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We love the Chop and Drop method of composting! Some folks reckon it’s lazy and some reckon its just a jumped up name for mulching but I think there’s more to it.
We figure that we only harvest a part or two of most plants in our front garden. Despite that, the plant has to extract enough nutrients from the soil to build its structure and keep growing, as well as grow the parts that we that we harvest. That means that there is a lot of the plant left at the end of a harvest or a season, especially for annual crops.
Imagine, a Plum tree has to grow the branches that the Plums grow on as well as the Plums themselves. The leaves need to be grown too, as well as the flowers. The Plums only grow on second year wood, so that makes them even more energy and nutrient expensive. That’s a lot of ‘infrastructure’ that goes into making a Plum. The nutrients gained from this when we prune are better returned directly to the Plum tree so that that it can use them next season.
Chop ‘n’ Drop basically means that you are returning the remaining organic material that you don’t eat directly to the soil around the plant that it came from. You’re adding to the mulch layer that you have carefully built. C ‘n’ D can even be how you build your mulch layer if you’ve no access to extra materials. That means that more of the nutrients are eventually made available to the plant that needs them the most. It sounds technical but it’s not.
You still have to fertilise in some way or another though. Chop ‘n’ Drop doesn’t return all the nutrients at once, it’s more of a ‘fire and forget’ method. We still need to boost plants quickly for our food supply. This method is akin to a plant dropping its leaves or a herbivore breaking off parts of the plant that it doesn’t eat.
This method only works with light loads of material. We are regularly picking and pruning as we tend the garden, so a leaf or five here and there (chopped up a bit for easier access by the microbes, fungi and insects) and dropped directly where needed doesn’t build up enough to encourage pests and pathogens as they break down.
One reason that I like this method of composting is that it leaves a lot of small pieces of woody material on the ground. That’s just the stuff that Fungi love and we’re working to get a few mushroom patches going at Ligaya Garden
But you have a whole heap of pruning or something like a trailer load of grass clippings, chop and drop isn’t the best way to go. A regular, hot compost pile is the go to choice for you to start off with.
If you’ve a constant, light supply of materials though, Chop ‘n’ Drop takes a lot of the effort out of gardening. It’s not lazy.
Chop ‘n’ Drop is only one of the methods of returning vital nutrients to the soil of Ligaya Garden. You can find more on the Composting page and the links connected to it.