[NAFEX] mowing orchards

Mark & Helen Angermayer hangermayer at isp.com
Fri Aug 22 14:34:31 EDT 2008

Hi Lisa,

I've tried several methods of grass control under trees.  Initially planted flowers and herbs under trees to create a habitat for beneficial insects.  There is a lot of information on the internet about plants that attract beneficials.  Weeding the flowers turned out to be a tremendous amount of work, and I figured out organic fruit culture doesn't work in this area.

Glyophosate does a good job keeping grass down under the trees.  Grass really sucks up water, so the trees need to be watered more if grass is allowed to grow underneath them.  Some disadvantages of chemical burndown are that it doesn't allow as much organic matter in the soil over time.  If weeds/grass/plants are never allowed to grow, there is little organic matter to add to the soil (only the trees leaves and roots).  To combat this, I've seen it recommended to allow the weeds to grow later in the season to add organic matter and to help the tree shut down for winter.  Another disadvantage to chemical burndown is that some trees sucker bad (especially some plum rootstocks) and you can't spray under the trees.  Additionally, you want to make sure you keep glyophosate off the trunks of young trees, and perhaps even older trees.  Some commercial guys use a shielded sprayer to keep it off the trunks.

I use a combination of mulch and glyophosate.  The mulch really conserves moisture (which was a disadvantage with all the rain we got this year) and of course chokes weeds.  It also puts more organic material in the soil.  The disadvantage is it's labor intensive.  Availability hasn't been a problem for my small orchard.   

On scaffold height, I initially thought I wanted to keep the first scaffolds high to be able to protect fruit from animal pests.  Now my thinking is, the heck with the pests, I want the fruit as low to the ground as possible.  Paul Friday said it best, "Your only going to grow 6 feet of peaches [vertically, the fruit zone is 6 ft.] do you want to grow them close to ground level, or 15 feet in the air?" 

There is a peach orchardist about 30 miles from here that I stay in pretty close contact with.  He starts some of his first scaffolds at 12".  If his trees get too tall, he takes a chain saw to them to get them down (I know as I write this, there are folks cringing, I admit I am too, but so far it works for him.  Farther north where peach growing is more challenging, I'm sure it wouldn't work.  Also he is on a full spray program, so borers are not an issue.)  The point is he keeps his trees low.

As far as pests stealing fruit, the squirrels have actually done me a favor this year.  My one acre lot is pretty much all fenced and a rat terrier roams the lot.  I think the squirrels and I have come to an agreement.  I throw all my cull fruit outside the fence, they eat the culls, and stay off my trees.  So far it's worked.  I may still trap a few this winter though, to keep the population down.  After all, you can never really trust a thief.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Lisa D. Ishimuro 
  To: nafex at lists.ibiblio.org 
  Sent: Friday, August 22, 2008 7:57 AM
  Subject: [NAFEX] mowing orchards

        Could we get more of a discussion on mowing of orchards? I would like to know how other members mow around their trees and what height the lower limbs are?  Do many of you use roundup under the trees?
        BTW, my peach trees were absolutely prolific this year, and this was the year I did MINIMAL spraying (one dormant oil in early March and one after petal fall). The reason was that my mother passed away in early April and I had more important things to attend to. I had asked the list if I should start spraying in early summer, and a poster said yes, but I really wasn't able to.   So, now I have the best peach crop ever......they are practically blemish free. I have 4 trees, gave bags and bags away, canned 24 jars, and more to do this weekend.   The apples are another story.  But Stanley plum is loaded too.
         Also the ground hog count is up to 13!!!!!!  I think that is it for now.

        Lisa Ishimuro 
        Environmental Protection Specialist II 
        Bucks County Conservation District 
        1456 Ferry Road 
        Doylestown, Pa. 18901 
        215-345-7577 Ext. 102
        lishimuro at yahoo.com


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