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Newbie questions

 
Angela Nelson
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I've been trying to read about permaculture ideas and apply them for few years, slowly replacing lawn with better things. I have a few questions that might sound dumb but here goes--

Wouldn't it be good to use any green chopped matter (grass, weeds that haven't seeded yet, etc) as mulch--are the recommended plants like pea shrub or comfrey significantly better?

Could someone explain "chop and drop" to me? Do you chop the whole plant down or just a few leaves at a time? How old or established does the plant or tree need to be? For shrubs and trees do you wait till the leaves fall and then rake them around?

I am trying to establish a lot of clover for instance on a slope with thin soil where not much grows, and on either side of long garden bed. It's doing OK, some has flowered now (red and white clover and birdsfoot trefoil). Do I need to cut it at some point or just keep letting it grow and establish---i have a lot of space to fill in and clover seed was cheap, and its pretty.

Thank you for help and suggestions.
 
Dave Burton
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Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Angela Nelson wrote:
Wouldn't it be good to use any green chopped matter (grass, weeds that haven't seeded yet, etc) as mulch--are the recommended plants like pea shrub or comfrey significantly better?


Any mulch is better than no mulch! Comfrey is considered a good mulch because it is very resilient and can withstand the cutting down again and again. In addition, I suggest watching the below video to see why comfrey is so epic!



Key points about comfrey:
-is a dynamic accumulator
-provides phosphorus
-mines minerals from the soil
-very resilient (should be treated as a permanent structure once planted)

Pea shrub and pea plants are great because they are part of the Legume family which means they are nitrogen fixers.

Angela Nelson wrote:
Could someone explain "chop and drop" to me?


It is pretty much just that: chop it and drop it.

Angela Nelson wrote:
Do you chop the whole plant down or just a few leaves at a time?


I would look at the technique used in the following videos:



In this video you see that the non-woody plants are chopped down the most, whereas the woodier plants are trimmed just a little. The idea of chop 'n drop is just to recycle nutrients. Dynamic accumulators are great for this, but also, just dropping the leaves and stuff left over from harvesting is considered chop and drop.

Here's a more detailed YouTube video:


Angela Nelson wrote:
How old or established does the plant or tree need to be? For shrubs and trees do you wait till the leaves fall and then rake them around?


That depends on the type of plant being chop 'n dropped. As a general rule of thumb, I advise looking at it like a spectrum. You have annuals which are very short lived on one end, and you have giant sequoias on the other end which are extremely long lived. The shorter a plant's lifespan is, the sooner you can chop and drop it. Each chop and drop has a purpose to it, and what you do depends on the goal that is being accomplished. I highly recommend watching geoff lawton's Food Forest DVD because it explains how a food forest works very well.

Angela Nelson wrote:
I am trying to establish a lot of clover for instance on a slope with thin soil where not much grows, and on either side of long garden bed. It's doing OK, some has flowered now (red and white clover and birdsfoot trefoil). Do I need to cut it at some point or just keep letting it grow and establish---i have a lot of space to fill in and clover seed was cheap, and its pretty.


That depends on your long-term plans for the site. What are your long-term plans for the site?

Going off of Paul's "lazy bastard" statement in his Permaculture Keynote and Masanobu Fukuoka's techniques, it just depends on what role you are going to play in the long-term vision of your site. If you do not want to do a lot of maintenance, then plan your site accordingly. Plants will naturally self-prune in accordance with the seasons.

What zones are we working with? Which zone is this occurring in?
 
Angela Nelson
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I typed a long response yesterday and see it was lost in the ether somehow--but I so appreciate the suggestions and watched all the videos! Want to explore more videos as I keep blogging down in reading about permaculture.

I am in eastern Wa, zone 6, hot dry summers with cool nights, cold winters. Clayish soil. Long term goal is a fruit/food forest, especially fruit and berries. Have baby Apple, plum and cherry trees, raspberries and blueberres, currants, trying to establish blackberries. Lots of flowers for beneficial insects.
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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You're welcome! I try to be helpful! Angela, a good website to go for when working on the design process is Plants For a Future. They have several filters in the search feature that help with finding things that could possibly work on a site.
 
Angela Nelson
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Thanks I will check it out!
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Let the clover go to seed, and break them up, and scatter. If the soil is loose at all, rake them in a little.
 
Angela Nelson
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The soil around the garden bed (which I double dug and enriched) and on the hill is hard clay and awful. But quite a bit of the clover "took" and am hoping it will spread. I'm guessing the seeds form after the flowers . . . The birdsfoot trefoil already seems to be doing this.

I want to add lupine and comfrey but probably should wait till spring. It is so hot and dry here. It hit 100 before June was over. No rain for weeks now. It's really, really not normal. It feels like California. Maybe I should start reading about dry southwest climate gardening.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Angela Nelson wrote:The soil around the garden bed (which I double dug and enriched) and on the hill is hard clay and awful. But quite a bit of the clover "took" and am hoping it will spread. I'm guessing the seeds form after the flowers . . .


Yes, the flower petals fall off, leaving the seeds behind. That clover is good stuff. Great for our friendly pollinators too!
 
Douglas Crouch
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Here is an article i wrote on the topic, its pretty simple but the article goes into depth on it and plants.
https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-8-soils/chop-and-drop-of-trees-and-biomass-plants/
 
Angela Nelson
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Thanks, I read it. I have a ton of violet and Vinca. I chopped and dropped it around the berry bushes and fruit trees the other night, just to try and protect the soil from the heat. Not ideal plants maybe but the material I have available.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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