hi there,

We are on a sloping, windy, urban section in coastal Christchurch but have planted a good selection of fruit trees (Feijoa, Lemon Meyer, Apricot, Plumcot, Conference Pears, Apple trees). They are all 2 or 3 years old now and most (not the pears) have produced a respectable first season of fruit. My question is what is the best thing to grow underneath this whole orchard area. It's just bare ground (and weeds!) with a bit of mulch and old carpet around the trees themselves at the moment. I'd like to plant something that attracts some bees, looks OK (well anything would be better than the weed-fest there at the moment) and won't compete with the fruit trees.... Any ideas would be hugely appreciated!

Kathryn

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Borage is an exalent companion plant for a wite veriaty of trease and vege
not a plant, but I would be tempted to go for chickens. they would keep the weeds under control

Kaiwaka gardens up north do some great 'orchard mix' packs that we planted around ours to get them going.  There are red clover, physillium , tansy, parsnips and other bits in there.  We've also got parsley with the feijoa, comfrey everywhere, chives, garlic, lemon balm.  From what we read it's good to have things that flower at different times to keep the beneficial insects around all year in enough numbers that they can respond to any nasties infestation quickly.  Plants with long roots (parsnips etc) are also good as they bring up goodies from the deep soil - plus apparently your tree roots can piggyback their roots down to deeper soil.  Even flowering bulbs are good.. and pretty too :) Have fun.

 

http://www.kaiwakaorganics.co.nz/aimana

Actually, the (broadleaf) weeds are better than grasses - tree friendlier and do more soil-conditioning.

 

- comfrey: a deep-rooting nutrient accumulator

- garlic: (in root zone of pip fruit trees) - apparently they take up enough of the odiferous stuff from the garlic to repel some pests but it doesn't taint the fruit.

- borage (but keep it under control.) attracts bees

- umbelliferous plants (carrots, parsley, coriander, fennel etc.) attract predator insects

- nasturtiums

- Basil near peach and apricot trees (pest repellent)

- legumes such as peas or lupins

- mexican marigolds (soil conditioner, insect repellent, nematode repellant)

 

Companion trees:

- tagasaste (tree lucerne) on any side that you need a windbreak

- kowhai (planted near plums - can attract tui who will keep other birds away from the plums)

 

Chickens or ducks would be very beneficial, whether free-ranging or in a "tractor" pen. In which case plant some of their favourites.

You're more than welcome to download my own notes on an orchard understory development from my website http://piginthemud.com/content/understory   Cheers and good luck

Thanks Tim, That's great reading! Lots of ideas :-)

 

Chives are a good companion plant for around apples, Horse radish is another good deep rooted companion, phacelia  and lavender are good bee attracters. Lemons prefer to have no competition from other plants, particularly close to their trunks. foxgloves are a good companion for all plants.

Thanks for all your great tips!! I feel quite inspired to get out there and create a lush paradise for all those bugs...

I should add that we have a constant battle with thistles as we have empty sections on either side of us that are FULL of them! So far we have resisted all temptation to nuke our ones with nasty chemicals and have tried both weeding (hard work) or just strimming them down to ground level. Of the suggestions already made, which plants would have the most chance of winning against the thistles and what time of year is best to sow? Thank you!

I would say nuke the thistles with round up or similar, there is nothing that can compete with them, and definitely to it on the empty sections either side, you could be nice and ask the owners, but I doubt they would have a problem with you doing it if you dont aske permission as it would be to their benefit. It should not take too long to nuke the lot.
Can you borrow a donkey from anywhere, Kathryn? According to an organic farmer friend, you can put donkeys into a field with excellent fodder and they will eat all the thistles before touching anything else.
they only eat them after they have eaten everything else and also it doesnt kill the plant as it can grow back from the base, a weed eater would do the same job

Depends in part on your thistles - Scotch are OK to grub out (permanent solution for that plant), as long as you get a good inch or so down from the soil surface.  

Californians are blighters to get rid of, as they have underground runners. Chemical is the only permanent method that I know of. 

You hit the nail on the head re getting rid of the source from over the fence.  Also, by strimming you can take off heads before they flower, and may also be able to slow down the roots by limiting the photosynthetic inputs to the plant.

Regarding an organic approach - have a look at http://www.organicpathways.co.nz/business/story/67.html - they agree with mowing if they are Californian.

 

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