest, Easiest And Cheapest Way To Fertilize Your Garden

Written by: JD Lara Survival Gardening March 11, 2015 2 Comments Print This Article Print This Article

 

garden -- hgdecorationDOTcomFinally, there’s a quick and easy way to fertilize your soil … not to mention free. “Chop-and-drop” is a method of mulching in permaculture, which is a system of farming that aims to do things in an ecologically sound and sustainable way.

Chop-and-drop is exactly that – chopping leaves and thin branches off shrubs and trees, and dropping them directly on the ground to serve as mulch. But though it may seem so simple, there are sound underlying principles behind it that any gardener would be wise to consider.

We already know the benefits of mulching: It provides ground cover so our soil remains rich, damp and protected from the sun; it minimizes erosion from water and wind; and it prevents weeds from growing and taking over our gardens. Mulch also provides a habitat for beneficial organisms to thrive in our soil – be they earthworms, nematodes and fungi underneath, or friendly insects and arthropods amongst the decaying leaves above the ground.

But what sets chop-and-drop apart from traditional mulches like straw, hay, woodchips, cardboard or sheet mulch is its all-time availability on-site. If you select and plant fast-growing, nutrient-rich plants across your garden, prune them regularly and leave the clippings to decompose on the ground, you’re actually composting and fertilizing on-the-spot. They’re called “living” mulches, and they’re ready for use anytime.

This is what permaculture tries to do – mimic what’s actually happening in nature. In temperate climates, leaves drop from trees during the fall, decay over the winter and enrich the soil in time for spring. Permaculturists copy this principle by planting ground covers, herbaceous plants, leguminous shrubs and small trees in strategic locations, and then chopping and dropping them frequently to speed up the process of soil-building.

Order your 2015 Heirloom Solutions seed catalog and get $20 in your account!

The Goal of Chop-And-Drop

Image source: singlechopstick.com

Image source: singlechopstick.com

As in any permaculture principle, the goal of chop-and-drop is to save time and energy. “When you grow your mulch in place, you reduce the need to bring in outside resources that require energy of all forms — from fossil fuels to personal time and overall energy output,” says permaculturist Brendon McKeon, who designs and develops several eco-farms in Costa Rica, including his own. “By growing your mulch right where you need it, you save a huge amount of time.”

Imagine if you had a huge orchard to tend, and mulching it would mean hauling in and distributing straw or woodchips over several acres of land? First, you’d have to spend money on procuring the materials, and then spend more time and effort spreading them across the property.  But if you had beneficial shrubs strewn across the garden, you’d have ready mulch right where you need it – and at no cost, either.

“In permaculture we are trying to create a closed loop system, and ideally creating a regenerative system with net energy gain. This means we are producing more than we are using,” McKeon adds.

Story continues below video

What to Plant

While all plants die and ultimately become soil, there are certain kinds that make excellent mulch. They grow fast, coppice well and can be pruned often. In temperate regions, herbaceous plants work best. Woody ones take longer to decompose and are best avoided, unless you’re planning on using the soft parts only or chip the thick, hardy parts first. But two things you should generally prioritize are:

1. Dynamic AccumulatorsThese are plants that have taproots that can mine nutrients and minerals from deep in the soil and store them in their leaves. They are commonly called companion plants. When their leaves fall or are pruned, they break down and release the nutrients into the soil which surrounding plants can feed on. A common example is comfrey, which is high in calcium, phosphorous and manganese. It’s an excellent mulch since it can be trimmed up to five times a year.

2. Nitrogen-fixers. These are plants high in nitrogen, able to capture that important element even from the air and store or “fix” it in their roots, releasing it into the soil when they die. They’re usually called cover crops. Conventional “dead” mulches like straw and wood chips are carbonaceous, and actually require nitrogen to decompose — further sapping existing nitrogen in the soil. So rather than using carbonaceous dead mulch, go for nitrogen-rich “living” ones instead.

One good example is leguminous plants like pigeon pea, which grows fast and can be pruned frequently. Furthermore, it’s edible for both humans and animals.

New Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

For a list of nitrogen-fixers in temperate climates, click here and here. They include ground covers (from alfalfa to wintergreen), herbaceous layers (asparagus to yarrow), small shrubs (bamboo to white clover), and small trees (alder to willow).

When to Chop-And-Drop

Timing does matter. Do your chopping during the wet season, when fungi are more active and decomposition happens faster. The moisture will also keep your mulch in place, whereas dry, windy weather could just cause your clippings to be blown away or, worse, pose a threat to fire.

If you have a lot of weeds in your area – which are nitrogen-fixers and biodynamic accumulators, by the way – cut them when they start to flower but before they go to seed. Do the same with any unwanted shrubs and grasses. That way you’d be limiting the growth of the “undesirables” while boosting the “favored ones” in your property.

Here’s a short list of the advantages of chop-and-drop:

1. Efficiency. By having your mulch in place, you save time and energy.

2. LongevityLeguminous plants are thicker, heavier and decompose longer than straw or cardboard, so your mulch stays in place longer.

3. Support SystemUnlike dead mulch, “living” chop-and-drop mulch gives your soil a root structure that will keep the dirt intact, less prone to erosion.

4. Simplicity. For small and medium-sized gardens, you can make do with simple hand tools like pruners, loppers, sickles and machetes. No need for hi-tech equipment.

5. Versatility. There are even types of plants that you can grow for practical purposes other than mulching. Cultivate them for human consumption (again, pigeon peas), fodder for animals, fuel for fire, medicinal use, material for building or making products like hunting and trapping tools, baskets, etc.

While the chop-and-drop method may leave your garden looking like a chaotic mess, its benefits far outweigh its looks. If you can go beyond that chaos, ignoring piles of rotting leaves in your garden, chances are you’ll get to have more free time in your hands and less stress tending your property.

Have you tried chop n’ drop mulching? Do you have any advice? Share your tips in the section below:

Get $367.52 Worth Of Survival Blueprints … Absolutely Free!

© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News
 505  8  7 Google + 0  0

      

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal
Mark Manson · 11,201 views today · There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe read a few...
This Polish Ad Will Give You The Feels, For Reals
3 min · 8,677 views today · This is an ad for Allegro, a Polish company similar to eBay, and it's heartwarmingly lovely.
Time-Lapse Satellite Images Give a Startling Snapshot of Past 30 Years on Earth
2 min · 7,582 views today · Working with satellite images from NASA and the US Geological Survey, Google has created a searchable snapshot of the past 3 decades on Earth, creating startling time-lapses of...
Dr. Maya Angelou: Love Liberates
5 min · 5,029 views today · Words to live by from Dr. Maya Angelou. Love each other.
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 2,766 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 1,965 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,120 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,054 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,025 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 1,004 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 741 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
The Lid Is off, The Truth Is Coming Out
Charles Eisenstein · 658 views today · It is getting harder to keep a secret these days. The collective shadow of our society, once safely relegated to the dark basement of the unmentionable, is now exposed to...
Sleaford Mods on Brexit Britain
4 min · 603 views today · In early 2014 the Guardian hailed duo Sleaford Mods as ‘the most uncompromising British protest music made in years’. Here, we go backstage at a Sleaford Mods gig in their...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 470 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 422 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 372 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 344 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 297 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 262 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 257 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Fastest, Easiest And Cheapest Way To Fertilize Your Garden Written by: JD Lara