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grass in an orchard  RSS feed

 
Posts: 237
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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nick bramlett wrote:Was just reading the big black permaculture bible, and in there it said, "grass is the enemy of orchards."



Thanks to everyone who shared their understanding of the grass issue. A peach orchard I frequented did great while the parents kept the grass tilled in the tree area. When their adult children took it over, they let the grass grow. There was a huge rain and the grass held so much water under the trees that the fruit rotted off the branches and the trees died.

Has anyone experimented with fencing an area around their fruit trees to run ducks and chickens under them? I'm researching what specifically to plant around the trees and/or between the trees that would be edible feed for ducks especially while also enhancing tree growth.
 
pollinator
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dog duck hugelkultur
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Fukuoka would disagree with the subject line, and point to his orchards which he allowed to be covered with grass and weeds along with vegetables. In orchards he did advocate for burying or mulching with wood to build soil as it is even better than straw for trees. I think it is fairer to say that trees are the enemy of grasses, as without fire or the biological equivalent thereof (i.e. human impact), trees always win out.
 
pollinator
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cat chicken fiber arts fish forest garden greening the desert trees wood heat
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Perhaps it works because it is a polyculture and not a grass monoculture.

 
pollinator
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I disagree as well.  I planted many, many trees on my property.  Some I mulched around very heavily and others I did nothing, sometimes for lack of time, sometimes for lack of mulch.  I have nothing but quack grass and if you have ever dealt with it, you know it gets very heavy and tall and takes over everything.  I have had trees that were completely covered in the quack grass to the point you couldn't see them shortly after they were planted and I didn't notice any ill effects.  Those trees look as good now as the trees I mulched.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Maybe it depends on the climate or other factors?  Here in my region, the trees that seem to like growing in grass are young Juniper ("Cedar") trees, which rapidly infest open fields and render them desert except for Cedar.  We had a patch of Oak trees growing in grass where the other trees had been removed, but all those Oak trees died.  They may have been stressed by competing with the grass, and died of Oak Wilt.  Hard to know.  

Mesquite also seems to grow in grass here.  Both Mesquite and regrowth Cedar are markers of poor grazing management.

Pecan orchards are on grass but Pecans in non-orchard situations seem to grow in stands of mixed trees, generally in fencerows and along streams.  The grass in the orchards is to make the nuts easy to harvest, not necessarily for the health of the trees.

 
Ben Zumeta
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dog duck hugelkultur
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" Has anyone experimented with fencing an area around their fruit trees to run ducks and chickens under them? I'm researching what specifically to plant around the trees and/or between the trees that would be edible feed for ducks especially while also enhancing tree growth."

Gail, I am doing this with my chickens ducks and turkey and have seen my plums and apples almost double in size and number. This has however after 2yrs gotten to the trees saturation point in terms of nutrients as the old trees are getting weighed down by fruit and growth to the point of splitting at the joint (they went un pruned for years before I got here). I would say its great for the medium term or with rotations and with proper pruning or support for your heavy bearing trees.
 
Gail Gardner
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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Ben Zumeta wrote:"  I would say its great for the medium term or with rotations and with proper pruning or support for your heavy bearing trees.



Thanks, Ben. My thought is to dump the duck's water every day or every other day under a different tree so that all that fertilizer ends up where it needs to be. What I need to figure out is what kind of seed mix to plant for ducks that is best for fruit trees as well.
 
Ben Zumeta
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dog duck hugelkultur
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Gail, that is a good though regarding the ducks, with the only caveats being what I mentioned regarding overgrowth and particularly to be careful about fertilizing around and before winter frost periods. In regard to seed mixes, Elaine Ingham has a a lot to say about perennial cover crop seed mixes designed to suit the needs of your primary crops, particularly on the importance of fungi-bacteria ratios and its relationship to ecosystem succession.

I have used duck pond water directly on every garden plant I can think of with what seem to be good results, but I generally aerate it for 24-72hrs with molasses (1tbsp/gal) and any nutrients (from kelp, bird manures, weeds etc) that the plants I am feeding might particularly need. I really think the trees will benefit from the birds, but ultimately they would both benefit from rotating the animals more than I can currently do right now. Most of the difficulty in setting up a rotating paddock system could have been avoided if I had more of a blank template to work with. Then again what was already here, both 1000yr old redwood stumps and incredibly poorly positioned buildings, is part of the value and challenge of this project.
 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Quite interesting commentary in this thread, but many of the ideas are not born out in the real world of commercial orchards, most of them do have grasses growing amongst the trees.
I have been to several walnut orchards and pecan orchards that have grasses mixed with legumes growing all around the trees, most of the apple orchards I've been to have similar setups as do peach orchards.
Where the trees shade the ground, grasses don't grow thick but quite sparsely, these observations don't concur with the statements referred to here.

Fruit and Nut trees do very well in these orchards, most of the orchard-men keep the "carpet" cut low, 2.5 inches maximum height.
These orchards are older, well established and produce tons of product per acre and have done so for over 20 years.
grasses and legumes hold soil in place, have a cooling effect on the tree roots and they also help sequester carbon into the soil and plant matter.

Redhawk



I live in Kent, UK "The Garden of England". We have a huge density of fruit orchards. Pretty much uniformly they have a strip of grass between the orchard rows, but within the rows themselves the area beneath the trees is sprayed to about 1.5m from the trunks. These are on dwarfing root stocks, so 1.5m radius pretty much represents the root zone of the trees.  The grass strips are sized to allow tractor access for spraying and fruit picking, and are kept to about 4 inches or less.

This matches my own experiences in my garden which has the same soil and climate. Fruit trees with grass growing up to the trunks grow more slowly and fruit less reliably than those kept clear with a combination of mulching and comfrey plantings.

 
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So if I try squash and sweet potatoes as a living mulch around my apple tree, are they likely to have the same issues? If comfrey doesn't hurt them, it's clear that some plants can play well with the trees.
 
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I'm in the same situation but on Eastern Europe (Romania). I was also thinking about birds (chickens mostly) but .. what density will be ok to keep tall grass in control?
 
Ben Zumeta
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dog duck hugelkultur
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If the trees’ photosynthesis is unimpeded by other plants, in the vast majority of cases, grasses and other plants are beneficial in the long run to the whole system and in turn the trees themselves. Unless they are an allelopathic grass (some steppe grass) or create a significant fire danger, the grasses and other “weeds” are carbon fixators and nutrient accumulators that improve and hold the soil in the long run as they go though their life and decay cycle. In the soil, when push comes to shove in drought or nutrient shortages, the biggest vacuum wins, and that will always belong to the largest tree with the most photosynthetic area to transpire from. When things aren’t desperate, trees are fine with all the other plants covering and improving the soil and retaining moisture. In drought, the largest plant (or tree) in a soil network of roots can literally pull moisture and nutrients out of smaller plants through their stronger vacuum created with greater transpiration. This happens in Redwood forests on a grand scale during drought years and is how trees live for millennia. In the long run having the big, shade and nutrient providing trees survive helps those understory plants come back. It’s a lot like an economy, wherein smaller, diverse businesses are allowed to exist as long as they benefit the major industries that are “too big to fail”, but when things get dry the big boys pull their water and use their weight to assure their own survival no matter the cost to little guys. Then they say it was for the little guys’ good!

Trees work on long term strategies, and it is even more absurd to apply our short term, little guy capitalist mindsets to their care than it is with grains.
 
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