How about coating the floor of the orchard, one piece at a time, with cardboard covered with straw? We've been able to get used cardboard for free from the grocery store, and a bale of straw runs for just about $5 here. Old or used carpet may also work as the weed block. We've tried newspaper, but it just hasn't kept the wire grass down here, so we like cardboard. Garden beds done in this fashion have needed very little, if any, weeding all season long.
I would recommend, however, that you be prepared for the time when you wish to re-green the area so that you have something ready for that purpose. Crawford discusses doing a section of his forest garden at a time in this fashion, allowing him to slowly replace all of the vegetation beneath his trees.
And the LORD God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. - Gen 2:15
in my opinion the best removal tool for bramles is a darn good pair of leather gloves.. they generally have fairly shallow roots and if you cut out all the dead stuff in the fall or winter..and then pull out the baby green stuff in the spring as you are able..you should be able to rid the orchard of the brambles quite eaisly..
also mowing them over and over and over might kill them but I would cut out the dead stuff first and remove it to get the mower in easier.
pull close to the tree trunks so as not to damage with a mower
Bloom where you are planted.
The problem with goats is getting them aimed in the right direction.
Clearing blackberries is not hard, I've done it with machete and with electric hedge trimmers. Powered equipment is easier, of course, but not everyone has enough extension cords.
If you knock the brambles down you can keep them down by mowing twice a year, you shouldn't need to cut down any of the trees unless you want to.
Some orchardists like to do a shallow till on the lanes between the trees to keep brush down, I am not sure that is a good idea on an old orchard.
So, tell me about your orchard, apples? pears? quinces? What types and what conditions?
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Thank you everyone for your comments and helpful advice. My apologies for the delay in responding. We got back to the land today. They are apple trees, not sure which type at the moment. (The land is in france, very close to the pyrenees, so a varied but good climate with a lot of rain). They have had about 4 years of neglect, and are choked. I understand the brambles were strimmed at ground level in May or June this year, so I found quite a lot of it easy to pull out from the ground working up. I used hand tools. There will have to be a phase two involving a ladder! I don't think we will be able to do goats or pigs at this stage, maybe in the future. Its in quite a shady area, if that has any implication beyond the obvious Id be interested to hear views. Bw
Are you talking about just brambles, or raspberry brambles? Often, they grow in the same areas.
I left my land for five years, and when I returned, I had ten ft. brambles, which die quickly if you cut them a few times: They are like roses, can't stand to be cut on.
I was about to make war on a raspberry patch under a walnut tree. Instead, I tried a Fukoaka approach. I cut the running tips of the raspberries, which immediately produced 16 cups of raspberries!!!
I was so thrilled to get berries, I pampered the whole patch: In November, I scooted around on my butt with small pruner shears and cut out dead canes, which I chopped up right there for mulch around each raspberry "tree". [You prune them to be like little trees, sorta].
I like to scoot around because I can pick up walnuts, clean up paths and cut dead canes all at the same time. It is fun and lazy.
I tried supporting the vines in the dead forks of yellow coneflowers, which are the perfect mate for raspberries because they come up blooming after the raspberries are done, and then make forks to support the raspberries!!!
I got a little more berries. The third year, I added Horse manure to the natural mulch around each berry vine. You should see them now. They are absolutely LOADED with berries.
Moral: It pays to work WITH nature, not against nature.
Unfortunately, the bees which pollinate Rudbeckia lacinata coneflowers are dead. I only grew six stalks of pink corn (treated corn) and they say that is what kills my bees. My neighbors are growing corn, and they may have had a whole field of the pink corn, which has a systemic pesticide on the kernel. The UK and most other European countries are banning these pesticides on corn, but of course, U.S. is run by pesticide companies.
As I am learning from friends and neighbors, the best way to clear brambles is with pigs. Cut them down, doesn't even need to be all the way, just enough so that it's not an impenetrable thicket. then fence in a couple of pigs - electric fencing seems to work fine. Our friends are clearing acres of brambles this way, a patch at a time. They put a pair of weaners on there and by the time the pigs are big enough to slaughter, the ground is amazingly perfect - free of brambles, tilled, and fertilized. They haven't done this in an orchard but it is in a woodland and the trees are fine. Thriving, in fact.
I don't know if this is a difference in species of blackberries perhaps but here in the UK I wouldnt term blackberries 'easy to clear/kill' just by cutting. Sure, if you can cut them down to the ground 2-3 times a year they won't bother you too much, but that is a fair amount of work if it's a big area. And in my experience they just keep coming back. The ones we have here have pretty chunky roots, but the pigs' rooting takes care of that!
I was talking about plain briars, not blackberries. I got rid of a lot by just cutting, but I did keep mowing after that. I have blackberries blooming and I am glad: They all died of a rust disease in 2002, so I am glad to see them back. Briars rot fast and make good compost, if you pile them up.
They are just briars....don'[t look the same as blackberries quite. They can get 12 feet high and never bloom or get berries. I cut them with a bushhog on a tractor for years. I think they only grow on land that hasn't been disturbed much....Blackberries look and seem sweet compared to monster briars here in Ky.
Blackberries bear on 2nd year canes so if you cut them every year you'd never get fruit. In our patch the donkeys were eating every one as soon as it got ripe. We wondered why we never found any ripe berries, only unripe ones, LOL!
Since blackberries shade out grass, and grass is bad in orchards, I wonder if it would be a better plan to mow paths in the orchard and leave strips of the brambles. Then you could get two crops in one lot. When we had rugosa roses, they protected the soil from being trampled so well it went from thick heavy clay we had to work hard to get to fill the planting holes back in (kept its shape too well) to the most wonderful loose loam I ever saw, in just a few years.
That's interesting, Renate. I think that's a good idea. I am thinking about double cropping the fruit trees here. I read you can plant collards around apple trees, but I just planted clover. The famous homesteaders, the Nearings, said old apple trees need green manure.
My grandma grew strawberries in the orchard sometimes. I have wild strawberries in an old orchard, so maybe strawberries naturally like apples?
I once took care of someone's donkeys, but I don't have any now I am vegetarian. but I usually have animals. I had one horse who lived to be 32.
I have Meideland roses [vitamin C in rosehips] in the front yard. The soil here is 3 feet deep, from soil flowing down a mountain for a million years and hitting a sudden plateau. It is weird to see deep soil, but we ditched waterlines 2000 feet and there were no rocks. Also, farmers removed rocks and threw them over the creek banks. I could get them out and build a stone yurt or something. Yes, soil holds its shape here...it is viscous, hanging on banks. Kentucky soil everywhere is precious, but where you live, it is some of the best soil in the world....around Fayette County. On U.S. 68, some soil is 14 feet deep, now covered in subdeivisions.