[permaculture] grass in orchards

paul wheaton paul at richsoil.com
Fri Jun 1 13:13:49 EDT 2007

Last fall I tossed some old field pea seed under a fruit tree to see
what it would do.  Since the grass had not had much done with it, it
was kinda wimpy.  And the tree wasn't really happy either.  The peas
got to about six inches high and was easily outcompeting the grass.
And then the snow came.  In the spring - no peas.

Broadcast seeding does okay.  You just have to put down more seed.  It
would be nice to use a seed that is tiny - so you could use more, and
it would be less likely to be found by birds and the like.  But tiny
seed doesn't have a lot of stored enegery.

Austrian winter peas sounds like something possible ...   and recently
I read about the "miranda pea".   Does anyone have any experience with
either of these?  What time of year do they dry up?

> Thank you Paul for a practical thread,

No problem.  Permaculture covers many aspects of life.  But it's the
stuff about the soil that interests me most, so I usually just delete
the other stuff.

> 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.

Kinda like seed bombs!  A little clay, manure and hay is what we used
in the past.  Hmmmm .... maybe that could be the trick.  Rather than
doing packet 1 and packet 2, just make a box of seed bombs with the
stuff from packet 2.  Toss those out onto the grass ....

> Where competition for water is your challange, any thick herbaceous
> growth will reduce tree yield.

There's the rub.  Most of these folks have no idea what the story of
their soil is.  They don't know what frost zone they live in.  They
don't know how much rain they get .... nothing!  Hell, people with
orchards will till under the canopy or water trees at the trunk, how
can we expect people with one apple tree to know that grass competes
with fruit tree roots.  Or that herbicides would include fruit trees.

Please allow me to use the education of composting as an example.
When we study composting, we can optimize for pile size; limit the
heat in order to eliminate the bad guys, but leave some good guys;
increase the microbial diversity; increase the raw material diversity;
get an optimal C:N ratio; etc.  If we tell all of this to a newbie,
they probably won't do it and will just buy "miracle gro".  OTOH - if
we tell the newbie to just toss their food scraps and organic matter
in a pile and it will make usable compost (and maybe have some straw
or sawdust nearby to toss in to counter any smells), I think we have a
better chance of making progress.

So I'm trying to come up with something that might work for damn near
anybody.  Supposing there are 100 steps to permaculture, this could be
step 1:  "follow this simple recipe:  in mid september, spread out
packet 1.  In mid may spread out packet 2."  When they see the great
results, they might be interested in understanding the "why".  And
then they might even be interested in making it even better still.
Maybe step 5 would be the first step or two into a forest garden.

> 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.

I think I'm not shooting for maximum yield from the tree.  I'm
shooting for greater yield, healthier tree and less work for somebody
that knows little to nothing about tree care.

> Packet 1 and 2 would need to be designed to soil, moisture, climate specs.

Or would need to be a mix of stuff for most soils, moistures and
climate specs.

> Packet 1 would in my mind be a species that grows fast and tall and
> thick and then dies in winter.

Or dies in spring.

Or (not the best choice, but still workable) dies at the first of summer.

> Hairy vetch is a weaver between plants,
> not a dominator.

My understanding is that if you plant it intensively, it will get to
be six to eight feet tall by climbing on its brothers and sisters.

> 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.

Good one!

How do you suppose it would do broadcast onto grass?

When does it naturally die?

> 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.

Oof!  Kinda makes you think that there is a lot more to this!

> 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.

Stay with me!  I have a lot more to try and figure out here!

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