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!! An overview of chop-and-drop and why it’s awesome

 
Daron Williams
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Chop-and-drop is a great way to deal with your dead vegetables. I have written about this before but I wanted to take a moment to answer 2 common questions that I get on this topic. Often these questions focus on people who are worried about garden pests. Let’s dive into these questions!

First though, make sure to check out these 2 blog posts all about chop-and-drop.

- How to Chop-and-Drop Your Dead Vegetables
- Chop-and-Drop: A Quick and Easy Way to Abundance

Ready to go? Okay now what about pests?

Pests and Chop-and-Drop



When you look at the results of chop-and-drop it makes sense that pests and disease could be an issue. Let’s look at the potential concerns. But I do want to note that often the lifeforms that help decompose dead plants do not affect living plants.

Chop-and-drop as mulch: As a mulch chop-and-drop material creates a relatively moist environment that critters like slugs, snails and other pests like. But I have found in my own garden that this environment also supports a lot of predators of these same pests. This has resulted in a balance between the pests and predators which at least in my garden results in less not more pest issues.

Chop-and-dropping diseased plants: So you are cutting your dead vegetables and you find a plant suffering from some sort of disease. In some cases I don’t worry about this—some diseases like powdery mildew are so present in the environment that it will be in the environment regardless of if I chop-and-drop or not. But in other cases you may want to remove the diseased material and hot compost it or just remove the plant material in some extreme situations. I would look up any diseases you come across and see if removing infected plant material is recommended or not before chop-and-dropping the infected plants.

So what do you think? Have you had disease issues on your vegetables? How have you dealt with it? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Your Thoughts?

So what do you think? Have you had disease issues on your vegetables? How have you dealt with it? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Also, if you're new to the idea of chop-and-drop don't forget to check out these blog posts:

- How to Chop-and-Drop Your Dead Vegetables
- Chop-and-Drop: A Quick and Easy Way to Abundance

While you are over on the first of those 2 blog posts (the new one) make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the more recent of the 2 blog posts make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
 
Vanessa Alarcon
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Great info! Commented on both. How important is it that it be chopped into little pieces? And here in Fl we are entering our dry season. Can I just water the chop and drop?
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener & author
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Yes I chop and drop, but today I finally conceded that using my chopped asparagus fronds makes a very pretty golden fluffy mulch around seedlings, but then the seedlings get absolutely infested with aphids overnight. It happened last year and I thought it was coincidence, but I did it again yesterday and found that it happened again. I guess the asparagus has been harbouring aphids, not being overly bothered by them, not enough to really notice, and maybe they were starting to starve as the asparagus dried up for the winter, and so they jumped on the seedlings like crazy. I dunno.

I especially like using spent flowers for mulch, but I have to either remove the seedheads, or accept that there will be lots of volunteers the next season. I used a lot of spent arugula (rocket), bachelors buttons (cornflowers), poppies, edible chrysanthemums and dill as mulch this summer in one small area, and now it is a thick carpet of seedlings. I'm pulling most, but leaving enough arugula to eat in the near future, and a few bachelors buttons for next spring.
 
jimmy gallop
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Location: east and dfw texas
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you might want to give the stuff a double whamming with a compost fungal tea after dropping ,just to get things started .  
 
Bocca Yi
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Does it count if I mow them? I grew dent corn, chopped the stalks then we mowed over it and left it to mulch the area.
 
Tim Kivi
pollinator
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An even easier way us to just dump a thick layer of mulch on top of everything. I assume it’ll smother and kill most plants without even having to chop them.
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
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I agree with Tim’s approach if you have the mulch available (I use arborist woodchips, spreading about 14yds this week). The chopping might help in how it slight pulls at the roots, loosening the soil underneath like an herbivore can when grazing, but I think it’s not necessarily worth the effort if smothering with deep mulch.

The main benefits of chop and drop in my opinion  are:
- retention of as much organic matter as possible
- a proportional amount of the root system dies back, effectively injecting compost into the soil with minimal disturbance and oxidation/nutrient loss
- protecting the soil and its ecosystem. If we think about a habitat as food-water-shelter-space, debris/mulch of chopped and dropped plants provides all these requirements for diverse organisms and the succession of the soil ecosystem
- the relatively stable habitat within the mulch (temperature and moisture are moderated greatly) allows for this ecosystem succession from bacterial Ky dominated and less diverse dirt towards fungally dominated (fungal species increase exponentially over time without disturbance, but bacteria also diversify just do so with a more linear increase over time).
- this succession is where disease and pest resistance comes from. The decomposition cycle is a little microcosm of evolution, with abundant species of pests or disease being consumed by their predators or control species. If we just leave well enough alone and have enough diversity around us in healthy ecosystems, we will inevitably see natural controls for our plant problems.

Success with succession!
 
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