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Planting to shade out grass... Hosta? Comfrey? Permanent living mulch?  RSS feed

 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I just watched the Permaculture Orchard video.

In it he mentions using Hosta as a vigorous plant that can shade out grasses to the point of killing them off in an area. He claimed that Hosta could be planted directly into turf and would thrive. Hosta dies back in autumn naturally mulching the ground, and leaving basically bare earth. I have tried something similar with comfrey and it has struggled to get started in grass without a good mulching.

Hosta has the advantage that you can move clumps so once the grass has been dealt with you could plant other bushes etc... After a few years.

Now I know very little about hostas, but I presume from the recommendation that they don't compete badly with the fruit trees.

Does anyone have recommendations for other plants that would do a similar job of clearing turf?
First hand experience of these methods?
 
Cj Sloane
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Michael Cox wrote:I have tried something similar with comfrey and it has struggled to get started in grass without a good mulching.


I suppose I mulched and added the comfrey but this apple tree & comfrey are 3 years old and the comfrey does a great job of out-competing the grass:
Apple & Comfrey></a>

I did plant some hostas after watching the DVD.

The other plant that I tried this year is Nasturtiums and they are doing great too.
 
Michael Cox
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Some of my comfrey looks vigorous like that - mostly those that were planted in grass free mulched areas around trees. The reason I ask is that in areas where I didn't carefully clear the grass first they are doing less well. One of my planted roots from last year has shown my just one leaf this year which grew to a fraction of the normal size. I was hoping that these comfrey plants would grow vigorously and suppress some of the grass by shading and mulching, but there is no sign of that yet.

I have googled hostas around fruit trees and come up basically dry, aside from that one brief mention in the video.

My research about hostas, having never grown them previously is that they have fibrous roots that don't go so deep. This suggests that the root zone may compete with that of the fruit tree which may be problematic. Comfrey roots go deeper and leave more room for the shallow tree roots.
 
Michelle Bisson
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We have planted many hosta plants under our fruit trees last fall. I do not believe that they will intefere with the roots of our apple trees as hosta roots are clumping and the apple roots will likely grow between the hosta roots.

We currently have 42 hosta plants scattered around our Go Permaculture food forest. We are in the borderline zone of 3b/4b zone in Qu├ębec Canada.

Hostas are edible and the young shoots and leaves and have a mild taste. I add them to salads & soups etc...
 
Michelle Bisson
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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This spring I planted some rhubarb plants around our apple trees along with the many hosta and strawberry plants that I planted last fall.

As they grow they will inhibit other plants/weeds from growing and be a living mulch.  In the fall, I will use the large rhubarb & hosta leaves as cut mulch after the first frost.    Also, I will pick and choose which plants/weeds from what nature provides gets to live around my fruit trees.  For example, I will discourage the grass as I will pull it out or smother it, but if clover grows, I will allow it to grow.
 
Nicole Alderman
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One thing that differs between comfrey and hostas is that slugs love to eat hostas, but not comfrey. My hosta plant almost died quite a few times from slug attacks until we got ducks. The comfrey doesn't seem to get touched by slugs (or deer, or bunnies) and so I don't have to worry about babying it. I think I remember reading that there are slug resistant hostas, but I'm not sure about that. I don't know how deer and bunnies feel about eating hostas, but if they like eating it then comfrey (or rhubarb) might be better options (though the slugs also loved eating my rhubarb).
 
Michelle Bisson
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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I haven't had serious issues with slugs eating my hosta leaves.  Yes, they eat holes here and there, but over all, my hostas look great.  My rhubarb are still to0 newly planted to see any damage.

The key (I hope) is to have a polyculture and I hope that I have more abundance than the slugs can eat.  We like eating the tender young hosta shoots and leaves.  Then again, the slugs like wood chips or cutt weeds that I use as mulch, but I continue to add wood chips and add cut weeds for mulch.

The slugs eat my newly planted vegetables in my kitchen garden and at this point, that is more of a concern for me than a few holes in my hostas & rhubarb leaves.

Time will tell if the slugs get the better of my hostas & rhubarb plants, but I cannot stop growing them since at this point, I do not have a serious issue to warrant that.  If they are eating all of my strawberries, then that is a serious issue.

Unfortunately I do not have ducks to eat the slugs.
 
Todd Parr
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Nicole Alderman wrote: I don't know how deer and bunnies feel about eating hostas, but if they like eating it then comfrey (or rhubarb) might be better options (though the slugs also loved eating my rhubarb).


I don't know about rabbits, but deer love hostas and will eat them to the ground.  Hostas are nearly impossible to kill, but deer killed a 25 ft row of them that my brother planted.  It was planted right against his attached garage, but that didn't deter the deer at all.  They ate every one of them.
 
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