In a natural system, the leaves, branches, logs, and other plant material they fall to the forest floor, where they become food for soil life. This accumulation of biomass results in deep rich soil without any effort proving that mulching is one of the best things you can do for your trees and chop-and-drop is as simple as it sounds. You can make mulch right on site by growing plants that are essentially instant mulch.
By observing and mimicking what happens naturally, we can adapt ways of handling “waste” while working towards sustainable abundance. Even the weeds, although often neglected, have beneficial qualities. Some are edible, but more importantly capable of conditioning degraded soil.
Instead of planting up your forest straight away, it makes sense to plant fast-growing plants and trees that can be used as mulch to help build your soil first. Many plants are capable of being chop-and-drop mulch, but there are some that simply surpass the others. The most important feature of crops used for living mulch is that they grow quickly and generate a lot of biomass that can be clipped or pruned to add mulch to the soil surface. By practicing this method of mulching, you’re replacing what Mother Nature does naturally in an already established forest providing a ready space to start planting your fruit trees and other edibles. A thick layer of mulch helps to retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds and adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.
Ordering a truckload of mulch is simply not a convenience we have here in Haiti so It has always been ideal to simply grow my own mulch. Some of my preferred plants for biomass are vetiver ( Chrysopogon zizanioides), Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia ), Moringa (Moringa oleifera), lemon grass (Cymbopogon nardus), pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan), and banana (Musa acuminata) stumps simply because they’re plentiful and easy to manage but just about any plant you prune will be beneficial in this method. Just let your cuttings drop in place rather than taking them away.
Something to consider when you chop-and-drop is that it is more ideal to practice this method during the rainy season because this will not only add to the moisture of your soil but also accelerate the decomposition process and also keep the mulch in place. When conditions are too dry, it has the potential of being a fire hazard. Also, plants that you don’t want in your forest should be turned to mulch before setting seeds in order to reduce to likelihood of these plants popping back up. This helps to ensure that your desired plants benefit from the enriched soil while eliminating undesired plants.
All in all, replacing nutrients in the soil is the basic goal of fertilization. Soil feed the plants which in turn feed us and the animals we depend on.