May 10, 2010 at 8:56 am #252156
I’ve been so busy (in and out of the garden) that I haven’t been on here in ages! Anyway, the big news is that my parents bought an 8acre property just outside Bairnsdale in Vic. Settlement was a couple of weeks ago, and while we have already stareted doing work on the house (it desperately needed a really good cleaning and painting) we haven’t done anything outside yet, but are developing big plans for the future. Which brings me to our first project.
There is already a small orchard with about 8-10 fruit trees, you can tell thay have been there for many years, though all are struggling (some much more than others). This winter we would like to add to them and plant some bare rooted trees, but before then I would like to remove the grass that is growing under the current trees. It is reaaly thick couch grass that would be taking a lot of water and nutrients from the trees.
The trees are in sort of in rows, so the plan is to take out the grass to form rows of mulched fruit trees and set up an irrigation system down the rows that will be supplied by water from the dam. Hope that makes sense.
So what would be the best way to get rid of the grass? I think a turf cutter would be best as it is quite a bit to take out. I’m just concerned that it may damage the roots of the trees already there. Are fruit tree roots reaaly shallow? I know citrus trees are but there are no citrus trees in this part of the yard, just 2 plum, pear, 3 apple, apricot, olive. Or how close to the trees do you think we can go with the cutter?
Any advice or peoples experiences with using one of these would be greatly appreciated.
ggMay 10, 2010 at 10:10 am #464071andre_halcyonMember
We ended up putting broad rocks around our trees. It was to stop the chooks kicking away the sugarcane mulch but it is good (unconventional) mulch in its own right and definitely stops the grass.May 10, 2010 at 10:13 am #464072BobbeeMember
How big an area is it gg?
I have no experience with orchards, but I would use black plastic or cardboard [try fruit tree orchards for the cardboard] on the grass first. As far as the turf cutter goes, as I understand it, couch grass chopped into little bits would grow like the clappers unless you get every little bit out.
I have no experience with turf cutters or getting rid of really big areas of grass so I might have it all wrong………:shy: 😆 😆 it has been known to happen………..not often 😉 😀 but once or twice!
:hug::hug::hug:May 10, 2010 at 10:43 am #464073redhen2Member
turf cutters don’t work on runner grasses any better than a spade, in our experience. i wouldn’t use one close to trees anyway to avoid unnecessary root damage.
i would pull the grass as well as you can and mulch A LOT. as the grass comes back, pull it out again. it should get easier as it grows through the mulch and not through soil.
kathyMay 10, 2010 at 10:54 am #464074marzMember
We just let the chookies out there, they’ve done a good job cleaning up a lot of the grass – what about using a chicken tractor? You may have to build one to fit between the trees or 2 even and have a few chooks in each one. 😀May 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm #464075porgeyMember
Chookens are the go. Fence them in around the fruit trees until late winter when all of the grass should be taken care of. Then fertilise well with cow manure and lots of compost and in summer mulch well with sugar cane / lucerne / pea straw. Keep up some deep watering and hand remove any new grass growth. Enjoy the space. Cheers porgey.May 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm #464076ErthgirlMember
Yep chookens! :tup:May 18, 2010 at 12:59 am #464077SallyMember
Chooks are a good idea.
If that’s not workable, then you could try putting down newspaper or hessian, then a thick layer of mulch or course compost.May 18, 2010 at 1:13 am #464078MumchookMember
Chooks, black plastic, however if you let chooks right up to the trees they are liable to scratch down to the roots too. If they’re older trees, they may be fine for a while. The secret to whatever you use is to plant it up immediately after with whatever you’re going to use. Don’t leave it bare for too long!
We have kikuyu and tried different methods, eventually pulling grass roots and runners out by hand to a certain radius (haven’t finished all the trees yet), then immediately planting companion plants, herbs, green manure seeds, etc. We then circled the trees with wire fencing so the chooks wouldn’t dig up what we’d just planted and let them free to do whatever they liked inbetween the fenced trees.
The chooks have it just about bare now, so I will plant something soon to replace the grass and keep chookies out until it is established and them rotate them round more frequently so they don’t scratch the new plantings out entirely!
I tried the smothering method with paper and mulch but it stills grows through and up. Yes, it becomes an easier job over time but it doesn’t eradicate it.
All the best!May 18, 2010 at 6:32 am #464079bushyMember
Need lots and lots of chooks to do a whole orchard in one season.
Black plastic IMO is the best and cheapest and works on runner grasses…..may need a bit of follow up work but thats where the chooks come into play, they also keep down pests.
Dont even think about a turf cutter around fruit trees, no matter what sort of tree, all of them have surface feeder roots, same for rotary hoeing or plowing.May 18, 2010 at 7:27 am #464080mistyhollowsMember
We have the same problem here garden girl. I’ve planted an orchard of 20 + trees and we have couch, it’s an outright nuisance. So far the only thing we’ve found works is digging a circle outside the drip zone and then hand weeding inside the circle. Our trees are only young so we don’t have that big a circle around them yet but as they get bigger we’ll just expand the radius. We haven’t tried newspaper/weed mat but mulch them after weeding and it keeps most stuff out but you do need to keep an eye on the couch and pull out the runners as it comes up but as others before have said once it breaks into pieces it will grow from a tiny bit so you have to make sure you get it all out.
Good luck:tup:May 18, 2010 at 8:02 am #464081SpriteMember
kikuyu is an excellent miner of potassium and will rob your orchard trees blind of the stuff, if you let it. Apple trees in particular need a lot of potassium.
Solarise it and be really vigilant, because once couch and kikuyu get out of hand, you’ll never get decent yields from your trees.May 24, 2010 at 5:09 am #464082
Sorry I didn’t get back here sooner. THanks for the help though.
Unfortunately chooks aren’t an option. We don’t have proper housing for them yet, and we aren’t living there full time, only there a couple of days a week.
I was thinking of the newspaper/cardboard approach, just don’t know if I can get my hands on enough of it. I have also been looking into one of these biodegradable weed mat products like Jute. And then at least these are permeable to water.
The orchard area is approximately 17m by 20m and we want to create some rows for the fruit trees and also beds along two sides for berries, grapes etc to grow along the fences.
Thanks everyone.May 24, 2010 at 5:55 am #464083libran50Member
Hi gg I just mow my orchard and keep the grass down that way. I still get a fairly good crop of fruit. I weed around any young trees though.May 24, 2010 at 7:54 am #464084
Here’s a picture of the orchard (you can see the gravel driveway in front of it). THe trees that are already there are in sort of rows and we plan to add trees in the gaps and maybe another row or two on the right hand side.
And you can sort of see the fence along the left hand side and along the back where we would like to put grapes, berries etc.
I suppose we could leave it as grass, it’;s just that I thought the fruit trees would be more productive without grass right up to the trunks.
Open to any and all suggestions. 😀
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