Image credit: naturepolice1
I am on record as being an extremely lazy gardener. As any true lazivore knows, mulch is a central tool for keeping weeds down, keeping water where it's needed, and keeping work to a minimum. I've already explored how permaculture sheet mulching can help establish a low-work garden, but here's another technique that is supposed to make mulching easier. The only trouble is, it looks like an awful lot of work.
Posted over at the Permaculture Research of Australia, this video of Chop-N-Drop mulching explains how some nitrogen-fixing plants can be used not just to provide ground cover and nutrients to the soil while they are alive, but they can also be pruned in-situ, with the clipping falling to the ground and acting as a mulch to prevent more weed growth. Here a small group of people perform a Chop-N-Drop on a recently dug "swale" that was dug to capture water for perennial food plants like banana, mango and pineapple, and then interplanted with the nitrogen-fixing pigeon pea:
As would be expected with ideal watering and weather, 5 months later, plants such as pigeon peas and invasive grasses grew so fast they were smothering some of the keiki trees. In order to give the trees more room to grow, a chop-n-drop was needed. The goal of the chop-n-drop was to thin out the areas around the keiki trees, remove some of the invasive grasses and chop-n-drop pigeon pea and other nitrogen-fixers to feed and mulch beneficial plants.
Complexity is, of course, a double-edged sword. While perennial polycultures like this are intended to reduce labor and increase yield, they do require their own form of management and the occasional labor-intensive intervention. Chop-N-Drop mulching may be efficient when done right, but you'd best make sure you have a group of willing volunteers to help you. Otherwise you may end up eating a lot of pigeon peas...
More on Permaculture and Low-Work Gardening
Sheet Mulching and More: How to Compost Your Move
Lavivore's Unite: A Manifesto for Low-Work Gardening
Home Harvest from a No-Dig Garden (Slideshow)