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groundcovers around fruit trees
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Hello Stefan,
Thank you for your orchard pioneering and for being here to answer questions.
What do you like to use for ground covers around your fruit trees, and how densely do you think its good to plant them? I keep mostly wood chips around some, with things like yarrow and chives and other alliums in small quantities, but I have a young apple, for example, that has some kind of alpine or wood strawberries (they were here when I moved in and continue to send out runners prolifically) and mint growing all around it, and I wonder if it is too much or what the apple might prefer.

Thanks very much,
Anna


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Planting individual garlic cloves all around the trees work great. They certainly keep predators away. All you could plant sweet potatoes around them. Such a thick and lush ground cover weeds can't get started.
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Anna Demb wrote:Hello Stefan,
Thank you for your orchard pioneering and for being here to answer questions.
What do you like to use for ground covers around your fruit trees, and how densely do you think its good to plant them? I keep mostly wood chips around some, with things like yarrow and chives and other alliums in small quantities, but I have a young apple, for example, that has some kind of alpine or wood strawberries (they were here when I moved in and continue to send out runners prolifically) and mint growing all around it, and I wonder if it is too much or what the apple might prefer.
Thanks very much,
Anna


Anna I like to grow what grows, thrives and spread on it's own. We have a good list of plants in the film we use. The may not be the ones that you would use however. If wild strawberry and mint grow well, grow more of them. Let them form a green carpet it is not too much for the apple in fact those are natural guild plants for apple since both like a little shade. Maybe just add some onion family to the mix (chives, garlic chives, garlic, egyptian onions...)
thanks to both of you for your comments! As it happens, I'm growing chives, Egyptian onions, and perennial scallions around all the fruit trees. Also yarrow, daffodils, and oregano seem quite happy too. Not to mention queen anne's lace, which I have been pulling our when it gets too massive ....
Anna
When you're growing these groundcover plants, do you let them actually run up against the base of the trees? Or is it important to cut them back in a radius around the tree to avoid touching?
I don't let them run up, especially with young plants, they need as much sun as possible to hit the stem wood so it can mature and grow.
As for groundcovers, what really works for me is to thick mulch newly planted plants in fall and plant strawberries which are all over forest garden now.
As trees and shrubs grow, strawberries are also move out into sunny areas.


For me, a natural choice is native wildflowers. There are dozens of companies online that sell 'Regional' mixes. These work well because they are what grew there before 'we' began importing exotics to our regions. Being natives, they will provide food and habitat for all of the native pollinators.

Even if there isn't a honey bee within miles, these native pollinators will make certain that your buds get pollinated. They will also help balance out the exotic insects that a non native tree is likely to attract, thus keeping your planting more in tune with nature.

Right now I use, the onion family, daikon radish, dutch clover, creeping thyme/mint, dwarf cilantro, some strawberry, I am thinking of adding wine cap mushroom to my mix.
Think diversity and pollination attraction. The best flowering plants would be ones that aren't large, but attract pollinators to your tree and finish flowering just before the apple. Daffodils fit the bill. Native is better for pollination, though. Onion/leeks etc. and daffodil , marigold will drive away some pests. Far enough away from the trunk to make sure you're not making a comfy home for a vole to eat your tree trunk all winter. In my rainy spring climate, we have to make sure we don't clog up the core of the tree and promote disease and humidity. This would also be important in Eastern humid rainy summer climates. Culinary apple is naturally from very dry western China. Crowding out grass is good. Of course, mushrooms are even better diversifiers because they're not just in a different family, they're in a different kingdom. Mycorrhizal mushrooms are even better than choice edibles for the tree, but maybe not for you!
John S
PDX OR
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