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My new tree planting method

 
Todd Parr
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So, one of my experiments this year is with my tree-planting procedure. All new trees are going into holes approximately 2 ft across. I'm putting 8 comfrey roots equally spaced at the outer edge of the planting hole of every tree that goes into the ground, with 2 or 3 beans planted in 8 spots between the comfrey roots. I will add other plants later, but I'm thinking this will give my trees a jump-start. I'm hoping the ring of comfrey will keep the quack grass from invading the area directly around the trees. This fall, I will probably put rings of daffodils around the trees. I don't know how helpful they are to the trees via the anti-rodent property idea, but they look nice and some bees seem to like them. Other herbs and things will be stuck in randomly. I am trying to utilize plants I have available for free already, rather than purchasing more than just the trees. Autumn Olive and others will be placed further from the central tree, as I have those and can take cuttings for new plantings.

Any thoughts?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I recommend including some onions in the mix - I particularly like our native Canada Onion, which is very tasty and spreads like crazy. http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ALCAC

Easy to find along roads and fence lines if you know where to look.
 
Todd Parr
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Thanks Tyler. I'll see if I can track some down. If not, I have chives and garlic chives growing on my property I could try. I would much prefer the onions though.
 
M Johnson
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I like it! I plant onions and peas with my new trees. I have comfrey seeds just not plants yet.
 
Todd Parr
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M Johnson wrote:I like it! I plant onions and peas with my new trees. I have comfrey seeds just not plants yet.


My comfrey is Bocking #4 so I don't have seeds, but I bought some root cuttings from Coe's Comfrey a few years ago, and once you have a few going, expansion is super easy. One plant can make many, many more plants each year, and splitting the plants doesn't set them back much at all. I'm splitting some this year to make a large bed of "donor" plants and within a couple years, I should have a hundred or more on my property.
 
Marco Banks
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That's a lot of comfrey plants in 2 foot diameter space. My mature comfrey plants grow to 4 or even 5 feet across. So even if they are planted on the outside of the hole, they will only be a foot away from the trunk of the tree. That's pretty tight. If they all root and grow, it will make a completely solid wall of comfrey right up against the tree.

Six plants, or even 3 or 4 might be all you'd need to create such a tight band of living comfrey around each tree. But its your world --- give it a shot and see what happens.

I would imagine that as the trees mature, the comfrey will have to reach out away from the tree in order to get sunlight. After a couple of years, new shoots (which always emerge with mature comfrey) will come up on the outside, away from the tree trunk, in order to reach for light.

Perhaps you might wish to experiment a bit with different trees and then give it some time to see how your system is working. For some trees, go ahead and plant your 8 roots at 12" from the tree trunk. For others, plant less roots, or space them farther from the tree.

In my experience, plant spacing is a very important decision. Once established, it is very challenging to move plants that were initially planted too close. If there is one mistake I have repeatedly made over the years, it is to underestimate how big plants will get and how crowded things quickly become. I've had to cut down trees that were planted too close, or relocate plants that should have been spaced more generously. In my location (Southern California), I've learned to take whatever the suggested spacing is, and add 50% to it, because things just grow and grow and get so large that soon they are spindly and fighting for sunlight.
 
Todd Parr
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Marco Banks wrote:That's a lot of comfrey plants in 2 foot diameter space. My mature comfrey plants grow to 4 or even 5 feet across. So even if they are planted on the outside of the hole, they will only be a foot away from the trunk of the tree. That's pretty tight. If they all root and grow, it will make a completely solid wall of comfrey right up against the tree.

Six plants, or even 3 or 4 might be all you'd need to create such a tight band of living comfrey around each tree. But its your world --- give it a shot and see what happens.

I would imagine that as the trees mature, the comfrey will have to reach out away from the tree in order to get sunlight. After a couple of years, new shoots (which always emerge with mature comfrey) will come up on the outside, away from the tree trunk, in order to reach for light.

Perhaps you might wish to experiment a bit with different trees and then give it some time to see how your system is working. For some trees, go ahead and plant your 8 roots at 12" from the tree trunk. For others, plant less roots, or space them farther from the tree.

In my experience, plant spacing is a very important decision. Once established, it is very challenging to move plants that were initially planted too close. If there is one mistake I have repeatedly made over the years, it is to underestimate how big plants will get and how crowded things quickly become. I've had to cut down trees that were planted too close, or relocate plants that should have been spaced more generously. In my location (Southern California), I've learned to take whatever the suggested spacing is, and add 50% to it, because things just grow and grow and get so large that soon they are spindly and fighting for sunlight.


I could certainly plant them in a larger ring around the trees. My concern is that they will have to be quite close together to keep the quack grass from intruding into the tree space. The comfrey I planted around my other trees is out approximately 3 ft in any direction from the trees. I'm mulching heavily with wood chips to try to keep the grass from coming in between them. I may try exactly what you suggested and plant them at different spacings out from different trees and see how it works. The trees I have planted around to this point are only a few years old, and not large enough to put the comfrey into heavy shade. I'm curious to see how comfrey will do in shade anyway, having been established in a spot that was previously nearly full sun. Thanks for the ideas.
 
Akiva Silver
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I don't have any experience with bocking 4, but I with the comfrey I use (probably bocking 14), the plants get pretty big the first year. I've planted it along with lots of trees. I have found that if the trees are less than 2 ft tall that they get swamped by the comfrey and can barely grow. I like it a lot with bigger trees. Of course, its easiest to plant the comfrey the day you are planting the tree since all the dirt is right there waiting for something. I think that white clover is a really great plant to have around trees when they are young. Its cheap and makes a significant tap root to go along with the nitrogen.
 
Jason Silberschneider
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When I plant a new tree, I mix in a pretty dense seedmix of legumes (soy, chickpea, lentil, adzuki, mung, red kidney, clover, lupin), as well as linseed, sunflowers, buckwheat, nasturtium, and a few choice vegies such as tomatoes and lettuce seeds. This mix is dense, really dense. I'm talking a scoop out of my mix box with both hands, and pouring it on the topsoil, then mixing it in.

I don't care about the science or the how or the why, I observe that newly planted trees do better with a dense polyculture than with nothing but mulch around them.

I haven't used comfrey in the mix before, but I will be now!
 
Todd Parr
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That gives me an idea about what to do with all my old half-packs of vegetable seeds that may not be viable anymore. I think I'll mix a bunch together and try them in the soil around my next tree planting in addition to the comfrey/bean mix. Thank you.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I love your new method Todd, one thing to think about if you plan on using Onions and or Garlic in this method, both have allopathic substances that could have an adverse effect on your newly planted tree.


We planted some garlic last year under one of our fig trees, it didn't take me long to remove all the garlic, it was stunting the growth rate of the fig tree.
I am not sure what the exact mechanism was but once the garlic was removed, the tree went back to a 1/2 inch per day growth rate, same as our other fig trees.

Be sure to check for allopathic tendencies before you plant items around a tree, it could mean the difference between thrive and survive.
We add mycorrhizal fungi at the time we plant any of our orchard trees, this year is peach tree introduction and we will be adding 2 or three more Arkansas Black Apple trees to the orchard.
 
Todd Parr
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I didn't realize that about the garlic and onions. I'll keep that in mind. Could you elaborate on your method for adding mycorrhizal fungi? I've been reading about it lately and it interests me very much.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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There are several methods for adding mycorrhizae to any soil; 1) purchase a "blend" of commercially available species such as those offered for sale by paul stamets and company, 2) gather mushrooms from your land, make a slurry in a blender and use this to water the plants you want (need) to incorporate the fungi with,
3) take a shovel full of soil that contains the mycorrhizae and add this to the fill soil as you plant.

We are fortunate enough to have been using the last two methods over the past three years and now have almost all of our gardens and orchards populated with mycorrhizae.
When I plant any new tree I make three additions (one soil born and two water introduced) at the time of planting.
We do have one newly developed area that we are going to be using Paul Stamets product in, this is to add some extra diversity of species only.

Once you get mycorrhizae growing in your soil, it becomes far easier, you can then simply use a shovel full of your inoculated soil to introduce the fungi where you need them.
I always try to make any addition of fungi so the addition is in direct contact with the tree's roots, this is where the fungi work their magic so that is where you want them to live.

If you are not sure about having mycorrhizae available, do not hesitate to make the purchase, just be sure it comes from a good company, there are several located around the USA.
This way you know you are using mycorrhizal fungi and it will allow you to expand their living space by simply moving some soil around, this usually can start a year after you make your first inoculation.
By giving the known fungi time to get really going, you won't have to worry about not having enough to share with some of your other plants.
As you keep spreading the fungi, your soils will continue to get better and better. The crop plants will benefit, the trees will benefit, which means you will benefit too.
 
Marco Banks
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Todd Parr wrote:

I could certainly plant them in a larger ring around the trees. My concern is that they will have to be quite close together to keep the quack grass from intruding into the tree space. The comfrey I planted around my other trees is out approximately 3 ft in any direction from the trees. I'm mulching heavily with wood chips to try to keep the grass from coming in between them. I may try exactly what you suggested and plant them at different spacings out from different trees and see how it works. The trees I have planted around to this point are only a few years old, and not large enough to put the comfrey into heavy shade. I'm curious to see how comfrey will do in shade anyway, having been established in a spot that was previously nearly full sun. Thanks for the ideas.


Quack grass is evil.

If there were a way to eliminate it from the whole area first before you start planting both trees and comfrey, that would give you the best chance of establishing your guild without having to constantly be in there trying to root it out. My fear would be with that many small comfrey plants, it may actually be harder to get at that stupid quack grass.

Can you solarize the whole area with plastic first? That feels like a much better option than going all Monsanto and spraying Round Up on it, or spending the rest of your life trying to pull all those stupid quack grass roots out of the ground. Kill me now if those were my only two options.

Stefan Sobkowiak of Miracle Farm (whom I'm sure you've heard of and read about) uses plastic sheeting as mulch around his trees. He's taken some flack for it as not being "natural", but the difference between those rows of his orchard where he's done this, and those where he hasn't is striking. It's just night and day.

What if you were to first dig your tree holes --- not plant in them yet, but dig the holes and set aside the dirt you removed. THEN, lay down black plastic to kill whatever once grew there. After a few weeks (how long does it take to rid the earth of quack grass?), you take a utility knife and cut an X through the plastic where the hole was dug. Plant your tree. Backfill. Water. Then, around the perimeter of the tree, at the drip line or slightly outside it, cut additional X's through the plastic, and that's where you'd plant your comfrey. Then if you wanted, you could throw a layer of wood chips down on top of the plastic to hold it down and keep things cool.

This would minimize the areas where plants can grow and reach the sunlight, effectively burying quack grass roots in places covered by the plastic. After two years, your comfrey plants would be well established, and hopefully the quack grass would be eliminated without the back breaking work of constantly digging it out. As the comfrey grows, you might need to get down on the ground and widen the X's a bit to give it room to continue to grow and spread, but that would only take a few minutes a year. After 2 or 3 years, pull all that plastic up.

The one drawback is that water infiltration is halted by the plastic, so you'll have to channel it to the base of the plants or be thoughtful about sticking the hose right on the comfrey and the base of the tree. But the plastic sheet would also help conserve water, which is why Miracle Farm uses this technique.

While you wait for the plastic to do it's job eliminating the evil quack grass, get those comfrey roots started in pots. I've got 30 started in my nursery right now. They grow in even the crappiest potting mix. When I'm ready to plant them, they'll be 12" across already.

 
Todd Parr
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I use black rubber roofing material to kill quack grass where I am getting ready to plant my next garden, tree area, whatever. I have more than 10,000 sq ft of it out now. The problem with doing it that way is the length of time (and rubber material) needed. If the rubber is down during really hot days in summer, the quack grass will die in anywhere from 2-6 months. If I put it down later in the year, it can be there late summer, fall, winter, and well into the next summer before it dies. I have heard people say that to really kill it, it needs to be down at least 18 months. After planting an area, no matter how heavily you mulch, in a matter of weeks, the quack grass is invading again. My new strategy is to keep a 3 or 4 ft DMZ of rubber in place around the area I killed off and planted. The next trees I have will be done that way. I will dig the quack grass out in an area as big as I want to plant plus a couple of feet in all directions, put in some compost and mulch, plant it, and then surround the area with the black rubber to try to halt the invasion. I would like it if there were an easier way, but, like you, I'm not willing to use chemicals. I have been very tempted to Round Up the whole area and be done with it, but I just don't want to go that way after working so hard to create the diversity of creatures I do have.
 
Jason Silberschneider
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Bryant - are you saying that if I was to buy some run-of-the-mill field mushrooms from my local supermarket and blend them into a slurry to mix with my new tree, that mycelium would begin to develop from the mushroom slurry? Stalks, cap, fins and all?
 
Marco Banks
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Jason Silberschneider wrote:Bryant - are you saying that if I was to buy some run-of-the-mill field mushrooms from my local supermarket and blend them into a slurry to mix with my new tree, that mycelium would begin to develop from the mushroom slurry? Stalks, cap, fins and all?


Much better would be to go out after a big rain storm and gather mushrooms native to your area. The greater the variety, the better. Then blend, and pour them to make contact with the roots of your tree. If you can use rainwater rather than chlorinated tap water, all the better.
 
Jason Silberschneider
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Mushrooms in my locality are either poisonous or unknown and assumed poisonous. What's more, this area has very poor levels of fungal activity, which allows terrifying species like Phytophthora cinnamomi to invade and flourish. I'm more interested in "infesting" my property with white button and other common garden-variety mushrooms that are a known quantity, and which will bring fungal levels up to a concentration where Phytophthora cinnamomi would struggle to get a foothold.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Todd Parr wrote:I use black rubber roofing material to kill quack grass where I am getting ready to plant my next garden, tree area, whatever.


I like the idea of the rubber because it is recycled and also because it is so durable compared to plastic. Rubber sheeting seems more like a tool and less like a disposable item.

 
Todd Parr
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Todd Parr wrote:I use black rubber roofing material to kill quack grass where I am getting ready to plant my next garden, tree area, whatever.


I like the idea of the rubber because it is recycled and also because it is so durable compared to plastic. Rubber sheeting seems more like a tool and less like a disposable item.



Tyler, That is exactly the way I look at it. I really dislike plastic sheeting. It breaks down quickly and tears easily, as well as being something I would have to buy new and then contribute to the waste stream. Rubber roofing is a little harder to work with as it's very heavy if you use big sheets of it, but it is very durable and my brother, the roofer, assures me it won't break down at all, even after 30 years of being exposed to the elements. It certainly shows no sign of breakdown in the 5 years I have been using the same pieces. When I'm done using it in one spot, I just move it on to the next, or fold it up and stack it in a corner somewhere.
 
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http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/weeds/controlling-quackgrass-in-gardens/

Non-chemical control

In vegetable gardens or flowering annual beds there are other successful methods for controlling quackgrass. Several spring cultivations should sprout and kill any weed seeds before they develop rhizomes. Extremely shallow cultivation works best where there is existing quackgrass as any cutting of the rhizomes means rapid multiplication of plants.

Mulch should be used as much as possible to smother plants, but you can be assured that the rhizomes will creep along until there is an area in which it can send up a shoot. Rhizomes will have to be hand dug as much as possible without breaking them off in the soil, then dried and disposed of. The main thing is to repeatedly eliminate the blades by slicing them off with a hoe. Without photosynthesis the plant will not be able to store food reserves in the rhizomes and will eventually die. Any newly germinated plants can be easily hoed out and they will dry up and die rapidly on a sunny day.

Another way to kill this plant is to smother it by planting a cover crop. A rotation of winter rye and crown vetch followed by buckwheat is a good way to clear an area of quackgrass. This could take a few months to grow and till the cover crops in, but you will add valuable organic matter to the soil in the process.

Mowing the perimeter of the garden is very important to prevent quackgrass seeds from blowing into the garden and germinating. Grass clippings should not be used to mulch the garden if there is quackgrass seed in them. It would be better to compost the clippings. If you are mowing without a mulcher, always blow the clippings away from your garden area.

Quackgrass is a tough weed to eliminate, but by using the proper methods it can be eradicated successfully.



check for the best cover crops for your area
then instead of tilling,
crimp or stomp cover crop as green mulch
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_053284.pdf
put cardboard over area where plants go
plant through green mulch and cardboard
then mulch, mulch, mulch with wood chips, etc
 
Todd Parr
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duane hennon wrote:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/weeds/controlling-quackgrass-in-gardens/

Non-chemical control

In vegetable gardens or flowering annual beds there are other successful methods for controlling quackgrass. Several spring cultivations should sprout and kill any weed seeds before they develop rhizomes. Extremely shallow cultivation works best where there is existing quackgrass as any cutting of the rhizomes means rapid multiplication of plants.

Mulch should be used as much as possible to smother plants, but you can be assured that the rhizomes will creep along until there is an area in which it can send up a shoot. Rhizomes will have to be hand dug as much as possible without breaking them off in the soil, then dried and disposed of. The main thing is to repeatedly eliminate the blades by slicing them off with a hoe. Without photosynthesis the plant will not be able to store food reserves in the rhizomes and will eventually die. Any newly germinated plants can be easily hoed out and they will dry up and die rapidly on a sunny day.

Another way to kill this plant is to smother it by planting a cover crop. A rotation of winter rye and crown vetch followed by buckwheat is a good way to clear an area of quackgrass. This could take a few months to grow and till the cover crops in, but you will add valuable organic matter to the soil in the process.

Mowing the perimeter of the garden is very important to prevent quackgrass seeds from blowing into the garden and germinating. Grass clippings should not be used to mulch the garden if there is quackgrass seed in them. It would be better to compost the clippings. If you are mowing without a mulcher, always blow the clippings away from your garden area.

Quackgrass is a tough weed to eliminate, but by using the proper methods it can be eradicated successfully.



check for the best cover crops for your area
then instead of tilling,
crimp or stomp cover crop as green mulch
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_053284.pdf
put cardboard over area where plants go
plant through green mulch and cardboard
then mulch, mulch, mulch with wood chips, etc


Duane, thanks for the reply. The main problem I have with that method is that I'm starting with nothing but quack grass, and converting to gardens, food forest areas, etc. I can't plant cover crops until after I get rid of the quack grass, so I still have to get rid of it first. I do use cover crops and heavy plantings, along with mulch to help keep areas cleared, but the entire two acres I'm converting is quack, so it comes back from the sides as fast as I get an area cleared.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Jason Silberschneider wrote:Bryant - are you saying that if I was to buy some run-of-the-mill field mushrooms from my local supermarket and blend them into a slurry to mix with my new tree, that mycelium would begin to develop from the mushroom slurry? Stalks, cap, fins and all?


Yes you can do that but I would look for oyster and shitake since these are well known beneficial species, which means you will get more benefits from them than say the common white button mushroom.
We started our oyster and shitake beds by buying fresh ones at our oriental market, they were very inexpensive when priced against the local "regular" grocery stores, they are always much fresher too which means better spores.
 
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Is there the possibility of tractoring or paddock raising chickens to clear the grass?

 
Todd Parr
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Is there the possibility of tractoring or paddock raising chickens to clear the grass?



I have done small areas that way, and it works very well. My plan for this year is to buy electric poultry netting and a solar charger so I can do some larger areas. I really like this idea the best of all. After the chickens clear an area, I can plant cover crops or bring in woodchips. I have about 40 chickens now, so they can clear an area pretty quickly. I've also started making piles of wood chips in my chicken run for them to play in. The chips bring lots of worms, and if there is something chickens like better than piles of woodchips, I haven't found it yet Most of my compost now comes from material that I put in the run and let the chickens work over for me. I have a friend that trades me 800lb round bales of "hay" for eggs. I spread that out in the run for the chickens to go thru. They eat all the seeds and I use the straw that is left for mulch. I would be lost without my chickens.
 
Jason Silberschneider
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:We started our oyster and shitake beds by buying fresh ones at our oriental market, they were very inexpensive when priced against the local "regular" grocery stores, they are always much fresher too which means better spores.


I thought shiitake was a saprophyte, existing solely in dead wood. You're saying you get them to grow in a bed? I would like to grow shiitake in a bed!
 
Jason Silberschneider
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Todd was gracious enough to allow me to splash some colour around this thread, as I have just bought 3 citrus trees and figured this would be the ideal forum to document all the methods we've discussed here.

Figure 1 shows the before and after of my blended fungus slurry. In went white button, king oyster, and a smaller type of oyster mushroom.

Figure 2 shows all the items read to go. A wheelbarrow of mushroom compost, the tree in question, the fungal slurry, and my seedmix box. This seedmix consists of lupin, red kidney bean, soybean, adzuki, mung, chickpea, linseed, sunflower, wolfberry, cranberry, buckwheat, tomato, capsicum, dill, daikon radish, lobelia (who doesn't love a dash of ultra-violet amongst the greenery!), nasturtium, spinach, and bok choy. The bottom part of figure 2 is a scoop with both hands out of the seedbox and spread over the mushroom compost before being mixed in.

After mixing the seeds in, I make a hole for the tree, as in figure 3, and pour the fungal slurry around the rootball, which has been teased out of its pot-bound state. Then I finally add 3 comfrey root cuttings around the edges.
fungus_before_and_after.JPG
[Thumbnail for fungus_before_and_after.JPG]
Oyster and white button fungal slurry
preparation.JPG
[Thumbnail for preparation.JPG]
All items ready for planting and seedmix spread
slurry_and_comfrey.JPG
[Thumbnail for slurry_and_comfrey.JPG]
Fungal slurry and confrey roots
 
Todd Parr
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Jason, thanks for adding that. I found it very interesting.
 
Todd Parr
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I just ordered 3 new apple trees. I can't wait to try everyone's suggestions.
 
Jason Silberschneider
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I expect lots of photos, Todd!
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I'm pretty bad about remembering to do that, but I'll try The apples are Antonovka. I've never tried them so I'm pretty excited to see how they do.
 
John Saltveit
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Oysters and shiitake are saprophytes, so they won't be mycorrhizal. I used a mix from fungi perfecti, planted wheat seedlings and dipped it in the mix, then planted the seedlings so their roots touched the roots of the trees in my orchard. It worked really well.
John S
PDX OR
 
Evan Nilla
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bulbs are your best friend against grass. plants bulbs around the base of the tree, flowering early before fruit production and not real competition with the tree.

comfrey will absolutely work for the same resources as the tree. comfrey should be at the drip line of a grown tree, no closer.

i don't really place comfrey into the typical taproot plant, its roots do go deep, but, they like the upper areas of the soil just as much and spread. People have reported stunted growth with comfrey to close to their fruit trees. its all about finding compatible root structures.
 
Jesus Martinez
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If you are worried about quackgrass soothing your trees, I would have the same worry with comfrey. The quackgrass I have is nothing compared to the impenetrable giant roots of comfrey.

Also, I solve my weed problem with copious cardboard mulching but we get enough rain and material breakdown that after one season the cardboard is mostly gone.
 
Todd Parr
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Evan Nilla wrote:bulbs are your best friend against grass. plants bulbs around the base of the tree, flowering early before fruit production and not real competition with the tree.

comfrey will absolutely work for the same resources as the tree. comfrey should be at the drip line of a grown tree, no closer.

i don't really place comfrey into the typical taproot plant, its roots do go deep, but, they like the upper areas of the soil just as much and spread. People have reported stunted growth with comfrey to close to their fruit trees. its all about finding compatible root structures.


I can only tell you that that has not been my experience. I have it planted in rings around my fruit trees very close to the trunks and I haven't see any problems.
 
Jesus Martinez
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Since you have so many chickens, I think your best bet is to use them. In my experience if you keep them in a smaller area they tend to dig deeper, and then you can probably get away with simple sheet mulching with paper or cardboard or even grass clippings.
 
Todd Parr
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Jesus Martinez wrote:Since you have so many chickens, I think your best bet is to use them. In my experience if you keep them in a smaller area they tend to dig deeper, and then you can probably get away with simple sheet mulching with paper or cardboard or even grass clippings.


Jesus, I am doing exactly that in some areas, and I think you're right, that is a good way to go. I'm planning to get electric chicken net this year so I can do larger areas that way. I am going to try using builders paper rather than cardboard on an area soon too, just because it is so much faster and easier than using cardboard to do a large area.
 
Todd Parr
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I'm going to try to post some pictures of the apple tree I just planted. The first is just to show what I have to work with. My soil is very heavy clay.
tree6.jpg
[Thumbnail for tree6.jpg]
 
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