Fruit tree basics

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Tasman, Sep 10, 2014.

  1. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Hi All,

    I hope everybody is having a fun spring. Its our first spring out of an office chair and its very exciting. Everything is coming to life.

    Very basic fruit tree questions:

    We have planted about 60 fruit trees in an orchard on our site(food forest project saved for another post). They are planted in rows on contour along a medium grade slope. The slope faces north. We have interplanted them mostly with tagasaste and siberian pea tree. There are a wide variety of trees pretty much mixed together. I am wondering about a couple of things:

    Watering
    Its been a pretty dry winter/spring, but we have quite a bit of water stored up and it would be easy to connect it to the trees. We've been hand watering. Originally I was thinking to run drip feed water to the trees under mulch. We've mulched a few trees with straw and positive results. I also dug a 20 yard on contour trench above some trees. The trench catches and retains rainwater (like a mini swale). I think this has also worked very well and the trees below it seem much happier. So I was wondering if I could make this the basis of a watering system. Could I just flood the trench every now and then and be done with it. This appeals to me because its simple and easy. I'd just run some poly pipe down to the trench and turn on the tap when I want to water. I'm pretty sure it would create more edge effect too.

    Under the trees
    I've been reading a lot about companion planting. But I don't really understand how it fits together with mulching. The trees that we have mulched with straw are certainly retaining a lot more ground moisture (especially the ones under the trench). But it doesn't seem compatible with planting a herb understorey. Of course, I'm going to experiment with it. But I'd very much like to hear (even better; see) from others about how they have handled the understorey of their orchard.

    cheers,
    tas
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Tasman,
    While I highly recommend drip irrigation under mulch, your on-contour "trench" (swale) system seems like the good ticket. It should create a water plume (as in Geoff's video) providing water to everything downslope.

    We are in the process of "filling-in" our existing orchard (as well as expanding the tree'd areas) and regularly plant anything and everything understory right into the mulch. For instance, our raspberries are also interplanted with vetch, strawberries, onions, pumpkins/squash, and seaberries. The onions have become perennial and divide each year, plus seed themselves, the strawberries expand via runners, raspberries by their roots, etc. To plant, we just pull back the mulch and place the seeds into the growing soil layer beneath. Everything is quite capable of pushing through the mulch. Our only setbacks with this have been the extensive deer predation ... most likely due to not having enough mature "deer food" planted further out!
     
  3. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    While my own food forest is large animal proof, apart from when I leave gates unlocked.... One idea I saw on gardening australia (tv show) was to have a radio running and the human sounds/talking was enough to stop/reduce native animals. Might be worth a shot as you could run it from a small solar panel on the out reaches of the food forest. I have plants close to my fruit trees but not generally under them, just outside the dip line. Sop did a nice video a while back during an open garden here that might give you some ideas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAsfNv2jDz8 The one exception is an orange tree which has a easter cassia growing right next to the trunk, I coppice the cassia a few times a year and use it for mulch around them. Both trees have 10cm trunks and the orange tree would be one of the best pest free trees in my orchard. I often train passion fruit up my larger trees like my mangos.
     
  4. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Today, I piled straw on the bank behind the drain, planted a variety of herbs on the bank and under the trees; then I dumped about 3000 litres of water into the 80 meter long structure.

    Observations:
    To my happy surprise the drain was relatively flat. I made it to be on contour and it was. The main cause of error would appear to be variation in the actual depth of the drain.
    It takes quite a long time for water to get to the other end of a flat drain.
    I'm a bit worried that once the drain fills up with vegetation that it will be hard to keep it clear and working. This problem could probably be addressed by digging the drain bigger (its small, maybe 30cm deep and wide). Anyway, its no sacrifice to try out watering this way over summer and see how it goes.

    I'm intruiged the solar powered talking stations Bazman. I've spent the last 4 months in terror of animal attack on our plants, failing to finish our fence and living to grow another day. But, sooner or later there will be a sad post to the Tasman's project topic.

    cheers,
    tas
     
  5. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    I don't worry about swales filling with vegetation as they are designed to hold water not make it flow in a direction. My swales went in 7+ years ago and are now full of local grasses 1.5m high, they still work the same when it floods. The only area to keep an eye on is the overflow points. I also don't have any issues with slight depth changes in the bottom of the swale as long as it holds water across the length and overflows where it has been designed too.
     
  6. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Tasman, that's quite the project! Took me several years to get up to 60 fruit trees. I wish I had interplanted more nitrogen-fixing perennials, but I didn't know about that then, so now I, too, am filling in.

    About the mulching, it's the best thing I've ever done around the fruit trees, really, really thick mulch of all the mowed weeds around them out to the drip line. It will shrink down and not cause trouble for any plants you put underneath it. It took almost 18 months for my clay soil to stop absorbing the mulch at such a high rate, though, even though I put it on in huge piles. Now it sits on top better after the first large spring layer.

    Because the fruit trees will need more water than just a regular perennial, the drought tolerant plants and herbs (like lavender and rosemary) can't go under the dripline of the trees, it's too much water for them. I use daffodil bulbs around the base of each fruit tree and perennial to stop gophers and voles. Then outward from that native nitrogen fixers, vetches, annuals to the dripline, because I just can't pick fruit and trip over/ accidentally step on perennials, or worry about friends who want to help smashing up the lower plants. It takes so much walking, reaching, bending, moving ladders, placing buckets and boxes when picking fruit or pruning, to have things in the way, I have to leave it relatively open.

    I can mow the weeds down in the open areas, clean a large area up quickly, get lots of mulch, and mulch heavily any perennials that are halfway between each tree. Then it's easy to get around the perennials and have room to get the mower in areas that are just overrun with weeds. This is mostly a spring problem, but there's so much else to do in the spring, I just can't hand weed or mulch thickly enough. The mower keeps me from feeling like roadkill at the end of the day. :)

    And I have lots of snails, and they get up into the leaves of the fruit tree. I used to blame the raccoons for going up after the fruit and breaking branches, but I found them going up even when there isn't fruit there, and I think they are after the snails! So I make bands of copper pennies glued to plastic bands around the trunks of the trees, snails get a shock going over copper. They eat the leaves and exterior of the fruit, too, so it's just as well to keep them out of there.

    My only other important thing is to find where the ground hornets are every late spring so I don't find them with the mower!! ouch!! :)
     
  7. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    About the watering, my dad always made small 1/3 meter deep channels around the fruit trees using a furrowing attachment on the tiller, and we kids used to love to run in them, then float boats in the little rivers that were created. They are about half way from the dripline to the trunk, and snake from tree to tree. He irrigated it with open flowing water to saturate the soil deeply once every two weeks in the summer. In general it's always better to really saturate so the water goes deep, then wait until the top dries out so the roots are forced to go down for water (and they find it because you put it there) and they will also get nutrients and minerals.

    Depending on the rootstock you got, will determine how much water they need. The dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstocks sometimes need water twice a week, so keep track of which rootstocks are where and what each says about what they need.

    I found out too late that it's almost always better to plant on their own roots, or grow standard trees, and trim trees to keep them at a good size, they live longer and produce more. So I start any new trees from scratch these days.
     
  8. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    I would think it would "depend" on how much water you have available and if you are required to ration it to use it elsewhere. 3000L is a lot to water 60 fruit trees but I suppose the companion trees will be included in that amount.

    A swale can fill and slump over time unless maintained so you need to keep an eye on them to see that they still hold water like you designed. Huge amounts of water could wash some nutrients away and if the spring appeared off your property, that isn't very helpful.

    Not sure if this will help: https://forums.permaculturenews.org...Irrigation-Day&p=120357&viewfull=1#post120357. A modified 2 line version of that on contour lines just under the mulch may work.

    I emailed Darren Doherty about one of his "Leeakyhose" projects and this was his reply:

    G'day,

    I used to have a digital version of the manual on this product but I am on the road so don't have it on me

    These pipes have proved very effective where the appropriate measures are taken:

    1. Bury the pipe 2-4" below the soil surface
    2. Don't use anymore than 1-2m (0.1-0.2 bar) of pressure to the pipe

    Good luck, Darren


    Page 20 of the Leeakyhose manual has a diagram of tree watering off a main line:

    https://www.premierextrusion.com.au/images/pdf/leeaky-hose-manual.pdf
     
  9. Bangyee

    Bangyee Junior Member

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    About snails: an old fella showed me how he dealt with them: he fixed a downward facing collar made of half a plastic bottle (or whateverreaches around the trunk like a stiff skirt) on the trunk at waist height. the snails would climb up the trunk but would not figure out how to circumwent the collar interestingly enough. Not before dawn anyway. They would just snuggle up under the collar. The guy would then pick them off and sell them as culinary snails. You could use them to feed chicken or smash them under the tree to provide some extra nutrient. (killing slugs and throwing their bodies under the plan to be decomposed and consumed by the plant they were chomping on moments before tends to bring me high levels of satiosfaction you see. :D)
     
  10. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    The different depths along your swale are not a problem and can work to your advantage. If you have specific trees or plants that require more water than others you can make the swale deeper in that area so that water concentrates there. The important thing is to make sure the swale lip is even and as Bazman says, it overflows where it is supposed to.

    If you were building it from scratch I would say, have your species that require more water closer to the swale (i.e. over the top of the water plume) and as you move further away from your swale you put the plants that require less and less water...

    How you handle the companion/understory planting depends on the species you are underplanting. If your tree is basically deep rooted then you can use a mix of more shallow or mid level rooting species and visa versa. It's always good to put in plants that beneficial insects like to live in, for your fruit trees this would specifically be for you predatory good guys. Similarly you can use plants with fragrance that can 'confuse' the bad guys. My suggestion would be to concentrate on one of your fruit trees at a time. I hope that helps and I apologise if this is stuff you already know (it's still worth putting up for those who don't)

    Cheers
     
  11. John Morrison

    John Morrison Junior Member

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    Gday Tasman
    I'm about to work in some swales in my system now and will be adding bush beans and pea varieties and cow peas and kidney beans as well as sweet spuds and pumpkins under the trees. Not sure if I'll get to harvest it all but it should add a good mix to the soil. If I had the load of straw you have I recken I'd still add these plant as well. I will also add a layer of legume shrubs with the direct purpose to chop n drop when the time is right
    Hope his helps
     
  12. Kit Carson

    Kit Carson New Member

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    Has anyone had the problem of peach or plum trees blossoming in late fall? Our rainy season (central Mexican plateau) lasted through October, and it's still warm, so the young trees seem confused and are blossoming profusely. We will undoubtedly get a few good frosts, and lose the whole year's fruit. Any suggestions?
     
  13. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    I did read the Northern Hemisphere people having issues on another website with that. Since you are going to lose the fruit anyway, pick them all off so the tree doesn't use resources in growing them.
     
  14. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Kit, my fruit trees do that, too. But they will get into the right rhythm because the days are getting short and the temps will drop soon. Do you get any frost there mid-winter? A month before you know the regular frost period will end (not random ones, but when the temps dip their lowest every night) start feeding them manure, and manure with pee in it, if you have it, some kind of high phosphorous/potassium source because that's what sets off the blooming. That, and the lengthening days.

    I have a apple tree here that probably should be in a different zone, and it literally blooms all year long, and gives apples. I have no idea who is pollinating it mid winter, but somebody is.

    I have had to be extremely patient with my fruit trees. They have taken a really long time to produce. But I just had a giant crop of apricots on a tree that only gave a few for several years, and I really thought it was a mistake on my part. But it proved me wrong.

    And, of course, be sure you have a different type of tree for pollination, not just two of the same type. Or at least that your neighbors have pollinators that bloom at the same time.
     

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