hello, we need to replant about 30 acres of mixed orchard in Spain. The current layout is to have almond, carob and some apricot and fig trees planted in a rows 15m apart, typically cereals would be interplanted between the rows. I do not have animals (other than some wild ones!) and do not intend to keep them. Would like to increase diversity, which would mean limiting Prunus family...but then this is a commercial orchard and almonds and apricots are the main crops in this area. Thinking about planting a second row in between the current one and encourage lavender, rosemary to spread under the trees. Can people share their ideas - what species would you plant? What density? Am I wrong in wanting to abandon cereals and the traditional layout? This is the area that normally experiences 6-7 month of completely dry and hot weather (air is humid, mind you but no rain), ground water can be saline and we are on the rock with just 1-3 meters of soil layer, depending on the spot. Erosion is a major concern and so is the shade, with 300 sunny days a year. Thank you!
Seeing the selection of trees you have, I suspect you'd also be well situated for pomegranates. I don't know how much profit there is in it, but there is definitely a market in the US.
Are you planning on using the rosemary and lavender as an additional crop or just as a low maintainance ground cover? Many other mediterranean herbs would flourish in the same conditions with the same care. Thyme and winter savory are the first two that spring to mind. All the herbs are great for attracting beneficial insects to your garden and the more you grow the longer the bloom season.
I like how sweet potato works as a ground cover in my garden. It might even be too vigorous, as it outgrew my squash this year. It sounds like your climate might be warmer than mine, and the sweet potatoes are perennial in my garden. You can limit your harvesting to where it won't disturb your tree roots. So far (in my limited experience) they have been one of my best plants for increasing the organic matter in the soil where they grow, even when pulling the vines for compost.
Maybe someone has suggestions for some drought tolerant legumes for nitrogen fixation.
That actually covers the three things I think about when planning a polyculture; beneficial insects, building soil organic matter, fixing nitrogen. I grow on the home garden scale, though. You'll have to wait for someone else to chime in on the commercial level.
Yes, should have mentioned pomegranates, persimmons and membrillo -they do seem to grow quite freely around me. And the thymd, unbelievably, I am unable to grow it, I tried so many times! I now suspect something is just eating it !
Ken, I think the wide grid is because traditionally in Spain people would grow wheat, or indeed beans and the wide spaces were simply more accessible to tractors. It is a huge issue though as with 7-8 months of drought these areas basically become like a rock (and then the first heavy rain washes the top 5-10cm away!). So I definitely think to increase planting density first, and underplant now with very resistant herbs. Would love blackberries, though . Ar eyou able to grow any berries where you are?
As for nitrogen, I am planning to use carob trees, have a lot of young trees arund the property, they are literally miraculous trees, completely drought and pest resistant and beautiful, too. Although there is some discussion about their nitrogen fixing, so maybe need to re-think that!
Blackberries grow great here. We even have wild berries. I grow thornless blackberries in my yard. I wish I could grow pomegranites. I've been thinking about trying but we have a cold winter.
Did you mean you were thinking of adding another row of trees or just smaller plants?
Your climate is so different that I probably shouldn't comment, but I think I'd want the rows close enough together to shade the ground once the trees are mature. That way the ground wouldn't get so baked, and when it does rain, more would soak in.
But there may be some reason for the row width that I'm unaware of.