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Help for newbie - improving weedy pasture

 
                            
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I have just bought a 3 acre property in the Central Valley, California.  I want to start a fruit orchard on about an acre that is compacted clay (deep cracks) covered in milk thistle, bermuda and crab grass, bindweed, and other assorted grasses and weeds.  It is very uneven and covered with holes (gophers, snakes?).  In a perfect world, I wouldn't want to plow or disc the land, but I'm wondering if doing this once, evening out the bumps, and plowing under the weeds would be helpful.  Should I then plant a cover crop and if so, which one?  Since I'm on a water meter, I'd like to find a cover crop that doesn't require much summer irrigation. 

Any advice much appreciated!
 
duane hennon
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goats and pigs will get rid of the weeds, plow and fertilize
you have to give them some water and maybe some supplimental feed.
search the forums for "intensive grazing" and Sepp Hotzer

 
                      
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Before you clear the weeds, you should read this http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/weeds/WeedsToC.html .  Some of the ideas have been superseded but the main idea is pure permaculture.

Dave "aBearded1" Wise
 
                                          
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Theres a surprising amount of edible and useful weeds out there. Dandelions and mallow are both edible and helpful to the plants around them. I recently got the Handbook of Edible Weeds and it's been quite helpful in alleviating lots of plants that I don't want.
 
Josh T-Hansen
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I wouldn't worry about the holes for now, could be helping water infiltration.  However, I think light tilling just once and then sowing a cover crop would help prevent erosion and build soil.  A big factor in what you plant is how long you plan to keep it.  I have no idea if this is appropriate, but look into alfalfa and meadow fescue, (duration of 4-5 years supposedly).
 
rose macaskie
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 There is a interesting book attached on the thread on "dandylions" by a link that talks of the advantages of weeds but this book does not recomend grass with your crops just weeds. It talks of a woman the author saw in China going to look for weeds on the mountainside to take back to her garden to help her plants. it is called Weeds, guardians of the soil. by Joseph Cocannouer.
    In my grass, that i dont touch, by which i mean I dont cut or weed, i have plenty of other sorts of weeds growing so weeds will grow in grass if you let them. I have more weeds in the grass every year, pretty ones at that.

The first advantage of weeds with deep diving roots. According to joseph cocannouer

 The book Plank gives a link to, suggests that weeds have a more vigorouse root growth than our crops, crops being plants that we have been spoiling for mileniums so they have forgoten to feel the need to send roots deep into the soil. He says that weeds roots dive down deep into the soil and as, deep in the soil, there are the nutrients that the rain water washed out of the surface layers, it is a good place to find food and further from the air a more constant supply of water i suppose. This makes the weeds usefull  because they pull up the nutrients from below and hold them in their stalks and leaves till the weeds die, when the nutrients get deposited back on the surface of the soil when the plant that contains them rots. It is a natural cycle, water washes nutrients into the soil and plants place then on the surface again.
 This is the first advantage of having weeds with your crops.

   The normal thing, according to Joseph  Cocannouer, is for people to notice the more surface roots of weeds and not the deeper ones they send way into the soil after nutrients, the ones  that dont compete with the roots of your crop and he believes weeds mostly feed off their deeper roots and stop using the shallow ones much once the deeper ones have developed.
   He does say that you should not have too many weeds, some permaculturist have a lot and say it works, i suppose there is always a too many, Joseph Cocannouer weeds out a lot of his weeds.

    The second advantage of weeds with long roots.

   He, while digging on a farm, while a teenager, found that the shalow roots of the crops do go down deep into the soil were the roots of weeds have forged a path for them they go down accompanying the roots of the weeds. He did not find crops with deep roots in other bits of the feild where there were no weeds, so with help from weeds, the roots of crops also look for nourishment in the rich deeper levels of soil.
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     The third benefit to the soil of weeds with deep diving roots

        Is that the roots in the fullness of time die down deep in the soil, so starting to contribute organic matter to these layers of soil making them more habitable and so habilitating new feeding ground for your crops.
      According to this writer, apart from the other well known benefits to soil of organic matter, organic matter in soils heats the soil because it warms the soil as it rots.   He says that having warmer soils is very important to plants. agri rose macaskie.

         
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Pat Black
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Earth works to create your no-till orchard makes great sense to me. Drop a cistern underground to have enough water for spring frost protection. Till in some organic matter if possible and harrow and then expect a big flush of weeds. Then I'd recommend creating a micro irrigation system exactly along the rows where you are planting the fruit trees. Put the lines below frost level so that there are sprinklers between each tree. For a cover crop check out New Zealand White Clover with the proper rhizobial inoculant (quoted from territoral seed company):

New Zealand White Clover Cover Crop
Trifolium repens Growing to only 8 inches, this low perennial clover has a growth habit similar to White Dutch Clover but will stand drought conditions better, is more vigorous, and tolerates a wide range of soils. Used for both a spring and fall cover crop, New Zealand White Clover can be sown between row plantings or as a solid seeded cover. A terrific green manure as it fixes up to 170 pounds of nitrogen per acre and attracts beneficial insects. Sow 1/4 pound per 1000 square feet; 6–10 pounds per acre.

Then, you can use the micro irrigation to establish the cover crop and also use it for frost protection in the spring to protect the blossoms from late frosts. If and when you want to mow your clover, you can mow right down the alleys because the sprinklers are in the tree line.

You can also consider adding other plants into the cover crop as beneficial insect habitat. Yarrow comes to mind, or other umbrelliferous low-growers.

Consider wide alleys so you can do alley cropping between the tree rows.

You've got to get rid of the gophers if you want any of your young fruit trees to survive.

Consider owl, blue bird, and bat boxes to create some good pressure on the insects and rodents.

 
rose macaskie
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thistle should have deep roots and maybe bind weed is good for beetering your soil should be kept in permaculture you dont know what the prole o feach plant is so keep a large variety in the book of Joseph cocanouer Weeds guardians of the soil he mentiosn weeds he conisders valuable and thistles and wild morning glry is on h is list i don't know wha twild morning glory is.  

 Nm Grower, You put in a cistern for thermal mass to keep the orchard warm. It is a interesting idea.
 How common is putting a cistern into an orchard as thermal mass to reduce frosts. Is it an old idea? A lot of permaculture ideas are just the spread to the whole poppulation of the ideas of agronomists. wjhat sort of ruit trees need it, i suppose apple trees grow alright even if their are frosts they grow all over England were it freezes hard or did when i was a child. do you need it for citrus feruit trees?
 Your plan for ploughing up all the orchard and putting in a cistern would do for those who have money or who can organise a group to help them. In permaculture getting neighbors together substitues money needed for big projects as well as helpiing create a community, exchanging work takes the place of funds.
   I suppose being interested in the conexions in a community responds to the hippy preoccupation, wororying over people getting lonely and disconnected from others in our modern world, the answer for which for hippies was to have a commun.

 It looks as if North Americans are good at responding in their communities, there were all those men who were first responders who went down to help in the twin towers disaster and their seem to be people responding quickly to the tornadoes, while in Japan, that was well built to resist disasters, better than joplin from the looks of the houses there, the first responders except for the workers in the power plant did not seem to be there, mind you it was such a big disaster as to take anyones breath away.  (building house that last is one of the things that makes  ahouse ecological you don't have to makes new walls in the next generation. american houses are incredibly flimsy).
    In japan no one seemed to be respoonding in the first few days, even weeks, maybe it is a fantasy that the people of localities that give less importance to individuality are good at responding. Maybe they are good at not upsetting the apple cart in their day to day lives but they are hopless responders. beign responders is part of our modern societies full of independent people who are able to respond. Are we in a crazy historical epoch in which we are so busy looking for our faults that we dont recognise our strengths. Help your nieboorgh is a very protestant tradition in the west, help your neighbor can be intepreted as help your immediate family, in some parts of the christian world, doing which is in a way an extended self help it is helping your own unit mafia style rather than all that is beyond your unit.

 If you are brought up in a family that has a business you are brought up i suppose used to the idea of taking risks and borrowing a lot of money to set out an orchard properly, i am a bit jealouse of those that know how to run businessess though i suppose a lot of it is to be willing to take a risk and to shoulder the burden of debts not something i am jealous of.b THothse who take risks are good for their country but maybe not so much so for their families.
   I suppose a farmer has the skill sets to build cisterns and the machinery to plough so can do a lot more than other folks though he is not rich.

 I think Bill Molison was thinking about how to increase the wealth of the small holder so his ideas revolve around methods that can be put into place without money. Maybe in lots of parts of the world the farming is very inefficient and it was clear to him that people could easily live much better if he could increase the right knowledge in their heads.  Even with modern farming it is true that there are some very bad methods as he points out in Arizona were they grew cotton in such a way as to ruin the soils and worsen the desert or as to make a desert. and you can find examples of ruinouse farming in any modern country. agri rose macaskie
 
 
rose macaskie
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Paul wheaton, what about a video of permaculturists collecting seed. rose.
 
Pat Black
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I missed the part in the original message where the poster said the water use was metered and presumably charged by the gallon. A one acre orchard will use a LOT of water. Here's an excerpt from the University of Georgia:

"Irrigation scheduling is an important aspect of peach orchard management and attempts to answer two management
questions - when to irrigate and how much to apply. In peach, optimal productivity is experienced with rain or irrigation
at intervals of no longer than one week. During peak water use periods, individual peach trees consume 36-45 gallons
per tree per day. On a weekly basis, this is 252-315 gallons per tree; at a tree spacing of 16 ft. x 20 ft. (136 trees/acre)
this comes to 34,272 to 42,840 gallons of water per acre of orchard. One acre-inch of water equals approximately
27,000 gallons. Therefore, actual water consumption for one acre of peach trees during peak water usage is between 1.3
and 1.6 acre-inches of water per week."

So please ask yourself honestly if you can afford 40,000 gallons of water a week before you plan your orchard.

Rose, to clarify, I recommended the cistern and micro irrigation system because when the fruit trees are in bud break or bloom, if there is a hard frost then the blooms will freeze and there will be little to no fruit that year. The water sprayed out on those late frost nights adds thermal mass and the water warms the buds. Even if the buds freeze the process of water changing state from liquid to solid is an exothermic process, so the freezing actually heats the buds slightly. If you can keep the blossoms above 28F you can minimize fruit loss. Once the buds of fruit trees start to break you have to protect them from hard freezes to get a harvest later in the summer. Where I live the apricots bear fruit about every 5 - 7 years because the trees bloom too early and then a late hard frost wipes out the blossoms.

Wild morning glory is I believe another common name for bindweed.

 
kevin wheels
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Surprised no one has mentioned sheet mulching...

Just take some cardboard and lay it out, cover with several layers of mulch/soil/compost, plant a cover crop as many others have said in order to prep the soil and get a yield.

I'm sure you know all about sheet mulching, but in case you don't the cardboard will smother the weeds and break down over time, as well as soak up moisture for your soil. The cover crop will prevent any interloping weeds from the fresh soil and the tenacious varieties from reaching the surface. This is a great method to build soil over time. (an inch or more every couple years)
 
rose macaskie
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On mulching with cardboard or putting bits of wood in the ground, as in huggleculture, by whiich i mean on how much plants seem to like woody materials.
    I after seeing a video of a australian making a potat oe tower,  planting potatoes in the bottom of  a circular area surrounded by bamboo fencing, i think it was, which tub gets filled up as the potatoes grow so that you get tubers at many depths . He put in a product sold in a bag that looked like sheeddded hay and soil the sort you buy in a shop as the earth in the potatoe tower, so last autumn i brought a bag of hay sold for pets and put the hay into a plastic window box type pot i have and soil on top i put in half the bag of hay,.
       I put seeds into this and got such a tremendous amount of hypha of some sort of fungi that the seeds hardley grew, the soil they sell for pots in madrid is full of manure. It is the soil for bonsais that is also the potting compost but i did not know that last year.  However Iiput in more seeds, tomatoe seeds this spring when the manure had presumibly broken down a lot and the seeds in th epot with hay in it now broken down are doing ever so much better than the ones i put in a pot with only soil in it.
        My observation is that plants love woody  matter or dead plant matter in the soil,
        I put corks into the bottom of my pots once, I am not good at growing vegetables but i got good at growing plants on my balcony and trees and shrubs so i suppose i can get good at growing vegetables too. I put corks in the bottom of my pots to serve as drainage once when i did not have any bits of brick and when i repotted the plants i found their roots had been attracted to the corks.
       I saw a documentary about a certain type of pine that only grows on one island in Japan and how they take the seed from  the oldest trees there, as they are presumibly those that have the best resistance to disease the tree needs to survive a lot of disease to live a long time. They also mentioned that the new trees seeds of the trees open and grow best in the stumps of old trees where there are more nutrients than there in the soil. It seems that plants love woody matter or hay type matter in the soil so put on mulch. For me at least the evidence is accumulating that they do love it. I just like the ground as it is, full of wild flowers so i like the idea of weeds bettering the soil which they do do.
       A CNN ecology documentary talked of a woman in the townships of south africa who used cardboard to turn the sand in th etownship into good soil, so as to grow a few vegetables that would not cost too much and that she could know weren't covered iin herbicides and pesticides and now she has a big business. SHe became a business woman and she was not young when she did, power to everyone at all ages.
       Last time i tried growing mushrooms on cardboard the cardboard i wet to grow the oyster mushrooms on smelt of a pesticide that seem to be used on furniture here which is a bit worrying. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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    To go on about weeds as rehabilitators of the soil. Joseph A Cocanouer says they are the best green mulch.
    He talks about collecting weed seed to sow on land that is depleted an orchard whose trees had stopped fruiting though the land was well ferttilised was one place he has seen get better left to weeds and of course a green fertiliser is used for soil  hthat is too poor.
  he says it is hard to convince farmers to grow weeds thistles say they have been pulling them out all their lives.
    So as a green fertiliser first you have to seed you land with weeds if it does not have its own supply and then he says to slash it and let the weeds wilt not dry but wilt before harrowing them in, he say that this way they rot down much sooner. agri rose macaskie.
 
Pat Black
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Likely the reason no one mentioned sheet mulching an acre is that it would require over 50,000 square feet of cardboard, countless tons of manure, and 22,000 cubic feet of dry organic matter as the top mulch. Even if you could source all that material, the labor to install it would be huge.

It would be much cheaper and easier to grow a cover crop as I outlined above.

Scale is everything here. A technique that works for a gardener does not necessarily work for a farmer.

 
                            
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I guess I forgot to mention a couple of things.  It rarely freezes in Central California.  Also, I'm not planning on putting in more than about a dozen fruit trees in that acre; otherwise, my water bill would truly be staggering!  I do have about 15 mature walnut and pecan trees that made it through the very hot summer last year before I bought the property with NO water at all, and the ground was covered with delicious nuts this spring when I moved in.  Neighbors say the previous owners never watered the nut trees.  I do think sheet mulching would be great, but would require lots of material.  Maybe I should just learn to embrace the weeds and just whack them down with the mower.  It's just that this area is right next to the front of our historic (1863) home and it's so unsightly. 
 
Andrew Hebard
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I am i a similar situation with an old field that is on degraded farmland.  It has been sitting fallow for probably close to 8 years and has had nitrogen fixing shrubs like autumn olive and trees like black locust colonizing.  My biggest problem was the amount of bush honeysuckle which had come in.  Bush honeysuckle is in invasive here in Ohio and is pushing out the native understory.  It is a relatively useless plant for permaculture, though it provides good habitat for birds.  I have been slowly removing it from the understory of the 10 acre wood lot at the bottom of the field and trying to establish an understory with plants like spice bush and Paw Paw.  It has been a very slow process.

As for the field.  I finally had someone come in and bush hog the whole thing (though I had them avoid all the black locust and autumn olive, blackberry hedges, etc.  The tractor tore up the ground a bit more than I would have liked, and I now have some bare patches.  This is mostly because the ground has been so wet.  I am planning to seed clover over all of the bare patches and might try to broadcast it through out the top 3 acres of the field.  The grass is not well established and the most common weed seems to be poison ivy.  I am hoping that the clover and the grass will out compete the poison ivy if I mow.  Meanwhile I am slowly turning the field into an orchard and sheet mulching pieces of it.  I have a small vegetable garden down and about 15 fruit and nut trees.  I have also started to put in berry bushes.  I plan to plant comfrey (and some other edible perennials like horseradish) around the trees and will experiment with nitrogen fixing shrubs (autumn olive is already doing quite well here).

If anyone has any thoughts on this plan, I'd love the advice.
 
kevin wheels
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NM Grower wrote:
Likely the reason no one mentioned sheet mulching an acre is that it would require over 50,000 square feet of cardboard, countless tons of manure, and 22,000 cubic feet of dry organic matter as the top mulch. Even if you could source all that material, the labor to install it would be huge.

It would be much cheaper and easier to grow a cover crop as I outlined above.

Scale is everything here. A technique that works for a gardener does not necessarily work for a farmer.



Ah, yeah that makes sense. Apologies if any confusion was sown.
 
rose macaskie
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My feild of apple trees full of weeds is beautiful.
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rose macaskie
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One of the two apple trees in this feild and  a close up of some weeds.  rose.
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rose macaskie
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more weeds
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rose macaskie
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I love it looking as if my house is in a hayfeild it is a very old house who knows how old though not a very posh one, the
bit of the wall in this photo is a rebuilt bit of wall the walls are very thick and the beams used to be juniper beamsthere is goat hair in the mud that holds the stone walls together but it is a mess.
Mind you in one direction this bit of the garden looks like a hay feild and in another it looks like a rose garden if a messy one.
detail of weed in first photo.
I love wild oats i like the aesthetics of grass seeds.
  i have to open a thread for photos of weeds.
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Pat Black
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radardeb wrote:
I guess I forgot to mention a couple of things.  It rarely freezes in Central California.  Also, I'm not planning on putting in more than about a dozen fruit trees in that acre; otherwise, my water bill would truly be staggering!  I do have about 15 mature walnut and pecan trees that made it through the very hot summer last year before I bought the property with NO water at all, and the ground was covered with delicious nuts this spring when I moved in.  Neighbors say the previous owners never watered the nut trees.  I do think sheet mulching would be great, but would require lots of material.  Maybe I should just learn to embrace the weeds and just whack them down with the mower.  It's just that this area is right next to the front of our historic (1863) home and it's so unsightly. 

Ha! I guess it was *my* scale that was off, and Kevin's sheet mulch suggestion is quite applicable. I often have that problem on these forums, where I think in farm scale and the poster is thinking 12 trees on an acre.

So yeah make sure to space those fruit trees correctly and build way-oversized sheet mulched sunken basins that catch all rain and runoff and irrigation. You want the tree on a slight mound and then the very large basin. Water a bit near the tree under the mulch, but really you water to water further and further away from the tree each year to build a big wide root system. I see people put a little 24" basin around a tree and water in there. You want the roots to grow out away from the tree to find lots of water and nutrients.

i still feel NZ white clover between the mulched trees would be reasonably low water, look good, and provide nitrogen and bee forage.

Yes Rose once the trees are bigger they can tolerate a lot of "weedy" undergrowth, but the young trees need to have no root competition or the trees will lose.

In my experience trees succumb more the second year after a drought rather than the first. So those mature walnut and pecan trees will really need a lot of water to recover from last year's treatment. Don't think they haven't been majorly stressed.

 
rose macaskie
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             nw grower is right you should use drip irrigation,because it irrigates the tree with much less water though if you use drip irrigation you would have to sacrifice your idea of encouraging the root to grow outwards by irrigating all around them in an circle that ever got further from the trunk of the tree to make the roots grow out wards.
    i just hope my trees will learn to grow roots that spread out all over the place in the seasons i don't irrigate them in. I would leave my apple trees without irrigation as used to be the case, they did not grow very well without it but they did sort of manage, my husband however put drip irrigation on them. i wanted to have a garden that used nearly no water. i wanted to prove mulching and lots of organic matter in the soil works, except when establishing a tree when i did water. My husband quietly takes the mulch I put round trees off them and so i have lal the work to do again or i give up mulching in despair. 

           If you irrigate apples the apples come out larger and with a less flavour. if you want apples for the house you wont want so very mn'many big apples so irrigation is less necessasry, I used to have before the drip irrigation was put in  more apples than I wanted in autumn, though without irrigation theye apples dont grow very big,
        I have put in more apple trees because if i am meant to be permaculture and grow food, well maybe something that would sell would be a type of apple that they dont  have in the hills of Spain, english aromaticas and cookers. They mosty sell standard types of apples in the garden centres around here, the sort you can buy in green grocers shops.
      Also i have bought  an apple tree that ripens in august or july a joaneting and a apple that stores till April, a norfolk beefing, so now I may have apples for a lot of seasons instead of a lot of apples in october.
            To be permaculture you would have to plant a variety of trees in your orchard. I have just planted two wattle trees, mimosas, that have nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots with two of my apple trees and a ceanothus each with two others and that is a californian plant that fixes nitrogen.
                  Mapples might be good companion plants. In the study described by paul stamets to see ¡f mycorhyzal fungi carry nutrient from one tree to another, there were two coniferers and a maple involved, they covered one conifera so it could not photosynthasize because it was getting no light and found that the mycorryhzal fungi were carrying the nutrients from the maple to the two trees but they were carry more food to the tree that was unable to produce its own. As Las vegas Lee says nature seems to be unexpectedly ultruistic and its plants and fungi look after the weak.
                 To be permaculture you would maybe plant trees with no apparent use to your apples as well as nitrogen fixing ones, just in case they were good for something, like a unbrella pine, then you would have deliciouse pine nuts, parcial shade, that of a large tree the unbrella pine whose shadow crosses your apple trees for part of the day. Shade could help apples in california.
           One reason to plant lots of different plants is to stop pest finding tyhe plant you expect to grow you food the smell of coniferars might put insects of the scent of your apples.
           You should look at Geof Lawton video on greening the desert to get an idea of the permaculture way to grow fruit in a hot dry place. agri rose macaskie.
   
 
rose macaskie
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I  have grown trees in plenty of grass, mind you grass dies down in summer in the mediteranean so in that season when need is greatest grass is not competing  with other plants . I always grow trees in grass and weeds, what reallly made a diference to the speed at which trees grew was my husband putting a good drip on them in summer it did howefver make the apples less tasty.
  What really made a difference to  the apple trees that have never done well was trying soemthing a man paul stamets talks of fo rstopping canker, a potion of liquidized turkey tail mushrooms mixed with clay.
Another thing that made a difference to the rate at which new potted trees took hold for me was opening out the roots of the trees i bought  then i started to plant trees that lived.
      It takes me a good hour in some cases of pulling and scratching and tearing at the roots and ruining my nails but i unwind them . At first i just broke them open and that also worked. Some roots go round and round one way and others the other and send out side roots that hodl the threads tightly together and you alway have to break some of them to open up the prision they make for themselves but maybe american nurseries dont sell you trees whose roots have made a tightly woven basket for themselves.
       My walnut certainly does not get water, mind you it lives by a stream. It however does not give walnuts.
    The elms and wild plums certainly grew without water and still do. It would be crazy to get the  walnuts used to being given water. Soil that has no organic matter and so few nutrients and unable to hold much water maybe kills them the trees but if you have good soil they should be able to handle the drought. Hungry things are apt to catch all illnesses, They lose their immunity to disease. My oaks certainely dont get water and grow. The apple trees did not used to get water and they gave apples and the soil was pretty bad then.
       If glomalin develops on the hypha of the micorrhyzal fungi that go with grass roots, that is the  glomalin that sticks my soil into crumbs so it is no longer a heavy mass of clay, so tha tit is soil that air can get into and that water can drain through tha tdoe snot get water logged how am i going to bare patches of this usefull stuff? I like to have airey earth with good tilth and good drainage, look after the earth and you plants will look after themselves and where am i going to get the the material from that mulches my soil if grass and weeds aren't growing everywhere.
     Have you tried growing an apple tree in grass and weeds to find out if it is true that it cant 'grow with competition? Mind you i am not racing to produce apples.
  The cistern in the feild is a good idea if you need to water the trees  if it reduces the rate of frosts it will also cool the orchard, thermal mass works both way it cools as well as heating as it  is not given to quick changes of temprature.
      A pond might be the poor mans solution. Maybe a cistern is cheaper in the end.
      sepp holzer would have the prevailing wind blowing over the surface to pick up moisture and a screen of trees on the east side of the pond the sout east side so as to stop the poind  getting much sun. If it was a wall on the south side it would stop the poind getting the mid day sun but it would get the morning and evening sun. If it was south easterly screen of trees it would stop the pond getting the southerly and easterly sun so the pond would only get the evening sun. As long as a screen so aligned  was not on the same side as the prevailing winds youi copuld both shade you pool and get the wind runi¡nin gover it. .
    Does Sepp make the length of the poind coincide with the direction of the winds so tha the winds blow along the whole length of the ponds? Partly to get the ponds aerated but it would also do to cool air though i don't suppose Sepp wants to cool air a 2000 metres up the alpes. but you might in california, in florida maybe its impossible to cool the air. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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  I, awhile back, put logs on the ground as mulch under two pear trees and the branches of the pear that untill them had grown straight upwards started growing outwards over the lines of logs i had laid down. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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  These trees survive without beign watered, they dont grow much but they survive and produce fruit and as the soil betters more and more i hope they may grow faster.
   The trees at the bottom of the photo are sloes and those in the middle wild plums and an elder tree and those at the top of the photo are willows but they are beside the torrent which runs all winter. All these treese even those that are far fron the river survive and are born and grow without being watered.
Things i plant mostly need watering in the first years or two. agri rose macaskie.
sloes plums elder and willow..jpg
[Thumbnail for sloes plums elder and willow..jpg]
 
                            
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NM Grower wrote:
Ha! I guess it was *my* scale that was off, and Kevin's sheet mulch suggestion is quite applicable. I often have that problem on these forums, where I think in farm scale and the poster is thinking 12 trees on an acre.

So yeah make sure to space those fruit trees correctly and build way-oversized sheet mulched sunken basins that catch all rain and runoff and irrigation. You want the tree on a slight mound and then the very large basin. Water a bit near the tree under the mulch, but really you water to water further and further away from the tree each year to build a big wide root system. I see people put a little 24" basin around a tree and water in there. You want the roots to grow out away from the tree to find lots of water and nutrients.

i still feel NZ white clover between the mulched trees would be reasonably low water, look good, and provide nitrogen and bee forage.

Yes Rose once the trees are bigger they can tolerate a lot of "weedy" undergrowth, but the young trees need to have no root competition or the trees will lose.

In my experience trees succumb more the second year after a drought rather than the first. So those mature walnut and pecan trees will really need a lot of water to recover from last year's treatment. Don't think they haven't been majorly stressed.

==============

I think your suggestion of NZ white clover holds promise.  Should I till it in or just chop and drop?  I don't like the grasses/weeds to get too high because we have a MAJOR rodent problem and if we keep everything mowed short the hawks, owls and snakes seem to take care of most of them (plus I don't give myself a heart attack when I almost step on a 5 ft. king snake!).  I am going to give the nut trees a good deep watering soon.  thanks for your comments, everyone!

 
Pat Black
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The NZ White clover will only get 8" tall. If the weeds get taller then you can mow the everything down to 4". No need to till it in. You're aiming for a permanent living mulch that provides bee/chicken forage and nitrogen for the trees. A flail mower would be best but any type will do.

I've had a 5' bull snake slide over my bare foot when taking out the compost. Not sure who was more surprised!

 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Sheet mulch around the 12 trees in a 3 feet radius per tree. Straw and stuff high on top. Leave the stems free.
Lupins, malva, vicia, phacelia, red and white clover, peas and beans as cover crop. They don't compete with your water thirsty fruit trees.

When there is a slight slope dig a shallow trench above the tree line (if your going to plant the trees in a line). Heavily mulch the trench and also seed the covercrops. Maybe bring in some innoculant for the nitrogen fixing plants.

If you do prune your fruit trees you can put the trimmings in the trench for wildlife habitat.
 
            
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Some good ideas being thrown around, though I don't think bud kill from late frost is such an issue here in the valley as to warrant burying a cistern for added insurance. I don't think we had more than a dozen nights all winter that the temp dipped significantly below zero (coldest we got I believe was in the mid-20's). The gophers and morning glories have got to go for sure, though. The sort of biodegradable netting they use in nurseries for wrapping root balls could be a potential fix.. thinking you could line the trench you want to plant your saplings into with it to create a temporary line of defense while their root systems establish. I think mechanical tillage is your best bet for the weed issue (it'll also upset the gophers network of tunnels). Even if you don't want to use petrol inputs in maintaining your system, a tractor is seriously valuable for initial ground prep/amending soil.. and a few weeks after the initial prep, to culti-kill all the weeds you brought to the surface in groundbreaking. At that point, you can plop in the trees and seed your cover crop.. or whatever you want to do with your aisles/understory. Speaking to the water usage figures that were quoted for optimal production in commercial peach orchards, I'd say they warrant being taken with a grain of salt. I worked for a local rancher here in the valley last year whose apricots and peaches produced copiously with -zero- supplemental irrigation (our last measurable rain last year came around Easter if my memory serves me correctly). Water was only given much later in the season, long after the fruit had been harvested, in order to sustain the trees through our brutal summers.. and even then only as needed, usually after the tree in question started to display signs of stress. The fruit was far superior to any I've ever eaten from a commercial orchard.
 
Burra Maluca
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Paul's latest podcast on lawn care has a load of info about management techniques to discourage unwanted weeds which applies equally well to pasture.
 
Jane Reed
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I was drawn to this thread as the Central Valley (in Calif.) is a possible location I've targeted for home and land purchase when I retire. I'm interestd in how the OP is doing on those little 3 acres (which sound like the perfect size for me, too). I'm going to check out Porterville in the next few months; it's just a 2 1/2 hour drive from where I live now.
 
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