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leaving crop residue in place as sheet mulch?  RSS feed

 
J W Richardson
Posts: 75
Location: Council, ID
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Hello all, I was wondering if many people do this at year's end - chopping and dropping this season's residue in the beds. Does this result in more fungal or pest problems provided one is rotating on, say, a 2 year schedule? It seems like it saves a lot of labor. I read One Straw years ago and have watched Helen, but feel a little unclear. How has this worked for you?
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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With a monoculture, the chop/drop would be a disaster.
With a good mixture of plant species/families, the problem is mitigated.

Diversity brings balance.

 
J W Richardson
Posts: 75
Location: Council, ID
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Thanks John. I am working towards a small market garden, and am currently not intercropping more than a few species per row, but am not tilling and trying to adapt these ideas as much as possible. I get hung up on not wanting to combine different families - the traditional thing of rotation for brassicas, etc.

I googled the question to find what was out there and found a person who is dropping residue and then covering with hay, although the more I think about it, the more it seems silly to even think there is a question about this if one is following a generous rotation schedule. I would imagine if one is planting a completely diverse selection of annual crops, then there is a kind of rotation going on there too.

What did Helen do? I watched all the videos and never seemed to find that addressed - did I miss it?
I
 
Spud Smith
Posts: 13
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I have been considering an experiment where I would grind up all of my crop residue and feed it to worms.
Then I would take the resulting castings and spred them on my raised beds.
This next spring I am going to plant a row of straw bales with tomatoes and beans.
The residue will then be fed to the worms. The spent bales will be used for mulch.
 
Mary Ann Asbill
Posts: 124
Location: Western North Carolina
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We leave the crop residue and simply chop it in. Sometimes we chop at the end of the summer and then top it off with a winter dressing of wood chips. Other times we just forget it and leave it and wait till spring and the dig it into the bed. I am lucky to have a 14 year old around who just loves a machete! He selects a garden bed to "attack" and whacks the plants down and chops them up in pieces. Then, we just top off the bed with rotten straw or usually wood chips.

When there is a stalk-y plant with tough stems (such as okra or taller peppers) we cut the plant off at the ground and just leave the root ball in there. The stalks are put on the ground in areas we need erosion control. Sometimes we take the weed whacker and whack the old plants to pieces and leave it on the ground.
 
J W Richardson
Posts: 75
Location: Council, ID
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I am really into leaving the roots in place. The idea of them rotting over the winter and into the next year and leaving organic matter incorporated in that way must be a key part in why the no till works so well. I've gone ahead and chopped stuff enough to get it to lay flat on the ground, maybe one foot lengths, then I plan to cover with some alfalfa, and see what is left next spring, moving some to plant seeds if necessary.
 
Corey Berman
Posts: 12
Location: Central Illinois
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Yes, leave crop residue.
Fungus and pests are not "problems" if you have a varied and balanced ecosystem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_7d0h2bSoY
 
Arrow Durfee
Posts: 35
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I leave some of the plant remains in place. I feel that this helps to structure the soil if roots are left in place to degrade naturally. Large plants like cabbage I chop off and take to the compost pile but their tough roots stay in place, same with sunflowers.. If the roots happen to come out I just sliver the soil with the shovel and push the root in and cover. Over the winter they degrade quite a bit but I still have to plant next to them not on top of them... so my rows are always shifting.

After doing layered gardening or also called lasagna gardening Ive realized that dead plants feed the soil no matter what. My beds are hugely rich from this techniqe. Its really like a mini form of hugelhulter in my mind and the beds hold water pretty good.... more recently I've started burying larger sticks, as it is too late to get logs in there. I've also added homemade biochar.

I also dont compost my household scraps as I hate the mess and the flies it attracks. I just take them to the garden and bury them under 3 to 5 inches of soil in areas right in the garden next to plants. I've not seen any harm in this.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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I have mowed a cover crop and let the clippings just drop using both oats and austrian peas. I got excellent results.

Then again, I planted vegetables the next year, which minimizes the risk of any illnesses. And, this area is not much on fungal diseases: only the spring is humid!
 
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