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Apple trees and their plant friends? Recommendations?

 
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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This post is for anyone who knows of shrubs, ground cover, vines, etc. (things smaller than apples trees) that grow well and work with apple and/or pear trees? I'm looking for plants to grow within a 6 foot radius of the apple/pear tree's trunk (or even on the tree if it doesn't harm it).

For your reference: In a 7b/8a plant hardiness zone with sandy-loam soil. The fruit trees are in rows (and tend to be the tallest trees in the vicinity), so any ground cover will receive shade and sun as the angle of the sun changes.

PS I have a similar post related to orchards, but it is asking more about the big picture/system for Orchard Permaculture. However, information for this post (the one you are on) would be welcome on that topic as well, as it will play into that larger picture.
 
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#1 ground cover/living mulch/bio-accumulator for fruit trees is comfrey.
 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Cj Verde wrote:#1 ground cover/living mulch/bio-accumulator for fruit trees is comfrey.



Awesome, thanks! Any other suggestions for good neighbors to the tree? Something that provides something good to eat?
 
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Location: Northern Mich. Zone 5
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Jordan,

I would HIGHLY recommend video "Holistic Orcharding" by Michael Phillips. He has an established orchard with 80 different varieties of apples plus some pears and cherries. While his trees are in rows, he's become a strong believer in polycultures. A significant section of the video is devoted to companion plants he plants around his apple trees and to his chop and drop timing to best help his trees. I'll be watching this video several times as I try to improve the health of my small fledging orchard.
 
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In my limited experience basically anything other than grass is good! I've deep mulched with wood chips around some of my trees over the past few years and had very good results. They seem to set more fruits and cope better with hot dry spells in summer.

In the mulch I have a few things - some walking onions, some bunching onions, globe artichokes (thistle family so deep powerful taproot and the leaves make good mulch), comfrey (already mentioned - bioaccumulator), strawberries ( I'm letting their runners go all over the chips), rhubarb.

This year I'll be adding some more berry plants that I propagated from cuttings last year (red currants, black currants).

I'd like to add more of pretty much everything, but progress depends on mulch availability and the priority is the vegetable beds. Last year was my first with the comfrey, globe artichokes and various onions so I'm keen to see how they do in their second year. I'm expecting a lot more leaf to chop and drop.

I'm still looking for a good understory perennial n-fixer. In the short term I'm experimenting with sowing some dwarf beans directly into the mulch. Elsewhere in the garden I've some runner beans which are potentially perennial in our climate - if they make it through the winter they will form the basis for a breeding project (a perennial dwarf runner that can be planted near fruit trees to climb up them without further support, and without swamping the trees too badly.
 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Michael Cox wrote:In my limited experience basically anything other than grass is good! I've deep mulched with wood chips around some of my trees over the past few years and had very good results. They seem to set more fruits and cope better with hot dry spells in summer.

In the mulch I have a few things - some walking onions, some bunching onions, globe artichokes (thistle family so deep powerful taproot and the leaves make good mulch), comfrey (already mentioned - bioaccumulator), strawberries ( I'm letting their runners go all over the chips), rhubarb.

This year I'll be adding some more berry plants that I propagated from cuttings last year (red currants, black currants).

I'd like to add more of pretty much everything, but progress depends on mulch availability and the priority is the vegetable beds. Last year was my first with the comfrey, globe artichokes and various onions so I'm keen to see how they do in their second year. I'm expecting a lot more leaf to chop and drop.

I'm still looking for a good understory perennial n-fixer. In the short term I'm experimenting with sowing some dwarf beans directly into the mulch. Elsewhere in the garden I've some runner beans which are potentially perennial in our climate - if they make it through the winter they will form the basis for a breeding project (a perennial dwarf runner that can be planted near fruit trees to climb up them without further support, and without swamping the trees too badly.



Thanks! Keep me informed on your n-fixer quest, or any other revelations
 
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Horseradish.
 
Cj Sloane
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Here are my full notes on Apple trees guilds:

Comfrey, Daffodil, Iris around base to suppress sod. The comfrey is toxic to rodents.
Brambles growing under apple trees act as a mulch.
Fennel & nasturtium are good too.
Horseradish grown under apple trees it is said to prevent brown rot, powdery mildew and other fungal diseases.
Fennel as understory to protect from codley moth.
 
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I've had no luck with fennel or nasturtiums. When I planted my pear tree 6 years ago, I planted raspberries, strawberries, mint, bunching onions, and comfrey as well as some annuals. The annuals were gone after the first year, but the mint and strawberries filled in well (and have sold well at market), and the raspberries are now producing well. I hope to finally get some pears this year!
 
Cj Sloane
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Ben Stallings wrote:I've had no luck with fennel or nasturtiums. When I planted my pear tree 6 years ago..



What works for apples, wont necessarily work for pear.
 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Cj Verde wrote:

Ben Stallings wrote:I've had no luck with fennel or nasturtiums. When I planted my pear tree 6 years ago..



What works for apples, wont necessarily work for pear.



What have you seen for pear guilds?
 
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Autumn olives thrive underneath my apple trees. Every few years, I hack the autumn olives back so they don't get out of control.
 
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I kinda feel like the idea of guilds has messed people up. You can plant almost anything with apple trees let alone any other fruit tree. The list includes: comfrey, lupine, vetch, mustard, garlic, onions, strawberries, cane berries, sunflower, buckwheat, cowpea, nettles, daikon, borage, yarrow, bell bean, alfalfa, and even grasses like rye and oats. The better question is what you should not plant with the tree. Skeeter said it best, "the more things you plant together, the less problems you have."

Oh and a perennial N2 fixer... how about clover. There is a type for almost any climate.
 
Cj Sloane
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Jordan Struck wrote:

Cj Verde wrote:

Ben Stallings wrote:I've had no luck with fennel or nasturtiums. When I planted my pear tree 6 years ago..



What works for apples, wont necessarily work for pear.



What have you seen for pear guilds?



Oddly, nothing.
 
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Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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I read somewhere that daffodils are good around fruit trees to protect their roots from voles. Supposed to be poisonous, I think to them, or at least totally revolting to them.
 
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Location: Fennville MI
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Re daffodils; be careful not to confuse them with an edible allium. Eric Toensmeier writes of a scary moment when he realized his roommate had gathered some spring onions for a meal, but mistakenly grabbed daffodils. Problem recognized and managed with no harm, but if an experienced plant geek can slip up like that it is worth mentioning.
 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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What are some good taproots for apple/pear orchards? (Zone 7)
 
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Are you looking for things to plant between rows or around individual trees? If the latter, any dwarf fruit tree that suits your climate. Dwarf stone fruits might be good, depending on the full size of your apple and pear trees. You could even look into extending your season with several varieties of stepover apples if space is limited (they make a lovely hedge).

Citrus are excellent either way if you don’t get too cold a winter as they can cope with some shade in summer and the deciduous trees will have lost their leaves when they need the sun in winter. There are several citrus that will tolerate a mild frost if they’re nursed a bit through the first couple of years. I have a cumquat, a Japanese mandarin, and a blood orange and a Meyer lemon in sheltered spots which are surviving light frosts with only mild protests, but they do require frost cloths once it gets below freezing.

I have hazelnuts and currants growing on the shady side of my fruit trees and they seem to be doing well. Both of these would otherwise suffer in harsh Aussie summers. They may be a better choice for a poly culture as neither are related to pomme or stone fruits.

You might also look at something like thornless brambleberries (thornless because they’d otherwise block your path to the fruit trees, a mistake I only made once!).  I’d plant them closer in, though and use the tree as a trellis - my youngberry is currently doing an excellent job of protecting my lower crabapples from the birds, though they are taking longer than otherwise to ripen under it. Check how fast they reproduce though - one or two extra plants a year is fine, but you don’t want them to send runners voraciously across your entire garden. (My blackberry has a main stem and seems to only do a couple of extra bushes a year. I’m not sure if the variety as I moved it from a previous house).
 
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Morel mushrooms pair well with apple trees but intentionally growing them could be challenging...
 
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