We put some apple, plum and peach trees in last fall. Little spindly sticks, maybe 2 to 3 ft. tall. Should I be planting something else around the base of these trees? If so, what and where will I find it? The confrey in the posted video is taller than the little sticks I have planted, would that matter?
Are you looking for plants that are flashy, functional, edible, both, or something else? Do you want perennials or annuals?
One that I would strongly suggest is chives. Edible leaves and flowers, suppresses grass to some degree, attracts pollinators, and it helps prevent apple scab.
Another option is to let nature plant it for you, though I would suggest suppressing any grass invasion with a thick mulch. Most other herbaceous plants would be beneficial or at least benign.
If you end up planting perennials near a tree, I think that it is important to take into account the eventual size of the tree trunk, as well as the eventual shade that the the tree will cast. Planning for the mature trunk size will also help keep your tree from being shaded out by something like comfrey if you plant it far enough away. I'd say 3-4 feet from the trunk is a good general distance for most plants. It's also probably better to add perennials sooner than later, to avoid damaging the tree roots when you dig a hole for whatever you're transplanting.
Check out the book Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway for some ideas on tree guilds.
I'm a huge fan of rings of onions around with clover, vetch and buckwheat as cover crops. The onions grow right up through them and the cover crops provide nitrogen and mulch. I also got the onion idea from Gaia's Garden, so happy to use the normally "wasted" space around trees to grow my favorite garden crop.
Thanks for all the great ideas. It turns out I have a bunch of seeds from a club I joined and searched the list for perennials. Came up with a bunch of Herbs: Rosemary Lovage Broadleaf Sage Greek Oregano Hyssop Red Garnet Amaranth Thyme Tarragon Echinacea. I'll use what I have. I like the chive and onion idea as well.
i agree with agove, I have multiplying onions and chives around some apples as well as yarrow and I also would not be afraid of the comfrey..plant it about 2 or 3' out from the apple "stick" and use just a small root..it will take it a bit to OVERWHELM your apple in the meantime it will feed it..and the mulch will protect it..you can cut back the comfrey several times a year, so go ahead..
Bloom where you are planted.
we plant things like carrots, beets, radish, turnip and parsnip under out newly planted fruit trees. this way if mr. gopher comes along and finds my tree, the tree is the last of his pleasures. most of the time you get a nice root veggie crop out of it too. the following years are a mix of perennial herbs, strawberries and root crops.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
I have beans, clover, strawberries, onions, mustard greens and garlic planted under my apple trees. Don't know if those are the BEST plants for apples but so far they all seem to be very happy and productive.
Strawberries are a common crop for new orchards. The useful life of most strawberry plants is 3 years. By then, your fruit trees will have grown much larger, and you will have had 3 nice years of summer joy.
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