Let's talk about Chop-and-Drop?

Phaedra Geiermann

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
938
Reaction score
4,182
Points
155
Location
Schleiden, Germany
I like no dig, but there are some areas in my garden where the "cardboard+ a thick layer of compost" method is not practical or need too much effort. Do you think regular chop-and-drop is a good enough solution?


For example, around a two or 3-year-old fruit tree, I tried to temporarily cover the area with cardboard+compost to block the weeds/grasses. But in my opinion, it takes too much effort to maintain "weed-free" status. So, eventually, the weeds/grasses always claimed the territories back.

So how if I just regularly cut them back?

Or, like this area, there are so many buttercups and ground elders. To be honest, I am not willing to even think about how to eliminate them. Can I say, regular cutting them back will eventually weaken them?

I have too many pumpkins and courgette plants, so I just dug some holes and put them in. 🤣 So far, I have used the grass shear to cut the weeds and grasses and let them become a thin layer of surface mulch materials.

2169.jpg
 

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
12,561
Reaction score
15,671
Points
377
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
chop and drop is usually used in arid climates as a way of getting mulch and forage. i've also heard of it being used as a way of getting deeper nutrients up to the surface or pollarding of trees to generate firewood. i have grown and harvested a green manure patch (alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil) and used trimmings from that to supply some added nutrients to gardens, but i've gotten away from that now.

cutting back taller grassy areas may give your squash a chance but it may also open up that area to other plants to grow.

i usually put down a few layers of overlapping cardboard and mulch that well so that weeds won't have much of a chance. if it turns out i do need to redo the cardboard underneath it's not that much work to scrape the mulch aside and to put down a few new layers of cardboard.
 
Last edited:

Dirtmechanic

Garden Addicted
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Messages
1,563
Reaction score
3,599
Points
227
Location
Birmingham AL (Zone 8a)
I would look around to find a low growing dense ground cover that is self seeding. Here, the moisture serves to ablate heat. Additionally some fungi and bacteria and insects have no effect on some low weeds it seems. Rather than fight it, grow it low and let us know. I think the shallow root type best, and it occurs that there may be nitrogen fixers I am unaware of that do not go dormant in our deep heat. Perhaps I will need to fertilize more, but this is my experiment this year with corn speedwell. My problem weed is buttonweed, which grows taller than I wished for, but who knows how much I will learn about what method is commonly available here that might prove less effort.
 
Last edited:

Phaedra Geiermann

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
938
Reaction score
4,182
Points
155
Location
Schleiden, Germany
chop and drop is usually used in arid climates as a way of getting mulch and forage. i've also heard of it being used as a way of getting deeper nutrients up to the surface or pollarding of trees to generate firewood. i have grown and harvested a green manure patch (alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil) and used trimmings from that to supply some added nutrients to gardens, but i've gotten away from that now.
I also once tried green manure in the garden in Cologne, mainly buckwheat and white clover. The outcome was a bit awkward - my FIL mowed most of everything he couldn't recognize, including some of my crops. That's also the reason I started using raised beds.

The other reason I didn't keep trying green manure is that slugs are terribly aggressive in this small urban garden. The green manure method might provide them with more food and habitat. My FIL had good faith in whatever pesticide and herbicide, including those slug poisons. We share the love of gardening, but our paths are entirely different.
cutting back taller grassy areas may give your squash a chance but it may also open up that area to other plants to grow.
After I cut them, I just roughly laid them under the bushes (a young rhododendron, a blueberry plant, and two sakura trees (also around the squash) as a thin layer of mulch. I plan to keep cutting them.
i usually put down a few layers of overlapping cardboard and mulch that well so that weeds won't have much of a chance. if it turns out i do need to redo the cardboard underneath it's not that much work to scrap the mulch aside and to put down a few new layers of cardboard.
Yes, I did the same for places with relatively even ground. The problem in our garden is too much uneven ground. However, I will keep trying. :D
 

Phaedra Geiermann

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
938
Reaction score
4,182
Points
155
Location
Schleiden, Germany
I would look around to find a low growing dense ground cover that is self seeding. Here, the moisture serves to ablate heat. Additionally some fungi and bacteria and insects have no effect on some low weeds it seems. Rather than fight it, grow it low and let us know. I think the shallow root type best, and it occurs that there may be nitrogen fixers I am unaware of that do not go dormant in our deep heat. Perhaps I will need to fertilize more, but this is my experiment this year with corn speedwell. My problem weed is buttonweed, which grows taller than I wished for, but who knows how much I will learn about what method is commonly available here that might prove less effort.
Yes, I will. The concept of a mulching mower is also attractive to me.

The first house owner and/or his landscaping contractor took advantage of the slopes and created a lot of good corners; however, many areas in our garden are pretty challenging for a mower - only a grass shear or a trimmer can do the job.

That also resulted in many notorious weeds in the garden - most of them have devilish root systems. Creeping buttercup, thistle, ground elder, etc. I don't think it is possible to clean them, as they have existed here for a long long time. I can only see how to slightly control and cope with them. Ground elder is troublesome enough, but I can tolerate them better as long as they are safe and can be used as a supplement for chickens.

Last year, I also tried quite hard to cut those thistles back. In the beginning, it works. But after two weeks that I was extremely busy with one translation work, they were out of control, sigh.
 

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
12,561
Reaction score
15,671
Points
377
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
I also once tried green manure in the garden in Cologne, mainly buckwheat and white clover. The outcome was a bit awkward - my FIL mowed most of everything he couldn't recognize, including some of my crops. That's also the reason I started using raised beds.

oh, yes, that could be trouble if you were not the sole gardener. i have that problem here too.

buckwheat is a lovely flowering plant, but growing it here outside a fence means it rarely gets big or can drop many seeds because the deer and other herbivores love it. even trying to grow it inside the fence i could rarely get a crop because the chipmunks, groundhogs and raccoons would go after any seeds or seedling they could find. i've stopped planting it inside the fence because it was attracting those creatues more than the fence was able to keep them out.


The other reason I didn't keep trying green manure is that slugs are terribly aggressive in this small urban garden. The green manure method might provide them with more food and habitat. My FIL had good faith in whatever pesticide and herbicide, including those slug poisons. We share the love of gardening, but our paths are entirely different.

your frustrations are shared. :( it has taken me many years to get Mom to want to stop spraying poisons/herbicides/etc around that were creating more problems (and more work for me) than they were solving. in a few cases it opened up large areas to weeds and erosion whicih i still have to somehow fix and it's not like we have a huge budget to work within.

it is hard for Mom to understand why i want to do things the way i do, even after i explain them. she also does not like seeing any kind of mulch on the surface of the gardens or doesn't like anything dying back naturally. right now she is cutting back the greens of thousands of daffodils because she doesn't like how they look. i've given up on trying to tell her that it is ok to just leave them as she won't. so i just do what i can here to try to encourage other plants and diversity however i can.


After I cut them, I just roughly laid them under the bushes (a young rhododendron, a blueberry plant, and two sakura trees (also around the squash) as a thin layer of mulch. I plan to keep cutting them.

for your perennials they will likely enjoy the added mulch and nutrients. :)


Yes, I did the same for places with relatively even ground. The problem in our garden is too much uneven ground. However, I will keep trying. :D

uneven small patches would be harder to smother, so yes, i can see that being more of a problem. i'm rarely working with smaller patches like that here.

i'm so glad i was able to find some low growing full sun plants that would work and are coming along nicely for some areas of full sun.
 

ducks4you

Garden Master
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
8,729
Reaction score
8,059
Points
397
Location
East Central IL, Was Zone 6, Now...maybe Zone 5
I fight weeds in my 5 acres C O N S T A N T L Y.
We mow where the horses graze to knock down the weeds and help them to not go to seed and drop their seeds. They grow taller than the grass and this method helps the grass to compete better.
That being said, I think the cardboard could work. I think weed seeds are blowing in and growing there, NOT growing through the cardboard.
I agree with @Dirtmechanic . Find some ground cover that you can tolerate that likes shade and plant it there.
Pachysandra is very popular BUT very invasive.
Also, if vinca likes you soil it can spread too easily.
Ferns, perhaps, if it is very shady.
Creeping phlox is nice, but it needs sun.
Any other ideas folks?
 

ducks4you

Garden Master
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
8,729
Reaction score
8,059
Points
397
Location
East Central IL, Was Zone 6, Now...maybe Zone 5
Also, don't hate herbicides. MAG is Always recommending a reused disposable drink cup and a paintbrush. You cut down the weed, paint ONLY the weeds stub. It dies off and the other plants live.
It IS tedious, but you don't have as much land as I do! :lol: So, it's doable.
I fight burdock and 2nd year burdock can have 2 ft roots.
I tried spraying the leaves of 2 10 ft burdock growths in my "inner sanctum", but that was bc I had to flood out a bumble nest in 2021 and I thought I had another. Hurt them, but now that I know there are no bee nests there I will go back and mow/poison them out.
I am winning this war. I don't have patches anymore that look like I am cultivating them.
Where I mow them down to the ground and poisoned they are dead as doornails.
It's ok to get rid of the worst weeds.
I tolerate dandelion, violets, even some chickweed, bc it's edible.
When I get chickens again this year, They will eat some weeds that the horses don't touch.
 

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
12,561
Reaction score
15,671
Points
377
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
thistles are tough for sure. cutting them back has to be cutting them back to where no green is showing and it has to be consistent to make any difference. if you cut them back and then let them grow then they'll be back and worse.

i figure if i have time to cut them back then i have time to dig them out and to get as many roots out as possible. then smother the area and watch for any that i've missed. it may take a few years to eradicate them but persistence does pay off.

poisons won't work well if you remove the leaves. leave the leaves and remove only the flowers. with the extent of type of roots that thistles have you'll often find side shoots coming up after you've poisoned so if you can smother that area after the initial planting has died back then you might prevent those side shoots from having an easy start up again.

it is much easier to pull young thistles from mulched areas than to have to try to remove them from the subsoil so any areas you can smother and mulch will make any weeding easier if you can get the weeds out early.
 

Phaedra Geiermann

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
938
Reaction score
4,182
Points
155
Location
Schleiden, Germany
Some parts he mentioned in this video are pretty convincing to me (but I think "stop weeding" is more to draw attention), so I will try further in both gardens. The prerequisite is, of course, avoiding areas where slugs are the main pest.

I transplanted some sunflowers and amaranths in the small garden in Cologne. They are quite robust grown-ups now and should be able to resist certain pest damages. Therefore, I used this small area for the experiment.
2940.jpg

The grass clippings are on.
2939.jpg


In our garden in Schleiden, I also chose one raised bed for the experiment; let's see.
 

Latest posts

Top