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What will eat buckhorn weed?

 
Alison Thomas
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My geese are doing a great job in the orchard keeping down the grass (except where there's a thistle that I haven't dug out yet, and that's understandable) and the dandelions, but they don't like buckhorn plantains and we have an infestation.  Does any other animal eat these?  How else would I control them if not by an animal?
 
Emil Spoerri
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humans like to eat them

so do sheep I think

what exactly is the problem with them though, they don't get very big do they? competes with grass doesn't it?
has long taproots and doesn't compete much with fruit trees does it?

I think all the things that I listed make it worth keeping no?
 
Alison Thomas
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I'm laughing at myself here, asmileisthenewak47 - thank you for reminding me not to be so 'conventional' about things.  It was just that the 'flower' drumsticks are like a sea out there and my OH is not so laissez-faire about nature.  He's more manicured.  I'll go gently persuade him to leave them - or get some sheep!

Incidently, is it good to compete with grass then?
 
Emil Spoerri
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not all but most fruit type trees and some nut trees do better without grass. Some fruit trees, can even be killed by it, especially when the soil conditions are less than ideal for fruit trees.

Basically what happens is, the feeder roots of the trees need oxygen, which they primarily get from the rain. The perennial grass has a mat of roots that catch most of that water and oxygen, depriving the tree.

Ideal would be to have the whole orchard planted to spike root plants like burdock, yarrow, artichoke, nasturtium, comfrey as well as stuff that is only around for part of the year... spring bulbs like lilies, daffodils, garlic, ramps... there are a lot of other potentials. I suspect that thistle could be useful, to help deter pests or even livestock, as well as another good spike root. A lot of other "weeds" are good, plantain, dandalion, chicory, eccanacia and saint john's wart, dock? wild lettuce? cress? broccoli raab?

oh and of course don't forget alfalfa and brambles, both of which are heavyweights in the beneficial insect department.

Also, where the summers are very hot, it is wise to plant fava beans under trees that provide some shade and some sun. By the time the fava beans flower, the trees have leaved out, which protect the flowers from burning. Remember though, if you are saving them for see this way, they also don't dry out too good, so you will have to pull them at the right stage and dry them elsewhere, lest they grow fungus.
 
Alison Thomas
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Gosh how interesting!  Thank you for the explanation.  Makes you wonder why all the orchards you see are grassed out.
 
Emil Spoerri
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It's fairly old information too... read all about it in An Agricultural Testament by Sir Arthur Howard...
 
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