Saying goodbye to the abundant tomato crop: Â This year has been the best and longest tomato growing season since we started gardening in this location five years ago. Â George and I spent yesterday ripping up, chopping up tomato plants, and stripping the last of the fruits from the vines.
We had quite a lot of ripe/ripening tomatoes, especially considering a volunteer had picked a much larger quantity earlier in the week. Â There were also quite a lot of tomatillos (bottom right). Â Most years, the tomatoes are long gone this far into October, so we are lucky to be picking any.
We do take in the green tomatoes (bottom left) since they make very good chutney, fried tomatoes, and lacto-fermented dill pickles.
As we pull up the tomato plants, I chop them into small (hand-sized) pieces and throw them right back on the beds. Â As other spent plants die, they are also cut off at the ground and chopped onto the beds. Â Soon, I will sprinkle coffee grounds, coffee chaff, composted poultry manure, and comfrey tea on the beds. Over our mild Oregon winter, the poultry will work through the beds, scratching the vegetable matter and helping it break down before spring. Â Worms will come up to the surface and help turn the plant matter into compost. Â There is no need to expend the effort to move it all to a compost bin, let it decompose, and then shovel it all back. Â Letting it compost in place is a huge labor saver.
Chop and DropÂ is an energy-saving, soil-building concept in permaculture where biomass is accumulated through the chopping and dropping of excess vegetation. Â Just as leaves and branches fall in nature, building up the soil, in the permaculture garden, the gardener accelerates that process by intentionally cutting back vegetation, and laying it on top of the beds.
In the photo above, you can see the ducks and Cookie the Buff Orpington looking for slugs and other goodies in a mass of vegetation I have just chopped and dropped around a white currant (far left) and a young Bavay’s Green Gage plum (small trunk at right). Â As these materials break down, they slowly release nutrients into the soil, encourage the growth of beneficial fungi, and build soil fertility. Â Â Keeping a cover of mulch also suppresses weeds, conserves water, and protects perennials from harsh winter weather.
In a immature system such as ours, we still bring in wood chips several times year to mulch beds and import biomass. Â Hopefully, in a few years, we will be producing enough biomass here at the farmette to supple the needs of all the garden beds and the orchard. Â (More on that later in the week!)
At the end of the afternoon, my foot is quite swollen, and I’m very glad the ham n split pea stew was made early in the day, so I can put my foot up and rest before supper. Â There is a lot to be done in order to put the garden to bed for the winter, but I think we got a solid start to the work before the driving rain returns tomorrow.
1 thought on “Fall Chop n Drop”
I love your process of cutting up the spent plants and putting them right back. Do you every worry about diseased plants, or just throw them back in too?
Your ducks are beautiful. We are thinking of adding a few to our little homestead next spring. Can’t wait!
It is always a lot of work to put the beds to sleep for winter, but come spring time you will be so happy you did it 🙂
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