[NAFEX] Best groundcover for (home) orchard

Tom Olenio tolenio at sentex.net
Sun Apr 25 16:35:27 EDT 2004


Hi Ginda,

My inlaws keep the farm orchard almost as short as the lawn.  They have a few reasons for it.

It looks neater.

The orchard is a staging area for farm equipment.  In the spring you may find tractors there after being started after winter shutdown.  Seed drills wagons, and the like tend to spend a day or two there and then go to work.  In the fall you will find combine heads on their racks, harvest wagons, all needing a place to rest out of the way.  Walking through high wet grass to this equipment is not ideal.

Taller grass attracts varmits of all sizes (deer to voles) and gives them a place to hide.  Tall grass will sometimes hide an old ground hog hole, and nobody wants to twist an ankle that way.  Having a clear shot at the long eared rats, with white fuzzy tails never hurts either.

In the autumn, if you make cider, you want to be able to collect drops (good firm apples, only with a slight bruise where it landed).  Tall grass can hide those.

Lastly, it is easier to keep it short than once or twice a year mowing a hay field with the added difficulty of trees.  The trees make for difficult clean up.

That is why they keep it shortish.

Later,
Tom

list at ginda.us wrote:

> I had trouble with dutch clover being juicy in wet years - I had it interplanted with my lawn, and it clogged the mower if I let it get too lush. The lawn seems to have taken over, and I sort of miss the clover, despite the problems.
>
> But I have to ask - why do you need to mow every week or two? The part of my lawn that I don't fertilize only gets mowed 4-5 times per year (and looks surprisingly lawn-like). In an orchard, where you don't need to keep the neighbors happy with a nice lawn, I wouldn't think you'd need to mow all that often - you just need a mower that can cut really high.
>
> Ginda
>
> On Apr 24, 2004, at 5:41 PM, Lon J. Rombough wrote:
>
>      Comfrey is a great soil builder, but it's not good in the orchard.  It brings up minerals from deep in the soil and really loosens hard, clay soils, but it's so juicy it's a mess to mow.  Best use I ever saw of it was by a woman who had two acres separate from the orchard.  She cut it regularly with a sickle bar mower and put it in the orchard as mulch.  Her peaches and nectarines were the best I've ever tasted anywhere.
>      -Lon Rombough
>
>      Not using chemical herbicides or mechanical tilling,
>      I'm not going to be able to keep the ground bare.
>      What would be a good groundcover?  Does dutch clover
>      or subterranean clover add too much N for the pears
>      and apples?  vetch?  How about comfrey - that uses up
>      N and is deep rooted, does it compete with the trees?
>
>      Is "orchard grass" as difficult to keep under control
>      as the grass and weed mix we have now?  We have to mow
>
>      every week or two, which is way too much work.
>
>      Lisa in Ashland Oregon
>      USDA Z7 - Sunset Z7 - 1800' - 19" annual rainfall
>
>
>
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--
Thomas Olenio
Ontario, Canada
Hardiness Zone 5b





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