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Author Topic: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?  (Read 1161 times)

Budtropicals

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Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« on: May 22, 2020, 11:33:05 AM »
Hello everyone, I have recently watched some videos and heard of something called a Chop and Drop plant, as well as "nitrogen fixers".  I have had some tropical fruit trees for some time but only more recently started collecting them on a larger scale, and I recently found this forum where I have already asked a large amount of questions with many more on the way. I'm looking to make a self sufficient  fruit tree garden and from what I hear these two kinds of plants can help make that possible. So, what are they and how can I utilize them to help my fruit trees?

Bush2Beach

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2020, 11:41:48 AM »
A forum search of chop and drop and nitrogen fixers will provide you with some good information.

RodneyS

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2020, 12:21:13 PM »
"Bocking-14" Russian comfrey
Moringa
Hairy vetch
Perennial peanut
Lupine
etc.

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2020, 07:16:16 PM »
I'm trying every legume plant possible here on Pine Island SWFL zone 10b/11. I'm also trialing other plants as 'chop and drop'.
The legumes can vary from short term annuals to long term fairly large trees with lifespan from 1 to 2 to 10 to 25 years, and growing heights from ground covers to 10 feet, 20 feet or as tall as you like.

Other plants can be used as chop/drop to produce mulch for ground cover, food for microorganisms and even food for macroorganisms. I am currently doing the chop/drop across 2 acres, the idea is to get this done about the same time that precipitation exceeds evaporation, which for us is the beginning of the rainy season.
One of the most prolific plants for me this past dry season is called "Longevity spinach", it is edible but I am mainly using it as a living ground cover. It isn't a legume but is prolific in making succulent green matter. I have found that when trimmed and laid under/around trees the millipedes and other critters quickly convert it to manure which is free fertilizer exactly where it can be needed.

Here is a guava tree with the spinach placed underneath, probably 3-4 armfuls:

To preserve the moisture in the spinach and protect the creatures eating it I top off the mass with dried banana leaves:


I only have a few legume trees which are big enough to use as chop/drop because most take time, years, to get large enough. There are quite a few fast biomass producers some legumes and others not. Ideally, if planted at the same time as the main element fruit trees, the legume and chop/drop trees will initially dominate but eventually be reduced as the system matures. There are other considerations like competition for resources like space, light, water, and nutrients. The mix should change over time in a sequence planned to increase the accumulated 'capital' of the site in terms of overall biomass being produced going to organic matter and soil cover.



Budtropicals

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2020, 07:59:48 PM »
Thank you for all of the information pineislander!  So I can get one of these plants and never have to buy fertilizer and mulch ever again? Do I also have to put something like banana leaves over the chop and drop, because my bananas are not large enough yet and I have nothing else. The entire mulch thing is a relatively new thing to me in its entirety, so I need to get the hang of this.

Also, I wanted to ask, I bought a lychee plant from a store and it has your tag on it. The people there did not know so I wanted to ask, is the lychee grafted or airlayerd? When can I expect it to fruit? Thanks.

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2020, 10:32:59 PM »
Not my tag I haven't sold any Lychee. Probably Pine Island nursery down in Miami. Almost certainly your tree was air layered and you might get fruit next year if grown well. I live on the real Pine Island, the biggest island in Florida most have never heard of. It is in Lee County just north of Sanibel which most have heard of.
Shhhh, keep Pine Island a secret, it really should be called Palm Island anyway, no beaches but a great place to grow things.

No, don't expect any one plant or even a dozen to solve all fertilizer or mulch problems. You could put whatever you like or nothing at all over things which are chop/drop. There really aren't specific prescriptions for any of this and it's up to the user to figure out what works and make use of what is around. Surely somewhere you could come up with palm  leaves, grass clippings, leaves of some sort that others don't want, that sort of thing. On days before yard waste pickup I drive through some residential areas and pick up free mulch materials when I have time. Once I loaded my truck with bags full of oak leaves someone raked up and placed by the curb. I took it back and it mulched a huge area. Then I noticed the leaves had been packed into used bags. That person had bought a whole pallet of dyed red mulch and then raked up all her leaves and threw them away!



Budtropicals

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2020, 10:42:07 PM »
Ahh, well sorry for the misconception! Thank you again for the information, glad to hear my lychee should be good. Has not flowered yet, but we will see. I will probably get a chop and drop just for fun, but i'm going to keep buying the usual home depot mulch. Probably going to get some perennial peanut to put over the mulch or somewhere around there. Otherwise, same fertilizer. I will look around my area, see what I can find, but usually there is nothing more than royal palm leaves, rarely some cut up branches from your usual decorative trees. Once my coconut gets bigger i'll just rely on that, bananas too.

zands

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2020, 10:58:05 PM »
All chop/drop plants mentioned above are 95% water so very very limited in effect/ Get a pile of wood chips dropped off. Talk to tree trimmers and get some. If you have the space and no HOA then use some to mulch now and leave half to rot in a pile.

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2020, 07:12:21 AM »
All chop/drop plants mentioned above are 95% water so very very limited in effect/ Get a pile of wood chips dropped off. Talk to tree trimmers and get some. If you have the space and no HOA then use some to mulch now and leave half to rot in a pile.
No problem but no need to be dismissive, I will explain some of the effects you may be overlooking.
First off, my chop/drop technique really isn't much different from brought in tree trimmer mulch, is it?
Tree trimmer mulch itself is a chop/drop product, just done off site by others, mechanically sized and hauled in.
Well I only mentioned one plant out of many I use. And yes, it has a very high percentage water, but when consumed by the masses of millipedes on my property it directly becomes manure with a good nitrogen content. Especially when dried, the tree trimmer mulch is mainly carbon, yes that is good too. It has been about a week and I will try to uncover and take a photo of how it works. I also do get tree trimmer mulch for younger systems, 3 loads this week. You get a different profile of nutrients and carbon in fresh material, dry material, and the manure. Some chop/drop trees I am growing will have the huge carbon content which is found in woody mulch.

My goal like the original poster is to not need to haul in or haul around material. It is nice to be able to have your mulch located directly beside the crop you want to protect. Yes, I do begin by bringing in mulch but the goal is to create a self-accumulating ecosystem. Who mulches, irrigates and fertilizes the forest?

Here are two pics of systems I use. One uses a border of lemongrass which, when cut, does dry down to mainly carbon. The other is a tree row bordered by the legume Cajan cajanus (pigeon pea). Grown in place mulches have other benefits which tree trimmer mulch applied on the surface don't have. They break wind flow influencing evapotranspiration. They protect the soil from sun differently from mulch to provide direct shade not only for the soil but also for the plants, it is an open layered shade which mulch doesn't exactly provide. The legumes actually have roots which capture nitrogen from the air through nodulation. When the legumes are cut, the root mass sheds nitrogen at the same time the branches and leaves (also rich in nitrogen) become mulch in the chop/drop process. Further, while brought in mulch does cover the soil just like chop/drop mulch does it doesn't have the accompanying root system tht plants have. That unseen root system can represent an equal mass to the above ground mass working deep into the soil, creating nutrient pathways through soil & even decomposing to feeding soil life.

So I am getting getting multiple benefits tree trimmer mulch doesn't give, these benefits of these methods are considerable.

Pigeon peas:


Lemongrass:
 


zands

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2020, 10:40:39 AM »
drone pigeon peas ... Impressive photo. Your are very dedicated and will make a dent BUT --Most people are going to grow chop-drop in a more haphazard way. Have you ever used a scythe? I have and this is what you need.

With your chop drop peas let them grow woody/ you probably are.  Yeah, you can make a dent and some mulch with those pigeon peas. You are the exception and not the rule

Budtropicals

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2020, 01:46:32 PM »
Wow, thats a lot of info I will have to keep in mind. I will take some inspiration from the images you have provided and I will try something myself, but it will most likely be very different. Unlike many people here I have a very tiny area in which to grow my plants. The only reason I have as many as I do is due to aggressive pruning, most plants in pots, and well hope that it works out, which so far it does. This however has the downside of creating a lot of shade essentially everywhere except for a few spots, but I just might let the trees grow there for the sake of more fruit production. That leaves the entire land shaded. So unless some of these plants are going to do good in shade, I fear it won't be possible. I am also worried about annuals, since I can't always be there to replant and such. I'm hoping to get some plants that will grow among the trees no problem with me occasionally cutting them down to put over my typical home depot mulch in hopes to replace some of its usage. I hear perrenial peanuts do good in shade, so those should be good as nitrogen fixers, but even that confuses me a bit. If these chop and drop plants are sop fast growing and become green manure, don't they take nutrients from the soil themselves, same with the nitrogen fixers?

SeaWalnut

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2020, 03:09:15 PM »
Wood chips have no nitrogen thats why they decompose soo hard.
Wood chips will draw somme nitrogen out of the soil in order to break down and if you add N fertiliser for your tree then somme of that N will be taken by the wood chips and you will notice it will break down faster.
Green plants with water contain less carbon than wood chips but they contain a lot of nitrogen,especially the nitrogen fixer plants.
Once you get the green matter dry ,it becomes like wood chips ,verry poore in Nitrogen and will break down slow.
If its dry like wood or straw then it lacks nitrogen and all the nitrogen has been released back into the atmosphere( evaporated).
Even cow manure or horse manure ,once it gets dry there is verry little nitrogen left in it and its safe to use right away but you have to add nitrogen to make it break down better.For this reason i use only the freshest manure possible because i want the nitrogen not the carbon.

If you want to add carbon into the soil add wood chips but if you want to add nitrogen,then add fresh( non dryed) green matter.

Also by using wood chips there is a high risk to infect your trees with the worst possible pest ,a fungi like Armillaria sp wich can wipe out whole forests of almost every tree specie and has no cure.
Armillaria is verry common and be sure you have it in your area and close to your orchard.It looks like this and for a non trained eye might look like ,,beneficial mycorrhizae fungi,, but its not and it actually kills the tree.

« Last Edit: May 23, 2020, 03:12:36 PM by SeaWalnut »

zands

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2020, 03:43:35 PM »
Wow, thats a lot of info I will have to keep in mind. I will take some inspiration from the images you have provided and I will try something myself, but it will most likely be very different. Unlike many people here I have a very tiny area in which to grow my plants. The only reason I have as many as I do is due to aggressive pruning, most plants in pots, and well hope that it works out, which so far it does. This however has the downside of creating a lot of shade essentially everywhere except for a few spots, but I just might let the trees grow there for the sake of more fruit production. That leaves the entire land shaded. So unless some of these plants are going to do good in shade, I fear it won't be possible. I am also worried about annuals, since I can't always be there to replant and such. I'm hoping to get some plants that will grow among the trees no problem with me occasionally cutting them down to put over my typical home depot mulch in hopes to replace some of its usage. I hear perrenial peanuts do good in shade, so those should be good as nitrogen fixers, but even that confuses me a bit. If these chop and drop plants are sop fast growing and become green manure, don't they take nutrients from the soil themselves, same with the nitrogen fixers?

#1- You are doing great and lots of thinking
#2- We go to war with the army that we have. The soil and the space we have at our disposal.

Budtropicals

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2020, 04:19:27 PM »
Thanks! I am trying my best over here but  there is almost always something new going on with my plants, plenty more things to figure out, especially because I want to bring even more species to my garden!

Pokeweed

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2020, 09:20:33 AM »
Seawalnut to the rescue again! I have a bag of rose soil that has what looked like those mushrooms erupting from it. I decided not to use it anyway, but you just confirmed it. Thanks! D

elouicious

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #15 on: May 24, 2020, 08:28:49 PM »
surprised no one has mentioned borage yet?

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2020, 09:56:18 PM »
Well, if you are talking about a tiny shaded area with most plants/trees in pots your options for chop/drop plants decreases quickly. Most of these are pioneer species of plants which help in the recovery of barren, disturbed or degraded land or specialists which can take advantage of clearings in a forest. They are accumulators that can increase resources from very little with low inputs.

From the sound of it your conditions won't be accumulating they will have to rely on external inputs. 

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2020, 06:41:33 AM »

One of the most prolific plants for me this past dry season is called "Longevity spinach", it is edible but I am mainly using it as a living ground cover. It isn't a legume but is prolific in making succulent green matter. I have found that when trimmed and laid under/around trees the millipedes and other critters quickly convert it to manure which is free fertilizer exactly where it can be needed.

Here is a guava tree with the spinach placed underneath, probably 3-4 armfuls:

To preserve the moisture in the spinach and protect the creatures eating it I top off the mass with dried banana leaves:


The strategy is working. Here are some pics where I uncovered the spinach green manure to show it is being eaten by millipedes who are depositing their manure as small droplets. I've continued the process with many more trees.



greenman62

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2020, 02:31:46 PM »
Honey Locust (and black locust) are good nitrogen fixers. so is pigeon pea.
they grow fast and honey locust has usable pods for food.
papaya isnt bad either, fast grower and succulent leaves/stems.
and of course comfrey has the most nutrients.

you can go to https://getchipdrop.com/ and, if lucky, they will bring a truck of wood chips.

pineislander
 Longevity Spinach (Gynura procumbens) YES !
it grows fast, has medicinal and anti-cancer properties.
and excellent for mulch, especially when adding to dry matter.

dont forget grass clippings, fruit peels , coffee grounds, etc...

Budtropicals

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2020, 05:43:43 PM »
I just might be able to grow longevity spinach. Sounds great too.

Also, I forgot to add, chipdrop isn't really for me. I live in a real nice HOA place and I don't think they could even make it past the gates.... I would probably get fined for having a giant pile of mulch in the middle of my yard too.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2020, 05:49:00 PM by Budtropicals »

Vigo Carpathian

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2020, 11:56:48 PM »
Mexican sunflower. Grows like a weed and very nutritious for your plants. Also, in my experience, it has almost 100% germination rate

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2020, 07:04:35 AM »
Vigo if you are talking Tithonia rotundifolia that one has lots of good viable seeds but it is an annual plant.
I much prefer the Tithonia diversifolia which has very low (nearly sterile) seed production but grows easily from woody cuttings and is perennial. Those advantages make it one of the workhorses of chop/drop. A friend recently made a video, see his comments at 4:40:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PuUayGC7f8

SeaWalnut

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2020, 02:33:55 PM »
Right now in trying to grow Phacelia Tanacetifolia for seeds to have more and more of them.
I want to plant this gorgeous plant instead of grass in my orchard between the trees.
Its called a green manure plant and makes a ton of honney per hectare ( like black locust trees).
It also blooms long time.
Its an anual plant and can be planted to bloom 2 times a year or 3-4 times a year in warmer countryes.
Its also good to start a small business to sell the seeds because they dont last long,just 6 months and they are expensive.
The picture its not my field,i have just 20 or so plants right now.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 02:44:09 PM by SeaWalnut »

pineislander

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2020, 03:32:06 PM »
Wood chips have no nitrogen thats why they decompose soo hard. Wood chips will draw somme nitrogen out of the soil in order to break down and if you add N fertiliser for your tree then somme of that N will be taken by the wood chips and you will notice it will break down faster.
In my climate and biome the wood and leaf chips and all biomass serve as food for arthropods, millipedes and their relatives, not just fungi and bacteria. They consume it directly and it gets decomposed through their bodies with internal flora converting directly to feces so bypassing the nitrogen loss. As it passes through their gut it becomes innoculated and comes out as small pellets of manure. They also consume green material. Here is a photo of how they ate mango leaves on the ground after pruning, after about two weeks, only the skeletal veinal web remained. This is a good reason to not depend on pesticides or fungicides since they limit what these decompsers can get done. They work night and day by the millions across my land.



Nyuu

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Re: Chop and Drop plants? Nitrogen fixers?
« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2020, 06:55:21 PM »
Mother of cacao tree =Gliricidia sepium
https://www.infonet-biovision.org/EnvironmentalHealth/Trees/Mother-cocoa
And I heard some people using ice cream bean tree as well

 

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