Why should I “grow” mulch in my edible landscape?

We’re trying to save money and cut labor. One of the key points of doing a permaculture food forest or edible landscape is to work with nature to do less (labor, fertilizing, maintenance). A well-planned food forest should eventually be able to maintain itself with the minimal amount of effort on the gardener’s part.

After spending the last 6 months hauling chipped trees and leaves dumped near my food forest by a local tree  company, I had to sit down and ask myself if there was an easier way. Turns out, there is! So I am here to share that you do not have to spend hundreds of hours hauling mulch into your food forest in order to cover the ground, protect the soil, and maintain moisture.

By planting trees that drop a lot of leaves and plants for chopping and dropping, you too can achieve this simpler, and more beautiful permaculture system for having more and doing less.

1. Comfrey

A permaculture staple, comfrey grows back quickly after being cut to the ground. After “harvesting” your comfrey leaves, you can have another full-sized plant to chop and drop in a week.

2. Horseradish

Trust me, it grows back QUICKLY, and spreads aggressively if you actually harvest it (root propagation), so… either put it some place where you don’t mind having a field of horseradish or…don’t dig it up.

Planting Horseradish in the Edible Landscape

Horseradish will basically grow in anything. Clay…sandy soils… even wood chips.

3. Strawberries

Only recommended if you don’t plan on harvesting but… these things grow fast, send out runners in the spring to spread and, in some places will stay green and growing throughout winter.

4. Taro (An Edible Sort of Elephant Ear) or… Non-Edible Elephant Ears

In a temperate climate, these will have a nice, long nap in the winter but grow voraciously in the summer months. Although taro leaves can be harvested and cooked down like greens or spinach, if you don’t plan on eating them, you can selectively chop them and lay them around a fruit tree or wherever you need some additional humus.

5. Pigeon Pea

6. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of those plants that mulches itself, as long as it has enough nutrients to grow with vigor. As it pushes off new leaves and stalks, it drops the old ones onto the ground, thereby creating a fast-growing, self-cycling system of adding humus to the edible landscape.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to help it along a bit by dumping your coffee grounds and table scraps around it.

7. Ornamental Trees

If you needed an excuse to plant your favorite, beautiful, fruit-less ornamental trees in your edible landscape, I’m here to provide one for you. Certain ornamental trees like maple trees, produce a lot of leaves that drop in the fall and mulch everything around them, without any other labor on your part. I mean…besides planting the tree, that is.

Growing Japanese Maples In the Edible Landscape

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