I have a mature conventional orchard on a property that is currently rented but we will eventually live on. I have purchased 3 very small bare root honey locusts and 2 siberian pea shrubs. This property is 3 hours from where we live now so my ability to work on it is limited. I'm adding these more as an experiment. The orchard is currently managed by a gardener who has been taking care of it for years (previous 2 owners) in a very traditional manner including spraying inside the dripline with roundup. I know I know, let's not go there. The grass is mostly Bermuda grass. I think he comes in with a push behind gas mower but I am not entirely sure. Anyway, once we live there I am going to stop the roundup and try and gradually convert at least some of this to something more sustainable in the direction of a food forest if that is possible given the maturity of the existing trees.
So back to those 5 little bare roots. I was thinking that I should concentrate them maybe near one of the smaller trees. The small tree in the picture is a lemon but I also have a smallish nectarine and a two year old almond. I was thinking I could put the pea shrubs quite close and then put the honey locusts further away where there isn't actually much grass then it won't get in the way of the mowing. The second image is of a sad peach tree that always looks stressed.
I also like the look of honey locusts and another idea was just to put them somewhere I can see and take advantage of the leaves (which will require me to remind the gardeners to leave them alone).
Keep in mind these are 1.5 foot bareroots I ordered online. I think it would be a mistake to put them too close to the big trees where I would be interfering more with roots and where they would get shaded out.
If I am understanding the situation correctly, my first thought is that the new seedlings will need to be marked/flagged & protected from being sprayed and/or mown over. I would worry that the gardener/caretaker would assume they are just some weeds that came up & need to be dealt with.
Honey Locusts get quite large and are really beautiful trees. I would put them somewhere that they have room to grow. I love them in the yard because they make really nice, dappled shade in addition to their looks.
Siberian Pea Shrub will work really well in your food forest. I would plant them in the food forest outside the drip line of whatever tree you want to guild them with. They are easy to propagate, so after a few years, you can grow more of them if you like. I would pollard or coppice them after a few years and use the clippings for mulch. Using them for chop and drop will add nitrogen to your soil as well as moderating temperatures and slowing evaporation. If you don't mind sacrificing some, you can plant them much closer to your fruit trees and chop them much more aggressively.
If you aren't sure about your landscaper's ability to remember your instructions, putting at least a small ring of fence around them will hopefully deter him from mowing them. If he isn't open to your ideas about not spraying poison on your land and not treating everything that pops up as a weed, you may need to find someone more open to your ideas. I've seen people that have maintained a property for years get extremely possessive of that area, to the point that they think they know better than you do how to care for it. That may allow him to justify ignoring your instructions in his mind. If you find yourself locked into a power struggle of this sort, it may be best to find a new gardener. People's ideas of how to maintain an area like this differ. If he loves straight rows, spotless fruit, and perfectly manicured grass around trees and between rows, he may find food forests messy to the point that he just hates them.
Thank you for your suggestions. I realized that in addition to the "gardener" hazard, I also had a "small children" hazard since the tenants have little kids. Neither bode well for little bare sticks in an orchard so I decided to them all in a "nurse" area near the orchard but out of the mow zone where I have pomegranates and some old roses. I did not have time to fence the area off but I did put rocks around it and the roses and pomegranates have thorns. These were tiny bare roots so I will plan on transplanting them next winter if they survive and I like the idea of trying to propagate the pea shrubs.
When we do move there, I hope to keep the gardener on but will just tell him to stop the roundup altogether. I plan to sheet mulch with cardboard/mulch under the dripline of the old fruit trees. I know this won't kill the bermuda grass but I have the experience here in the Bay Area that it curb its enthusiasm a bit. my gut is that these old trees have roots that go so far beyond the drip line that even for conventional growing, spraying under the dripline doesn't accomplish much in terms of "saving" nutrients for the tree versus the grass.
These trees have received no amendments and have been starved of even their own leaf litter for at least 15 years. They produce a lot of fruit but they have lots of issues with pests including borers especially the plums. So while I would normally be very keen to help out with Nitrogen fixing neighbors and dynamic accumulators and such, it feels like me biggest task is to slow their demise through insect damage. I'll have to do more research on that because my understanding is that there is little you can do about borers once you have a serious infestation.
anyway, I can't really deal with those issues remotely. I might try a 'biologic mudpack' as suggested by Michael Phillips in "The Holistic Orchard."
My, my, aren't you a big fella. Here, have a tiny ad: