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Can't get rid of the grass in Apple tree guilde

 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Hi...

Last fall I put cardboard cover with hay around my apple tree. I also planted bulbs. THis spring, I planted many flowers around it, something like 20 plants including a ¨pimbina¨ and a black currant started as cuts. This guild wa sin a field. But during the summer, the grassgrew threw the cardboard, and my little pants couldn,T take over. Even the bulbs were submerge and the grass is growing around the trunk of the tree. I am kind of desperate since in y plan, I have a big lot to do in the futur years but with that poor result I am hesitating. I didn't work the land before, but I am starting to think that I won't have the choice...

Any idea?

isabelle
 
Ce Rice
Posts: 98
Location: Zone 8-9
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Sounds like grass grows great there. Perfect for Sheep. The problem is the solution, if you keep the grass cut down low enough it can't disadvantage the other plants.

NOW, I know you are saying, SHEEP, we can't add sheep, too much trouble.
Then you are going to probably do MUCH deeper mulch to keep down the grass. IF it is Bermuda, that stuff is a survivor, it can punch through 4 inches of mulch like it was tissue paper. Cut it to the ground once or twice in a short period of time, then mulch it about 6-12 inches deep.

REMEMBER, never pile mulch up next to the trunk of any tree. Keep the root flare (where the roots spread out and trunk is much wider than the above ground trunk) cleaned off. Pull dirt and mulch away from trunks until the flare is exposed 2"-6".

AND then plant vines or creeping ground covers. Sweet potatoes might be a good option. They will spread out and FURTHER disadvantage and mulch the ground so the grass is less likely to come through. Plus, if you occasionally go and bury the root nodes that form along the sweet potato vines, YOU WILL have massive crop yield of sweet potatoes. And if you grow sweet potato as ground cover, you don't mind if you walk over the vines and damage them some. Any yield is bonus, but if you just let them rot in the ground, no harm done.
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Thank you Ce Rice...

Well actually I don't mind sheep at all...we were actually talking about hvaing animals other than chicken (wich we already have). My husband was mowing the fields yesterday and he was thinking ¨why on earth am I mowing and spending gaz couldn't we just have animals and sell them? Well I guess we could. Those are fields that haven't been cultivated for the last 15 years. So I guess there is a lot of mixed grass in it including wild flowers....but the roots system of those grass is like a thick cussion you know what I mean? Even when I shovel to plant a tree there is at leat almost a foot of grass cover...terrible. I tryed sweet potatoes this year buy starting them indoor, having them sprout...they roten

We will see next year...

Sheep hein? Hummmmmm

Isabelle
 
Patrick Mann
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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You also have to avoid mulching too deeply in the root zone - which typically extends beyond the dripline - not just around the trunk. Surface roots can be smothered if the mulch is too thick / not breathable.
 
Ce Rice
Posts: 98
Location: Zone 8-9
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But i'm pretty sure the root zone is where they want to keep the grass down.

Though I will humbly bow to anyone that has more experience, than myself (many!).
My feeling is that a healthy decaying mulch would never smother out a tree or its roots.
So perhaps ensuring there are earthworms, and putting a nice layer of compost around the root zone areas (under the thick mulch), would alleviate any concerns.

I am sure drainage is an issue, if you have an area that has a tendency to hold lots of water in/after a heavy rain, then placing thick mulch could make the problem worse.
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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OK...

Yes drainage could be a problem since we are close from a little stream and in spring, it take a long time to drain. Also, the worst garss problem is acutally around the trunk. Looks like it is growing faster there and thicker. And now I have to argue with hubby that the problem is not the system it is me that don't do it correctly. He wants to till thge ground to get ride of the grass and applying a mulch with cedar chips...OUch!! Better strating to remove it asap and mulch again before he gets here :p

Isabelle
 
Patrick Mann
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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Isabelle Gendron wrote: He wants to till thge ground to get ride of the grass and applying a mulch with cedar chips

Do NOT till the root zone - you run the risk of permanently stunting your tree by destroying a substantial portion of its root system. Most of the roots are within 6" of the surface.
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Don't worry he wanted to do it between the trees but not close to them...But I convinced him, I think, to not doing it now...Working on it...But a bit discourage I might add ...


Isabelle
 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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@Isabelle
Do you have animals who eat grass (sheep)? or can scratch it to death (chickens). I add mulch and then let chickens scratch through that and they usually get down to the soil but most of the mulch remains. They don't eat the leaves on the trees and I cage any that they are getting too close to exposing the roots.

I imagine if you had a tree guild, letting a sheep go to town inside it would be a new kind of havoc you don't want. I think they'd eat all your other things before they got down to the grass.

No chickens? If it's just ordinary grass, scrape it off (or rip out by hand), mulch it, plant something else to compete with the grass. You want something in the big leafy and perennial department. Like comfrey or Rumex or even polkweed (cut back often). Even if you seeded with mustard seed and then popped in a bunch of small oregano plants, in time you'd have more oregano than grass. Mint or lemon balm is another choice. Pursulane.

In the fight against (regular, ordinary) grass your best weapon are other plants, a little mulch, and a little work on your part to make sure your plants are the ones who survive. It's the Anything-But-Grass theory of tree care. I'll take nearly anything except grass and blackberry.

As for mulch too near the root zone, take a walk in a forest. Wall-to-wall mulch butting up against tree trunks. Nobody goes out in the woods to clear the earth around a tree trunk, yet it survives just fine. Too much mulch might be bad for a seedling, but once you're into an adult tree, a little mulch near the trunk, as long as it's not entirely woody material, is fine. Better too much mulch than overrun with grass and other aggressive pioneers.

William
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Thank you Willima,. That is what I tought also...The wild apple trees in the ofrest (yes we have some in the middle of our forest, have a lot of rasberries around them making it hard to go get the apples, but they are doing great.

As for the type of grass, honestly I don't know, but it is not only one type, there are several types.

yes I have chickens, just not the set up to have them pasture this year. It wa sin our plan to have them in chicjen tractor next year, but my new plants will be in jeopardise also. I planted mint, saponine, yarrow, lupins, day lilies, blueberries, echinacea, and much much more...just to small yet to make a différence...still have to continuemulching I guess and cutting what I don't want.


Thanks for the help but most of all for the cheering....I will continue what I strated...just gald I did it with one tree to start...I have about 15 fruit trees in that area..

isabelle
 
Patrick Mann
Posts: 302
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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The concern with mulch in trunk contact is:
- vole damage
- trunk rot
- encircling root growth

A bit of mulch around the trunk is not a problem. A deep permanent layer could be a problem.
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Actually I didn't really mulch around the trunk since I planted some bulbs last, and the problem, wich is the start of this treatd, is that now, around the trunck, the grasse outcompete the bulbs and is much more thick than further from the trunk...so the problem remeains. If I don't mulch I have grass and if I do other problems can arise...so I guess I have to choose between both. Or I put a black mulc sheet...but I cannot say I like the idea,,,

Isabelle
 
William James
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Isabelle Gendron wrote:
As for the type of grass, honestly I don't know, but it is not only one type, there are several types.


The grass you really don't want is crabgrass/bermuda grass. The roots grow fine without light, so there's no amount of mulching that'll stop that. That's the flat grass that spreads with fern-like leaves. Manual removal, again and again, is my only strategy (besides calling out for the chickens). It leaves the system on it's own when the situation changes to a more woodsy place.

As for other grasses:
Clumping grasses are great for pond areas, I dig it up where I don't want it and place it near the ponds or wet areas where it stays and doesn't cause problems. That's a huge resource for me that is always hard to come by. Once in place, I chop it down a couple times a year just to make the paths work.
The light spreading grass (your typical beautiful lawn grass) is annoying but you can usually mulch it into disappearance.
The tall prairie grass can be a problem since they seed profusely, but if you have a kama it is less of a problem. Weeding got much simpler when i got a kama, no kidding.
There's a stiff prairie grass I haven't yet learned the name of, a new entry for me this year. Looks like very stiff onion shoots. Planning on moving that over to the pond.

The right grasses, in the right place at the right time, can be a huge asset (think of the free biomass it's creating in the soil for you).
In the wrong place at the wrong time, it's a headache you just learn to deal with. I tolerate grass a little, but I do my fair share of cutting, removing, moving.

William
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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I will have a look...better, I will add a picture, if I can understand how...it seems that I can't use imageshack anymore.

Isabelle
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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How about adding a good perennial that outcompetes the grass - like planting a comfrey root 2 ft from the trunk in 4 directions. In a few years you won't see the trunk and there will be no grass. Can also use rhubarb and horseradish with similar but lesser effect.
 
William James
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Isabelle Gendron wrote:I will have a look...better, I will add a picture


In the reply field of permies you can click below on 'Attachments' and upload there.
W
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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HAAA!!! Thanks...I will go and get some pix.

Isabelle
 
Aaron Festa
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Maybe also try to inoculate with fungi?? A higher fungi concentrated soil isn't the best condition for growing grass. I have crabgrass and Bermuda grass and I was constantly pulling them up but over time the problem dissipated. Sheet mulching is quicker but I started by tearing up the top layer of sod with a shovel then used a broad fork to loosen the ground before planting. So depending on the area you managing it can be very labor intensive. I cleared a 10 ft diameter area for each tree.
 
Justin Deri
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Location: North Yarmouth, ME
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How about plastic or landscape fabric on the surface? You could put it down for a season or so. Most grasses won't survive past a season. I have terrible quack grass in the spring and fall, and crab grass in the summer. Both seem to love any sort of organic mulch. I don't think you could get animals on it enough to knock it down. Landscape fabric has worked for me. I only wish I used it for the first year or two as my blueberries were getting established. The fabric will let rain through, warm the roots, and inhibit weed growth. If you want to plant in to it, I find it easiest to burn a hole with a plumbers propane torch. You can cut it to put it around an established tree, just make sure you use the torch to burn the edge to keep the weave from fraying.

I know it is plastic and bad. But you will spend more time, money, and fuel screwing around with grasses. Also, the fabric can be reused for other plantings. I may be a bit optimistic, but I hope to get 10 years out of my fabric pieces.

Best of luck and I look forward to the picture. Knowing your grass enemy is a great start!
 
William James
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I think a picture would help. All of us are shooting ideas in the dark here. We have no idea of the space you're working with or how many plants are in your guild. pics pics pics.
William
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Do you need to elimilinate the grass? I have been mulching areas and, while I haven't totally eliminated the grass, the end result is totally adequate.

Deep mulch with cardboard and woodchip tips the soil from bacterial balance (which favours grasses) to fungal (which favours woody plants like fruit trees). I'n my experience grass roots very loosely in woodchip and clumps can be easily pulled by hand. Tougher/deeper rooted clumps can have an extra spot of cardboard and a few inches more chip on top. My wood chip areas have had surprisingly limited grass recolonisation.
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Sorry for the delay...

Here's some pix of the guild and what is around it.

The part I am starting to developp is right of the vines, so down the little slope. It is a section next to a little stream . We planted 4 apple trees and on the back, 2 pear trees going up and then argousiers.

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124.JPG
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You can see several types of grass and flowers
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This is the apple tree surrounded by all the grass. You can't even see the plants.
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Following...

143.JPG
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Some grass
144.JPG
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This weed produce little thing that stick to us...small and green
137.JPG
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Other grass
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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Some more pix...

127.JPG
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You can see the red yarrow. And there is about 25 plants in there.
126.JPG
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Here is the mint and burdock
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Bee balm bottom pix
 
Isabelle Gendron
Posts: 173
Location: Montmagny, Québec, Canada (zone 4b)
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OUps...there was a mistake...Nad sorry for my beautifull hands...working in the ground..

130.JPG
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Mint
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The feet of the tree
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And some sort of cereal that is growing there...
 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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136.JPG
Just looks like random prairie grass. It often has grain like seeds but you won't be eating it anytime soon.

137.JPG and 143.JPG
Are really good clumping grasses, or it seems like it. Got a wet spot to rehabilitate? Dig it out in winter and put in a new spot where you want it.

125.JPG
Apple tree submerged with grass, but the tree actually looks healthy. Maybe you have enough water and nutrients for everybody to get their share. Cut the grass and plant something next to the apple tree.

You seem to have a lot of trees and a lot more grass. Which is normal if you've just planted. You could have gone whole-hog and got all the herbaceous plants you wanted from the beginning, till everything up and plant your herbaceous layer. Or mulch it with various materials.

Personally I would just cut things back with a sythe or weed eater or mower. If the grass is short near the feeding roots of the plant, the grass is not going to overwhelm the tree. You might have too many trees to make mulching with anything but plastic functional. If you have someone who has truckloads of chip, by all means put that next to the trees. You could just be more aggressive about planting more aggressive herbaceous plants and it will fill in naturally and the grass will subside over time. In the meantime, cut and cut again. Unless you have sheep who can help you out in that department.
William
 
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