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Mulching versus guild or other ideas

 
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Hey guys, I'm kind of new at this and soliciting ideas.  I'm at a decision point.  I have a third of an acre in suburbia.  Between 8 years ago and now, before I really knew what I was doing, I planted maybe 25 fruit and nut trees (normal suburb dwellers probably already find this annoying).  I have the usual apple, plum, and pears, and some more exotics like paw paw, medlar, and jujube.

My strategy has always been every couple years to pay for a truckload of hardwood mulch and put it around each tree just like most "normal" houses around here.  Now my mulch is almost gone and most of my trees have some grass or weeds up to the trunk.

If I'm going to switch to anything besides hardwood, dead mulch, now is the time.  Keeping in mind I have a demanding day job and would like to keep it simple, and that tons of people in the same HOA will go by my house every day and judge me.  I have trees in front and backyard.

Should I instead truck in compost, spread to the dripline and put in some kind of guild plantings?  If I do that, I'd like to keep roughly the same strategy around each tree, so I'd be in search of stuff that can go under my apple and the mayhaw tree and maybe even the walnut. But that's not a hard rule.  I just don't have a lot of skill to let it get too complicated.

I have some successful experience with comfrey and clovers, but I suck at other things growing by seed.

I've read permaculture books with guild ideas.  I guess I am asking for what is good for beginners and can be done for more than a few trees relatively easily.  Thanks in advance.

North Virginia, zone 7A, mostly clay, acidic soil.  Plenty of rainfall year round.
 
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I'd say mulch AND guilds.  My situation is very similar to yours: a third of an acre, 70 fruit trees . . . but no HOA or CCNR's.  I've planted a ton of comfrey and ginger around my trees and regularly mulch right over the top of them.  They push through the mulch year after year and come back.

I don't know if Chipdrop.com is in your area, but I use them regularly and get great wood chip mulch from them.
 
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I like mulching, mostly with leaves (pretty easy to find and spread, creates super rich and healthy soil, maintains a good level of moisture, blocks out undesirable plants from growing, looks nice, mimics nature) and other organic material from my property like branches, cut weeds, and biocharish stuff, sometimes mostly ashes mixed with soil.

I also like to have a living mulch with a large diversity of plants growing if possible, preferably including ones that may help repel pests for the fruit tree they are near. I've planted a few different varieties of these plants this year and am interested to see if they help!

Sounds like you have a framework for a great food forest Chris!
 
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