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.
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.
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!