Sounding as bad-ass and violent as natural farming (not industrial farming) can ever get, chop-and-drop is actually a really effective gardening technique. Simply put, one chops the existing plant down and drops them right away on the spot where the next plant is to grow. Combined with green manuring, it is an excellent way to kickstart your garden
Our previous post on Project Canossian ended with a round of green manure. Over the next month or two, the green manure helped to:
- Fix nitrogen: roots of legumes (beans and peas) act symbiotically with certain fungi to convert nitrogen in the air to the soil for plants to absorb
- Create biomass: the vigorous growth means that you get a mass of organic matter for mulching when you chop-and-drop
- Settle the soil: gives time for the newly poured soil and compost to stabilize
Previously at Project Spectra, after chopping-and-dropping, we waited for it to rot for a week before planting. For this project, we decided to try planting immediately. We are also focusing more on perennial vegetables because they are usually more labour efficient and productive. Our maintenance schedule means that we will only be visiting twice a week for half a day each time. Considering the size of the garden, we have to do things efficiently!
We did a chop-and-drop for one and a half garden beds of malabar spinach. After dropping the dead green manure on the bed, we immediately planted malabar spinach seedlings into the green mess. The dead plants will act as mulch to suppress weeds before the malabar spinach gets dense enough to shade out the soil. Here are the results in a month.
Here’s the other area we tried this on.
We were already harvesting from the beds before a month after planting. The final results would be even more lush if we left them untouched!
Another one of our favourite perennial vegetable – extremely vigorous and hardy with edible leaves and tubers. For this sweet potato area, we did the same except that we stuck two varieties of sweet potato stem cuttings into the green mess. Looking at the photos, you would think that the grass took over an area, but in the end the sweet potato wins (again)!
Read everything else we are doing at Project Canossian!
6 thoughts on “Project Canossian – Chop-and-Drop (Part 2)”
Pumpkin would also be a good option, even just for the shoots.
Thanks Marco! We are planting chayote (choko) after seeing them at your farm. We’ll try pumpkin and hopefully they stay in the beds. How much space do you give them usually?
Another interesting idea would be to build some trellises on top of the beds, it looks like you have plenty of space, any more door frames left? The pumpkin will spread but you can keep it trimmed by eating some of the shoots.
No door frames left and anyway they are too heavy to keep upright without having to use concrete. We did build some bamboo trellises between the beds, over the paths, to use space that would otherwise be just paths.
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