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phasing out n-fixers around fruit trees

 
paul wheaton
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Doug Bullock was saying today that once a fruit tree is bearing and about the size he likes he takes out the n-fixers - he wants the tree to not get any bigger.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I wonder how that works, exactly.

My intuition would be that a sharp dropoff of water demand in the surrounding soil, plus lots of rotting nodules, would result in a burst of growth for a tree in that situation.

I guess some demanding plants taking the place of those N-fixers would be important.
 
Brenda Groth
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i have been using annual or small perennial nitrogen fixers around my dwarf fruit trees, like annual beans and peas and lupines...so phasing them out wouldn't really be much of a problem..for me. I have nitrogen fixing shrubs and trees all over the property but under the dwarf fruit trees decided that the annuals and lupines would make a better choice
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Nice. I'm also playing with sowing annuals around young trees and shrubs, so i don't have to cut grass all the time.

Is this already working for him, about trees not getting bigger? I think trees will just grow further. Maybe not so fast or what... Do you know what he is having in understory after removing n-fixers. Grasses?
 
paul wheaton
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In my experience, grasses under a fruit tree makes things really sucky for the fruit tree.  But I suppose one could say that is part of the mission:  grasses would take up the N.

I would think I would want the tree to always be growing and vibrant, so I would leave the n-fixer and keep grasses out.  If the tree got too big to harvest, then whatever fell from the tree would be pig/chicken food.
 
Brenda Groth
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i'm with you on that Paul, I don't have grass under my fruit trees..except for a couple of the really large ones that reach out over the lawn from the beds they are planted in.

most of my fruit trees are dwarfs or super dwarfs, however, i have some standards that grew from the cores or seeds planted.

 
Paul Cereghino
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I imagine that (particularly in the Bullock's climate) competition for water might also be an issue such that as the apple canopy begins to close, a woody competitor may not be as useful despite its nitrogen import.  I wonder if stand density is part of the calculus. 

Another factor may be where rapid growth can produce weak wood that cannot bear the weight of fruit in cultivated varieties.
 
                                  
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Ironically, most methods I can think of to "take out" or "phase out" the n-fixers will end up leaving a lot of their nitrogen in the soil (which is usually what you want, but maybe not in this case?)

I guess this really would need to be a phasing out, where you gradually hack back the n-fixer as the tree it is near grows to the size you're wanting. I guess I just wanted to point out that most methods of removing or phasing out the tree are going to leave more available nitrogen in the soil than leaving it there.
 
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