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Mitigating grass/weeds on a large scale planting

 
laurie branson
Posts: 35
Location: SW Washington. zone 8a
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Hi Stefan and thanks so much for being here! I can't wait to see the film. I was completely enthralled with the YouTube video and want to model my permaculture orchard after yours. Unfortunately before we saw your video and before we took geoff lawton's online PDC, we put in a 275' long swale at the top of our 24 acre property and planted 14 fruit trees (apple, plum, pear, peach, quince, nectarine) in the berm which is a bit steep. Following Michael Phillips' Holistic Orchard recommendations, we put about 2' - 3' of pea gravel around each tree and chipped 2" or less alder branches around the gravel extending another 3' or so. I cover cropped with crimson clover and an annual rye on the rest of the berm and planted out various sages and rosemary with the plan to add a whole lot more herbs, berries, etc.... Frost ended up killing most of the herbs (I planted them out too early) and the pasture grasses took over the berm. This is a property we are building everything from scratch and on weekends (we currently live 2+ hours away) and these trees are in our zone 3/bordering zone 2. We've tried to be diligent, but have too much going on and are trying to figure out the best way to mitigate the situation. It seems overwhelming at this point to get all of the pasture grasses/weeds out so we can plant the comfrey, herbs, berries, etc... We have been able to keep the pea gravel and wood mulched areas under control, this is the area between the trees. Right now we are just weed whacking the grasses down. Sheet mulching comes to mind, but it is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of material to haul up to the top of the hill, when we are really trying to focus our efforts on getting zone 1 under control, but if that is the best way we will do it. Needless to say, we see the err of our ways - we should have completely planted the berm out when it was bare, but any advice/recommendations on how to get this under control would be greatly appreciated!
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
permaculture orchardist
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laurie branson wrote:Hi Stefan and thanks so much for being here! I can't wait to see the film. I was completely enthralled with the YouTube video and want to model my permaculture orchard after yours. Unfortunately before we saw your video and before we took Geoff Lawton's online PDC, we put in a 275' long swale at the top of our 24 acre property and planted 14 fruit trees (apple, plum, pear, peach, quince, nectarine) in the berm which is a bit steep. Following Michael Phillips' Holistic Orchard recommendations, we put about 2' - 3' of pea gravel around each tree and chipped 2" or less alder branches around the gravel extending another 3' or so. I cover cropped with crimson clover and an annual rye on the rest of the berm and planted out various sages and rosemary with the plan to add a whole lot more herbs, berries, etc.... Frost ended up killing most of the herbs (I planted them out too early) and the pasture grasses took over the berm. This is a property we are building everything from scratch and on weekends (we currently live 2+ hours away) and these trees are in our zone 3/bordering zone 2. We've tried to be diligent, but have too much going on and are trying to figure out the best way to mitigate the situation. It seems overwhelming at this point to get all of the pasture grasses/weeds out so we can plant the comfrey, herbs, berries, etc... We have been able to keep the pea gravel and wood mulched areas under control, this is the area between the trees. Right now we are just weed whacking the grasses down. Sheet mulching comes to mind, but it is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of material to haul up to the top of the hill, when we are really trying to focus our efforts on getting zone 1 under control, but if that is the best way we will do it. Needless to say, we see the err of our ways - we should have completely planted the berm out when it was bare, but any advice/recommendations on how to get this under control would be greatly appreciated!

Laurie relax it's all part of the learning curve. Remember it's an uphill curve not an easy downhill slope where you just glide and enjoy the view.
Your original planting is working and you did well with Michael's advice. The swale will be a benefit over time and as you learned timing is crucial. It looks so easy in Geoff's videos, just remember they have no frost but have their own challenges. As I mentionned in another post about Mollison's phases of abundance. Focus on your zone 1 it may end up being all you need. Are you doing that swale area for commercial production or just your own need? I suggest 150' of well planted Permaculture Orchard will supply all of your own need. The rest is for other uses.
Getting the berm under control? You can use Martin Crawfords technique of plastic or carpet for a time right onto grass, kills the grass, remove and fully plant. Then move the plastic or carpet to the next area. Geoff shows a similar technique with his chickens. We did the same one acre at a time with plastic but leave it on for good. None of the 3 examples tilled the soil to stir up the seed bank. Just suppress the grass and FULLY PLANT. Don't take on more area than you have good strong plants to fill.
The most common mistake is to think we NEED to get in there and do the WHOLE area at once. Take it on like an elephant project. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Same for each project. One bite (piece) at a time. Build on your successes otherwise you get discouraged seeing ALL the failures. Great start. Regroup and take on less one bite at a time.
 
laurie branson
Posts: 35
Location: SW Washington. zone 8a
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OK - I'm breathing deep and relaxing now. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do it in manageable sections! We do plan to raise fruit and nuts commercially (along with a market garden and small livestock) and have plans to put in at least two more swales with fruit and nut trees - and I will be standing at the ready with proper plantings at the proper density when we do! We also have about 20 nut trees planted in another area I forgot to mention, but same rules apply - I guess because they are closer to zone 1 and downhill they don't overwhelm me as much as all of the stuff uphill!
I have been stockpiling cardboard boxes for the last year, but also like the carpet idea (I've read about Crawford - just forgot), and we have mountains of compost cooking everywhere (we pick up a truckload of dairy cow manure every weekend on our way down tot he farm). As we aren't living on site at this time we don't have livestock out there yet, but will definitely be using chickens and pigs to bust sod for other projects.
Yes - the trees themselves are doing well (except for the apple trees that took a beating from the local deer but we made a batch of sepp holzer's Bone Sauce and that appears to be working). The mycorrhizal fungi are going crazy under the chippings and the soil looks lovely. Hopefully the apples will come back - they have no leaves whatsoever right now...
Thank you so much for the feedback and advice - I so very much appreciate it!!
 
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