Last week in, Composting – Which Method is Best, I discussed various methods of composting. In my experience each of these methods works to some degree, but it takes too much effort to make them work. Today I will introduce you to my Cut and Drop Composting Method. It is by far the easiest and best composting method of any that I have tried.
Nature Knows Best
I have a small wood lot of mostly sugar maples. Each fall the ground is covered with brown leaves. Over winter they just sit there, and by spring they are still there. By August they are all gone. A combination of animal, insect and microbe activity has incorporated them into the ground.
No one raked the leaves, or hauled them to a pile. No additives were added, and I certainly did not turn them. All I needed to do was leave them on the ground and wait for Mother Nature to do her thing.
I asked myself, if Mother Nature can do this in the woods, why would she not do this in my garden? I couldn’t think of a good reason so I started following her lead in the garden and developed my cut and drop composting method.
Cut and Drop Spring Clean Up
During spring cleanup, I only worry about stems that are still sticking out of the ground. In the case of something like a hosta, the leaves are already lying on the ground – I just leave them there. The old flower stock is sticking up, so I cut it off, and drop it. If it is really long I might cut it in half so that it is not quite as visible.
I simply go through the garden, using hedge clippers to cut off any bits of perennials that are still sticking up. As they are cut, they fall to the ground, and stay there. Almost nothing gets carried to the compost bin. The exceptions are some very tall ornamental grasses that make very thick stems. It is easier to haul them to the bin than to cut them into smaller pieces.
Cut and Drop Deadheading
During summer, if I am deadheading or cleaning up plants, I just cut and drop. If the plant is near the front of the bed, I fling the cut piece behind a larger plant to make things look neater.
In fall, all leaves are left where they drop, provided it is in a flower/shrub bed. On the grass I either mow them into small bits and leave them, or rack them into a nearby flower bed that needs some extra organic matter.I don’t rake them very far.
Pull and Drop Weeds
Most weeds are either annuals, or perennials that don’t spread by runners. All of these are just pulled and dropped into the garden bed. If I have concerns about them rooting, I will leave them on the garden path for a couple of days to dry out and then I throw them into the flower bed.
There are exceptions. Invasive weeds like bind weed, quack grass and Canadian thistle are not returned to the garden – they are just too nasty! They go out with the garbage.
What about lawn grass in the flower beds? I pull it and toss it onto the lawn. It either dies or roots – either is OK with me.
Pull and Drop Diseased Leaves
What do I do about diseased leaves? …………..Nothing!
By fall all leaves have some type of disease on them. Those diseases came from my garden and the gardens in a 50 mile radius. Removing leaves will not eliminate the disease. I do know that removing green leaves that are partially infected reduces the plants ability to make food – I don’t do that. If a plant can’t survive with disease spores in the air – it is replaced with something that grows without diseases. Good bye mildewed monarda.
In fall when leaves drop, the diseases drop along with the leaves, and Mother Nature takes care of composting them for me.
What about kitchen scraps? I have a small plastic composter outside my back door, and kitchen scraps go into it. It includes egg shells and paper napkins which do not compost quickly. Once a year this is taken and buried somewhere in the garden. I tried putting it on top of the soil but the un-composted eggs and paper where just too unsightly.
What About Mulching?
I mulch everything with wood chips. If I drop some plant material it will sit on top of the wood chips until it decomposes. If I add more wood chips to the bed, they just get placed on top of whatever is already there. It is all organic. It all acts like a mulch. And it all decomposes over time.
Thank You Mother Nature
Thank you for showing me the way to cut and drop composting.