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First step in converting a traditional orchard to a permaculture orchard

 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 446
Location: North-Central Idaho
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books food preservation fungi hugelkultur trees
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I was just wondering what you would recommend as a first step to a gradual conversion of an existing orchard to a permaculture oasis of perpetual abundance. I have pretty good access to resources, what I don't have is a lot of time, in a situation like this what would you recommend. Would it be best to sheet mulch to snuff out most of the existing grass and other undesirables, fence it off and bring in some less destructive livestock to clear the under story out, just start building guilds incrementally with the hope of the new plantings gradually out competing what is already there, or just start over with a completely new orchard area planned this way from the start. Like I said I am short on time so I would like to optimize my labor to achieve the quickest conversion. This is currently my home orchard with 25 or so trees aged from 6 yrs to 1 yr (in the ground, planted from bareroot stock), but I would like to expand and move to production and as surplus is achieved. I'm open for suggestions beyond what I've listed, but it just seems a little overwhelming right now and I don't know where to start. Thanks.
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
permaculture orchardist
Posts: 118
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Dave Redvalley wrote:I was just wondering what you would recommend as a first step to a gradual conversion of an existing orchard to a permaculture oasis of perpetual abundance. I have pretty good access to resources, what I don't have is a lot of time, in a situation like this what would you recommend. Would it be best to sheet mulch to snuff out most of the existing grass and other undesirables, fence it off and bring in some less destructive livestock to clear the under story out, just start building guilds incrementally with the hope of the new plantings gradually out competing what is already there, or just start over with a completely new orchard area planned this way from the start. Like I said I am short on time so I would like to optimize my labor to achieve the quickest conversion. This is currently my home orchard with 25 or so trees aged from 6 yrs to 1 yr (in the ground, planted from bareroot stock), but I would like to expand and move to production and as surplus is achieved. I'm open for suggestions beyond what I've listed, but it just seems a little overwhelming right now and I don't know where to start. Thanks.

Dave I answer most of your questions in the film since I did a similar conversion. Time is your crucial element. Keep it simple and use animals to graze in a MIG fashion but forget about adding the diversity until you have time and can keep out some of the animals. Otherwise you can set up a small area of time manageable size to add the diversity and build your mother plant base so when ready you will have the material to plant out and mulch.
The big problem with a conventional orchard is the cultivars need codling with sprays. Sprays and animals don't coexist well. You can consider overgrafting to disease resistant cultivars. Tearing out 1/3 to 2/3s of the trees. adding in trios. Then diversifying the shrubs and ground layer. You have to decide what you want. A permaculture Orchard is all work on the front end to save lot's of work on the back end. Decide if that's what you want and if so go for it.
 
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