[permaculture] grass in orchards

Paul Cereghino paul.cereghino at comcast.net
Fri Jun 1 12:22:26 EDT 2007

Thank you Paul for a practical thread,

Here is my dilemma:  I keep meeting people that have fruit trees and
are hearing the word "permaculture" for the first time.  Some of them
are still spraying a variety of pesticides or using "weed and feed".
I have 60 seconds to talk them out of it - or to perhaps convince them
to use less.  If I'm convincing enough in 60 seconds, I might be able
to get ten minutes.  Maybe even get some seeds into their hands to
make a difference.

Some general thougths:

Weed n Feed was invented because it is very effective.  Switching from 
weed n feed requires a paradigm shift, or perhaps a healthy dose of of 
I have not had much luck broadcast sowing into sod because seed has poor 
seed soil contact, they are easy prey for birds and rodents, and 
seedlings are in brutal competition with established adults -- sounds 
like capitalism ;)
Sod let grow rank, then cut short, has gaps between grass crowns and 
more potential recruitment niches.
Fukuoka overcame some of the broadcast into veg limitations by pelleting 
seed (mash seed with clay, push through 1/4" hardware cloth screen of 
frame into dry clay poweder in shaker tray, lay in sun to dry).  I have 
experimented once with this and was not successful.
In an open competition situation you will not get replacement of one 
species by another rather a blending... you may need to change the 
management regime to favor the species you are introducing to get a 
strong effect without a preceding disturbance.
I belive you will need to apply a distrubance regime to create more 
niches for recruitment of your new species... heavy grazing, surface 
tillage, topdressing fine material, etc.
Where competition for water is your challange, any thick herbaceous 
growth will reduce tree yield.
Where tree yield is your primary focus you will be driven to solutions 
that are more labor intensive because maximized single species yield is 
not typical in a natural system.
Packet 1 and 2 would need to be designed to soil, moisture, climate specs.
Packet 1 would in my mind be a species that grows fast and tall and 
thick and then dies in winter.  Hairy vetch is a weaver between plants, 
not a dominator.  Consider broadleaf mustards or rapid annual grains as 
this nurse crop.  Many of the mustards also have the virtue of a tap 
root (daikon, rapeseed) -- Fukuoka again uses a lot of daikon.  I have 
thin germination in late fall planted vetch but pretty good cover by 
crimson clover and winter rye, but with strong impacts to establishment 
from soil saturation.  I'm in USDA zone 8-9 with very moist silt loam 
soils and abundant winter rain.  In my climate I'd move planting to 
early-mid fall to get good pre-winter germination and am thinking more 
about mid-spring to avoid inundation during establishment.  Fukuoka's 
books emphasize and reemphisize timing.  There is a story of him leaving 
his farm and the students bungling the timing of broadcast sowing into 
veg and it taking years to bring the cycle back.
In short, the magic pill 1-2 packet approach attempts to achieve the 
output of ecological design while still using the delivery model of 
2,4,D and the lawn mower.  I wish to heaven and earth it were that simple.
Keep it up, and let us know your results.

Paul Cereghino

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