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Orchard permaculture?

 
Jordan Struck
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Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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What plants will mesh well in a planted orchard? I don't want to tear out the apple and pear trees, but I want to find shrubs, ground cover/crawlers, climbers, etc. that will help create a permaculture environment. My ideal thing would be shrubs between trees (about 3 - 5 ft apart in the row), climbers on the trunk (if not damaging to the tree), and ground cover everywhere else. Please recommend plants and a set up/schematic.

Thanks!
 
Matu Collins
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How big is the orchard? On a small scale mulch paths are nice but on a large scale mowed paths are more efficient.

What is growing in between the trees now?

Our mowed paths between trees are mostly white clover, orchard grass, wild strawberry, yarrow and smooth bedstraw. Comfrey here and there. I have grapes growing up a couple of trees but it's not ideal.
 
Ann Torrence
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The DVD on Miracle Farms orchards can't come out fast enough for me. The trailer videos of this existing orchard converted to permaculture techniques will give you loads of ideas and inspiration of what is possible for your place. Here's the original thread
 
Jordan Struck
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Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Matu Collins wrote:How big is the orchard? On a small scale mulch paths are nice but on a large scale mowed paths are more efficient.

What is growing in between the trees now?

Our mowed paths between trees are mostly white clover, orchard grass, wild strawberry, yarrow and smooth bedstraw. Comfrey here and there. I have grapes growing up a couple of trees but it's not ideal.


The orchard is approx. 25 acres. The rows are separated by enough space for a tractor, and are covered in orchard grass. In between the trees grows few things currently as it has been heavily weeded (mostly bare soil and spots of wild asparagus).

Ann Torrence wrote:The DVD on Miracle Farms orchards can't come out fast enough for me. The trailer videos of this existing orchard converted to permaculture techniques will give you loads of ideas and inspiration of what is possible for your place. Here's the original thread


I do want to see that video, the only problem with his model is that he has removed a significant number of his original fruit trees to make way for new shrubs/trees/etc. Unfortunately my mother still owns the property, and will not permit any fruit tree (apple & pear) removal. Thus, I must find an alternative that utilizes the available space in-between the trees, without requiring their removal. Probably this will be in the form of shrubs, vines, and ground cover. So advice/experience with a model that requires no fruit tree removal will be more relevant than what I understand was done at Miracle Farms.

PS For anyone's references in suggesting plants: the plant hardiness zone of the farm is a 7b, bordering on 8a.
 
Ann Torrence
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The big answer about plant selection is, of course, "it depends." Are you in a humid or arid environment, what's your mom's spray regime, are you on irrigation and what kind? What's she doing with the fruit now?What secondary crops are interesting. And what markets do you have? Labor to pick? There's too many variables to say "do this." You could aim for a fodder forest to add livestock, a season-long bloom for honeybees, a medicinals garden, a u-pick, or a value-added jam-making crop. Or multiple from the chinese menu above.

Permaculture is a means to many ends, not an end in itself. What's your dream? Answer that and the decision tree gets narrowed rather quickly.
 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Ann Torrence wrote:The big answer about plant selection is, of course, "it depends." Are you in a humid or arid environment, what's your mom's spray regime, are you on irrigation and what kind? What's she doing with the fruit now?What secondary crops are interesting. And what markets do you have? Labor to pick? There's too many variables to say "do this." You could aim for a fodder forest to add livestock, a season-long bloom for honeybees, a medicinals garden, a u-pick, or a value-added jam-making crop. Or multiple from the chinese menu above.

Permaculture is a means to many ends, not an end in itself. What's your dream? Answer that and the decision tree gets narrowed rather quickly.


My mom does limited spraying. She mostly uses integrated pest management for insect control. I'm getting her to switch to a certified Organic fertilizer. (I'm trying to transform the farm to be less fossil fuel dependent)

The farm is irrigated (installed irrigation hose and sprinkler) using underground water (gravity fed from nearby cliff drop-off, so no pumps necessary). We have water rights.

The climate is cool and wet during the winter and warm and drier during the summer. It's at a low altitude in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon (Pacific Northwest). The plant hardiness is 7b (but considering our lower altitude then much the rest of the area, we are probably more similar to a 8a). The soil tends to be sandy (sandy-loam?)

We harvest our apples and pears using hired labor (not a u-pick). U-pick may be in the cards for the future... but it shouldn't dictate the design/selection in case it does not become a reality.

I would be most interested in growing more food in-between the trees (fruit, peas, nuts, leafy greens, etc. whatever will do well and be beneficial!). I would be concerned about livestock in the orchard as they would be likely to eat the trees/damage the bark, so I don't think they are an option.
 
Bill Erickson
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Sounds to me like you already have choices in your mind. Ann's advice is very sound, take heed. Figure out what works with what you have and start it. If is fails, do something else.

Like Ann said, "Permaculture is a means to many ends, not an end in itself. What's your dream? Answer that and the decision tree gets narrowed rather quickly."
 
Margie Nieuwkerk
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Location: Bulgaria, Zone 7/8
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Are you doing this for yourself or also to make extra income?

Why not grow lots of herbs in between, for teas and tinctures? and possibly to sell either the seeds or small plants at farmers market or through Ebay? They are often good bee plants as well.

grow stuff that bees love and have stuff blooming from as early to as late as possible and have bees for honey and pollination? Early is Juneberry, there's a mexican sunflower that's really bushy and nice and seems to bloom for long time. You could have several hives.


Grow pumpkin kaki along the rows or upwards, they grow to about 5 or 6 feet and have hull less seeds and are delicious.

There are two watermelons that seem to be VERY easy to grow and absolutely the best in flavor. One is orangeglo and the other is AliBaba, check Bakers seeds - they have a good description and you get customer feedback on the actual end results. They will cover the bare dirt areas and you won't have to weed there.

Grow stuff that other people don't have? Yacon, or maybe winterhardy kiwi (can climb up the fruit trees), white currants, or any currants, Aronia berries, unusual raspberries and blackberries, elephant garlics,
 
Ben Bishop
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Since you can't take out any trees in favor for nitrogen fixing trees, a suitable alternative would be to plant nitrogen fixing shrubs in between the trees. You may need to prune the fruit trees slightly to allow sunlight to get to the new shrubs. Once established, the nitrogen fixing shrubs can be pruned yearly to provide mulch for the fruit trees and also to release their underground storage of nitrogen to the surrounding fruit trees. Goumi, siberian pea shrub, and autumn olive are all good options for cold climates. Goumi and Autumn Olive provide great people food and I believe the peas from the pea shrub can be fed to animals if you have any.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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At the very least I would plant dutch clover it get to a height of 6 to 12 inches (yes less than 1ft with no moving for 2 years).
Some daikon radish with their 4 to 6 feet root, that will winter kill and fertilize the area come spring after some deep mineral mining.

Ramps are pretty expensive and you could make more money off them than with your existing crop.
In fact I would add everything in the onion/garlic family.


Not too sure about the mint/thyme family all over your orchard, but at least in the "roadway" for the tractor where they will get mowed, maybe you could bag and harvest it at the same time

 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Thanks everyone! Lots of great ideas, unfortunately another compounding factor is the already installed sprinkler system. The sprinkler heads are 12"-14" off the ground and between every-other tree. This means that no large shrubs or trees can go in as they will inhibit the sprinklers design. So I'm looking only at things that are 24" or less that won't be major water obstacles. I will definitely be going for some wild strawberries, clover, borage, lupine, and sunflowers at the ends of rows (where they won't block sprinklers). Any other cohabitants I just have to have (that are small but useful)?
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I would think about deep rooted perennials, that have a marketable value themselves.

Ones I am using in my orchard, that would likely work well for you are
-Rhubarb
-Horseradish
-Elecampane
-Valerian
-Astragalas
-Pleuresy Root
-Echinacea
-Blue Flag Iris

These plants wouldnt disturb your sprinklers, and you could harvest roots to sell or make medicine from. All would be beneficial to your orchard as well.

good luck!
 
Bonnie Poole
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Jordan, I'm in a Seattle suburb and guilded the fruit trees in my yard with sorrel (3 kinds: wild sorrel, wood sorrel and culinary French sorrel). There's borage, comfrey, alliums (the chives spread and are yummy!) bush peas that reseed themselves, callendula, and several goumi berry bushes. These plants each have several functions: the peas and goumis are nitrogen fixers; the alliums and borage feed pollinators and repel bad bugs; all of these are also edible. The comfrey is a nutrient accumulator and has many benefits. Between the trees, I've favored white clover for the pollinators, N2 fixing, and ground cover.
In 2 years since I bought the place and guilded the trees, the results have been amazing!! The fruit has very few bugs and these old trees (I was told by an arborist that they were too old to produce and should be cut down!) produced bumper crops this year!
Enjoy the orchard! It sounds great!
 
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