Organic matter is essential for a healthy edible kitchen gardens. I am always looking out for ways to get more organic matter into my soil.
- feeds soil life
- supports an increase in soil life diversity
- improves soil structure
- helps to retain moisture in the soil.
Regular composting and mulching does builds organic matter in the soil. You don't need to dig it in - the thriving ecological system that exists (or is regenerating) below the surface will draw it down into the soil.
Mulch can be expensive to buy, and sourcing reliably seed-free mulch can also be challenging. I use organic sugar cane or local seed-free grass bales in the garden areas where I have salad greens and leafy annuals, but for the rest of it, I often rely on the 'chop and drop' method and living mulch. These help to reduce waste and also simplify work in the garden.
Chop and dropChop and drop mulching is a way to harness abundantly growing plants - ones which easily produce a lot of biomass and are happy to be trimmed. A good haircut actually can help the growth and form of many of these plants.
Here's a couple of the things I use for this:
- finished vegetables
- pigeon pea
- QLD arrowroot
- legume trees such as acacia and ice-cream bean
|The corn has finished so I have knocked it back and left it in situ. When it breaks down some more, I will plant a new crop through it.|
|I've done similar things with the pumpkin vines when they are finished. You can see here the self-propagating sweet potato coming up through, and the new cutting of Cranberry Hibiscus.|
|The great big juicy leaves of fast growing QLD Arrowroot (Canna edulis) make great chop and drop mulch in my subtropical garden. The recover quickly too.|
|Comfrey produces an abundance of leaves that are easily digested by the soil and which add great nutrients. In the middle of the growing season, I regularly take all the leaves off comfrey plants for this purpose and they happily grow back again.|
I allow a range of plants to cover the soil and these plants often have many uses (food, fibre, living mulch, habitat ...) which makes them even better than plain mulch in my food forest and polycultural kitchen garden.
Some of the plants I use in this way in different parts of my garden are:
- pinto peanut
- sweet potato
- Brazilian spinach (clumps)