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Fruit tree understory successes & recommendations

 
gardener
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Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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It is early March and the garlic under the fruit trees planted within 18" of the trunk is thriving. Today after pruning the nectarine, apple, plum, pear, almond, cherry, jujube, and peach trees I want to expand the understory plantings. A local cultivator of food forest fruit trees recommended a Sugar Daddy Snap Pea dwarf variety (Lake Valley Seed, Boulder Co) as a flavorful choice that does not need trellising, staking, or thinning. It sounds like a winner for expanding the understory, feeding nitrogen to the soil, and feeding humans.
Anyone have any other fruit tree understory planting recommendations?
 
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Amy Gardener wrote:It is early March and the garlic under the fruit trees planted within 18" of the trunk is thriving. Today after pruning the nectarine, apple, plum, pear, almond, cherry, jujube, and peach trees I want to expand the understory plantings. A local cultivator of food forest fruit trees recommended a Sugar Daddy Snap Pea dwarf variety (Lake Valley Seed, Boulder Co) as a flavorful choice that does not need trellising, staking, or thinning. It sounds like a winner for expanding the understory, feeding nitrogen to the soil, and feeding humans.
Anyone have any other fruit tree understory planting recommendations?



I use daffodils heavily under my fruit trees.  They are among the first things up in spring, long before the fruit trees leaf out, so they get full sun.  I use comfrey in all my guilds as well.  I use mint in many of my food forest areas.  It spreads like crazy, makes nice tea, and smells good when you walk on it.
 
Amy Gardener
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Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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Great suggestions Trace! Since the fruit trees require some tending, I've stayed away from most perennials thinking they would die from people walking on them. But of course, daffodils are rugged and early bloomers so gently walking on the leaves during fruit harvest is not a problem. Comfrey can take some light treading late in the season. My mint is spreading out of control in the kitchen garden so relocating it to the fruit tree area would be perfect for trampling while tending the trees. Wonderful options!
 
Trace Oswald
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Amy Gardener wrote:Great suggestions Trace! Since the fruit trees require some tending, I've stayed away from most perennials thinking they would die from people walking on them. But of course, daffodils are rugged and early bloomers so gently walking on the leaves during fruit harvest is not a problem. Comfrey can take some light treading late in the season. My mint is spreading out of control in the kitchen garden so relocating it to the fruit tree area would be perfect for trampling while tending the trees. Wonderful options!



In my climate, the daffodils, even the leaves, are gone by apple harvest time.  Comfrey is easy to step between, or over.  Mint doesn't care what we do to it :)
 
pollinator
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My go-to understory in the past has been chives and strawberries. They're both hardy and self-perpetuating.
 
pollinator
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Location: Western MA, zone 6b
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I've got tulips,  comfrey, catmint, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, hosta, daylily, french sorrel, and monarda in some sorts of combinations under most of my young fruit trees.   We'll see what survies or thrives or needs replacing as they grow.
 
pollinator
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Lately I've been planting a lot of herbs and nitrogen fixers all around my younger fruit trees and new plantings:

yarrow
black medick
yellow sweet clover
borage
mullein
lanceleaf plantain
hyssop
korean giant mint
alfalfa
echinacea
monarda
amorpha

Of the above list, with the ones where I have quite a lot of seed available, I broadcast sow just as the snow melts (what you might call "frost seeding"). The others, where I don't have much seed available, I start them in 72-cell seedling flats in the greenhouse and then transplant out plugs.

Around my older taller trees, this year I'm going to plant a whole bunch of pumpkins.
 
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Reading the list of plants from the last poster- black medick.

There was a character in the novel Lord Brocktree from the Redwall series named Stiffener Medick.
 
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I live in the Mojave desert, zone 8b, and want to transition my small backyard to a sustainable/edible landscape. Jujube sounds like a great tree for this climate, but no one sells them locally, making it difficult to find out what to plant in the understory - and how far from the trunk to place anything. Are the suckers a big problem? Are there strategies to limit suckering far from the tree? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you
 
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Location: South Alabama
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I like ginger, as it can take the shade. I've also had good luck with sweet potatoes. Another favorite are canna lilies, as they make a great repeat chop-and-drop in our warm climate. Endless mulch.
 
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