Monday, July 3, 2017

Chop & Drop

"H", "L", "E", and "L" (number two) all emailed to tell me about a permaculture method called "chop & drop", which they felt would make my life so much simpler......not as much work involved with chop & drop gardening, no compost, no manure hauling, no irrigation, no hard work, no nothing. Ooooo, I only wish! 

Chop & drop isn't all that new a concept. Subsistent agriculture around the world has used it, seemingly forever since the beginnings of ag. Nature itself uses it, though she doesn't weild a metal machete. 

The idea wth chop & drop is that the plant material never leaves the spot. All its minerals and nutrients return to the soil, in place. Additionally it acts as a coarse mulch, helping to retain soil moisture and providing shelter for soil life and new plant life. 

Now to my situation..... land is not virgin. It was severely overgrazed for years well before any idea of moving the Hawaii popped into our heads. Thus very little variety was growing here when I began my homestead. The little soil beneath the ferns and coarse pasture grasses was severely depleted due to exposure when the edible plants were eaten off and by the monoculture-ish situation left behind. soil is young volcanic (in a geological sense) in a tropical setting. It has not had time to naturally degrade its mineral content. Due to periodic heavy rains, it leeches soluable nutrients. 
...the soil tends to be hydrophobic 
...there is very little actual soil, and what does exist is located between rocks varying from grape sized to larger than a suitcase. I plant around those boulders bigger than a suitcase because I can't move them out of the way by hand. soil is naturally not very fertile. 

Chop & drop works fine in some of my food forest areas. Most unwanted foliage and plants are simply cut and left in place, flat to the ground, usually at the base of trees. Plus in spots I intentionally grow food plants that happen to lend themselves well to chop & drop culture : okinawan spinach, sweet potato, sugar cane, turmeric, ginger, bananas. Their trimmings are left in place. The method makes it possible for me to manage my 14 acre pasture/woods. Between my machete and the sheep. I can actually walk around that land and access the food trees. When I arrived here, the land was impossible to access on foot. 

Chop & drop won't work for me when it comes to productive food growing. I need to create soil, rapidly increase its organic material content, add missing nutrients.  When it comes to growing all of one's food plus have enough surplus to sell for a livable income, chop & drop simply won't make it. At least, not in my situation. Perhaps sometime in the future, but not now. 

Am I stubborn or stupid for rejecting chop & drop? No, because I do indeed use the method where it works. Yes, it's a major time and labor saver. It just isn't the right method for my intensive veggie production. 

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