[NAFEX] Best groundcover for (home) orchard

Brungardt, Sam Sam.Brungardt at state.mn.us
Fri Apr 30 10:03:12 EDT 2004

John, a good way to get a fast answer tailored to your climatic conditions is to call the University of Maine's Agricultural Extension Service or your county extension agent (try http://www.umext.maine.edu/topics/treefruit.htm).    Also, see the result of a Maine study on groundcovers for apples at  <http://www.ofrf.org/publications/Grant%20reports/01.f.10.Moran.pdf> http://www.ofrf.org/publications/Grant%20reports/01.f.10.Moran.pdf.  I'm sure they have recommendations for orchard groundcover. -- Sam Brungardt, Saint Paul, MN (USDA Zone 4b)
-----Original Message-----
From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Three Hills Farm
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 5:00 PM
To: nafex at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [NAFEX] Best groundcover for (home) orchard 

There have been a number of posting regarding what NOT to use for orchard groundcover.  I'm still waiting to hear what actually has worked for people.  I'm soon to be putting my trees in for the Spring and decided to prepare the ground by putting down an equal mix of Orchard Grass and Palestine Strawberry Clover (10 lbs each per acre).   I wanted to go with covers that could be planted in the Spring, would snuff out weeds, yet wouldn't have to be mowed every week.   For anyone unfamiliar with either, here are the basics on both:

Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata)  A long-lived perennial, grows in large clumps or tussocks. Introduced in North America in 1760 and now naturalized. Vigorous grass produces more summer regrowth than timothy or bromegrass and tolerates moderately drained soils. It can be established in spring, in summer, or by frost-seeding in late winter. Tall leafy plants grow rapidly even in poor soils. Its tendency to form coarse bunches can be overcome by grazing and by sowing orchard grass with red clover or alfalfa. Seed at 10#/acre or 4-6# with 8-12# of alfalfa or red clover/acre.


Palestine Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum)  Low-growing (to 14"), deep-rooted, heat and alkali tolerant, Palestine Clover is excellent in orchards, vineyards and other perennials, as well as in pasture and hay mixtures. It tolerates mowing and grazing, attracts beneficial insects and fixes Nitrogen (to 110 lb/acre). It can handle up to two months of flooding and even grows along salty tidal streams.  Plant in Fall or Spring, 1/4"-1/2" deep at 12-15 lb/acre.


I'd considered using Crimson Clover, but I believe that should ideally be planted in the Fall, whereas the Strawberry Clover can be planted in the Spring as well.   Seed of either is available from Peaceful Valley Orchard Supply (www.groworganic.com), although Fedco (here in Maine) offers the orchard grass and a number of other varieties of clover.   I'd imagine both are readily available at any decent garden/farm supply store.


Hope this is of some help.




* * * * *


John A Gasbarre
Three Hills Farm
Union, Maine  USA
organic at threehillsfarm.com
44° 15' 47" N / 69° 18' 42" W

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