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My mulching technique: Chop And Tuck  RSS feed

 
Yarostan Nachalo
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I'm a big fan of chopping and dropping. It just makes sense to keep biomass directly where it comes from (providing it isn't diseased or full of unwanted seeds). But of course as soon as it's down, it begins to dry out. Now in my mind, I mostly associate GREEN biomass with NITROGEN, and BROWN biomass with CARBON. I may not completely or clearly understand how this works--and please correct me if I'm wrong--but I get the impression that by letting the fresh material dry out on the surface, I am loosing both nitrogen and moisture. So what I have begun to do in my garden is simply lift the existing mat of dry mulch material and just tuck the new green stuff underneath it. This allows it to stay moist and green, more like a green manure than a dry mulch.

To test the efficacy of my little experiment, I have left some spots with their existing mulch layer (no additional material) and some spots normally chop and dropped on top. Whether or not I am correct about saving nitrogen, I have to say it is working well for me. The control areas do their expected part in conserving moisture and suppressing weeds of course, but not much else can be said. However where I have chopped and tucked, the soil is more moist, there is a good deal of insect activitiy, and a few worms have ventured out above the surface of the soil on a 90 degree day to have a munch.

For what it is worth, this is a new garden as of this year, so there is a clear division between the soil surface and the straw & leaf mulch. Also this is also not a forest garden, but some beds turned out of a yard in full sunlight all day. I don't know if tucking would make much difference in a place with more established soils or more perennial cover.

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I think that your 'tucking' method is a good way to do it out in full sun.
Dry mulch, such as straw, has very little food to give to the soil life. Its main function is to provide shade/insulation to the soil, and retain moisture. Your fresh green material, on the other hand, is food for your soil critters. Having it in direct contact with the soil makes more sense to me than having it sit on top of the insulating material, where most of its moisture and nutrients would be lost to the atmosphere.

To increase our populations of soil life critters, we need to provide them with abundant food supplies. Forcing them to leave the soil and commute through inches of 'barrier' material to get to it, is not maximizing their potential.

 
Matu Collins
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I like this idea! My garden is full of mulch experiments, I'm going to try this one.

I have some gardens where I let the curly dock grow as living mulch through a thick straw layer; the perfect place for chop and tuck.

I also do what I call stomp and drop with some weeds, I step on the base of the plant, crunching it down without cutting. Works really great for poke.
 
Meryt Helmer
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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i stomp on some weeds too! I like rub them into the ground with my feet though. try and pull all the leaves off. i do that with poison oak when i am not near my house or trails and have my hands full.

I usually tuck in what I chop. mostly because i like how it looks better when tucked in. very interesting though. i may set aside a location and just chop and drop there to compare. my mulch is wood chips from trees we had to prune for the safety of the house.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I have a blue berry bush. To add acid to the soil I mulch with citrus peels, tucked under some pavers.
 
wayne fajkus
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Observing nature is amazing. My brother and I had a lot in Bastrop TX which was heavily treed with a thick natural mulch underneath. Brother would comment that a branch that fell down today was decomposing a couple of weeks later. Everything was in harmony.

I was scooping up topsoil with tractor today and up came some branches that got covered over time. They were spongy and wet.

I go to the adjacent land and someone stacked small limbs and branches maybe 200' long. They are open sun and hard and dry.

last one is about 10 cords of oak deep in the canopy of trees along the water flow of rain. I can take a 10" diameter log and crush it. The stack is 4-5' tall and top to bottom it crumbles.

I conclude soil contact good. Shade good. Moisture good. All three great.

 
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