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nitrogen-fixing autumn olive: too invasive?

 
holly wildcroft
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I'm hoping to hear from those of you who are growing food in a forest design, and have experience with autumn olive(autumnberry). I have a 2 acre orchard/garden/farm and I'm wanting to plant some n-fixers but I don't have space for plants that want to spread like crazy. I also don't want to start a war with the farmers around me should the plants spread to the fields around me via bird poo. Is this something I should be worried about?
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 621
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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This depends on your exact climate [here in the PNW where I live it's known to not be very invasive due to our drought summers] and the nature of your soil. Autumn Olive's opportunistic tendencies are most pronounced in areas where there's a lot of disturbance and not much covering the soil and holding it together.
 
Matu Collins
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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They are invasive here, I wouldn't plant them. They are fast growing and very tenacious if you try to get them out of the ground. The fruit has a gritty oxalic acid taste to it, kind of like an unripe banana. Not delicious to my palate although children often like them.

The trouble with invasiveness is most pronounced in the woods. Because Autumn Olive is a northern tree, it leafs out before the native trees do. It outcompetes them and begins to take over. I know it's popular in some permaculture circles, but I'd never encourage anyone to plant it, especially if it's not in their region already.
 
Mike Patterson
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Location: nemo, 5a/b
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In areas where it's a native there are efforts to eradicate it, which has led many people to sing its' praises in defense. It certainly doesn't seem "too invasive" to me, but there are disturbed areas where, when left unmanaged, autumn olive can become very dominant.

As far as the taste, Matu, it does take forever to ripen, and until then it is very tart and astringent. When it finally ripens I find it very sweet, although the birds have been waiting for it to ripen as well, and they might get there first. It makes excellent jam.

-WY
 
holly wildcroft
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Thanks all for your input. I'm located in southeastern Idaho, I don't know if AO is native... I will do some research. I do know that russian olive grows all over here. Some like it, some hate it. Do any of you know of some smaller n-fixers? I have clover and comfrey (not a n-fixer, I know, but good for fertilizer as a mulch) growing now, but I'd like to plant something under or between my existing fruit trees(for n-fixation and predatory insect habitat), and space is limited.
Thanks in advance!
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 621
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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holly wildcroft wrote:Thanks all for your input. I'm located in southeastern Idaho, I don't know if AO is native... I will do some research. I do know that russian olive grows all over here. Some like it, some hate it. Do any of you know of some smaller n-fixers? I have clover and comfrey (not a n-fixer, I know, but good for fertilizer as a mulch) growing now, but I'd like to plant something under or between my existing fruit trees(for n-fixation and predatory insect habitat), and space is limited.
Thanks in advance!

What size are your fruit trees? Most nurseries I've read report their Autumn Olive cultivars only reaching about 10 feet tall or so [perhaps 12.]

Goumi is in the same family at half the size with N-fixing power and tasty berries, but doesn't have the same reputation for fruiting power in the shade.

As for southeastern Idaho, what's your rainfall pattern look like? You're probably working with less than 18 inches of rain annually...
 
holly wildcroft
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Kyrt, I have apple, plum, and apricot trees, the bottom of the canopy is at about 5-7 feet, just high enough to walk under. I guess I could plant AO and keep it short? Yes our rainfall is less than 18in a year, but we irrigate once a week during the growing season. I don't mind having to prune it, I just don't want to plant something that is going to destroy my orchard.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 621
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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holly wildcroft wrote:Kyrt, I have apple, plum, and apricot trees, the bottom of the canopy is at about 5-7 feet, just high enough to walk under. I guess I could plant AO and keep it short? Yes our rainfall is less than 18in a year, but we irrigate once a week during the growing season. I don't mind having to prune it, I just don't want to plant something that is going to destroy my orchard.


Then Goumi is your best bet, if it's hardy enough for you. Shouldn't get over 8 feet tall, probably in the 5-7 foot range.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1253
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Turning onto the road to our house is an old, old, old farmhouse with many old, old, old trees. One of them is an AO, or RO, I don't know how to tell the difference. Anyway, the point I'm making is that they have a huge, old olive tree and it is the ONLY ONE in the entire area. I know it's on the invasive list for my area but it can't be that bad imo.
 
Ray Moses
Posts: 70
Location: Brighton, Michigan
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It'll become invasive everywhere not just disturb soils. autumn olive is native to Asia and as far as nitrogen fixing I wouldn't be too impressed with it as I think it may be a alleopathic as it eventually crowds out grass and any other herbacious cover outweighing nitrogen fixing benefits. The fruit however it is delicious as I harvest gallons and freeze them every year however I would not plant bushes intentionally for fruit production as all of the thousands of autumn our bushes I have are really inconsistent in production.
 
Terry Paul Calhoun
Posts: 29
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Hi, I have quite a few Autumn Olive in the acreage I am beginning to reforest. What I've done is to prune some from the base out to the end of the major branches. They kind of look like 10-12' poodle tails hanging out in a circle around the core of the bush and main trunks. You should be able to see this image on my Facebook page, which I can't make show up here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10104885641222643&set=pb.2204569.-2207520000.1427150567.

Initially this was for disc golfers (frisbee golfers) because it clears out the underside of the bush for them to get at their errant golf discs. But then I realized that what I was also doing was exposing the base of the olive, and the area around it, to sunlight. Hmm. What if I planted things in the middle of all that?

I plan to experiment this year with everything from tomatoes and beans to Kiwi, as well as planting some Oak and Hickory trees in those spaces. I have dozens. I'll share what I learn.
 
holly wildcroft
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Thanks, for your input, Terry. I look forward seeing updates on that from you!
 
Ray Moses
Posts: 70
Location: Brighton, Michigan
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Terry, I thought you would have a lot of autumn olive bushes also. I have talked to a couple people who use the fruit commercially and have tried myself, however I do not find individual bushes that produce fruit every year. I pruned some and that did not seem to help.
 
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