6 great com­pan­ions for fruit treess

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature | Orchard Planting Strategies -

Per­ma­cul­ture guide­lines rec­om­mend plant­ing com­pan­ions un­der­neath fruit trees to help with pol­li­na­tion, to at­tract ben­e­fi­cial in­sects which pre­date the non-ben­e­fi­cial in­sects, to bring up mois­ture and min­er­als to the sur­face, pass­ing them onto the tree when they even­tu­ally die down, form­ing a nat­u­ral mulch.

What­ever you plant, keep it around 1m from the trunk, to help pro­tect the root sys­tem of your fruit trees.

1 Berg­amot/bee balm

This is an aro­matic fam­ily of herbs, which means you gain an eye-catch­ing flow­er­ing plant which bees and other pol­li­na­tors love, and its flow­ers and leaves can also be used in your cook­ing. Monarda fis­tu­losa grows to 1m high, has an ed­i­ble sweet flower, and both leaves and flow­ers can be used as a tea to help with a sore throat. Berg­amot le­mon ( Monarda cit­ri­odora) grows to 60cm and has very pretty white or pink flow­ers, and young leaves can be used to give a strong le­mon flavour to dishes.

2 Chives, Al­lium schoeno­pra­sum

Chives are prized for their abil­ity to re­pel some in­sects (like aphids) due to sul­phur com­pounds in the fo­liage. The flow­ers are also loved by bees, giv­ing you another ex­cel­lent pol­li­na­tor for trees and plants, and the stalks can be used in cook­ing.

3 Daf­fodils

The later win­ter blooms bring in the pol­li­nat­ing in­sects, help­ing to en­sure your trees are pol­li­nated from first bud burst.

4 Cow pars­ley, An­thriscus sylvestris

This a wild mem­ber of the car­rot fam­ily – you’ll find it grow­ing wild on road­sides – and the Bi­o­log­i­cal Hus­bandry Unit (BHU) at Lin­coln Univer­sity have found it of­fers a range of ben­e­fits in an orchard, es­pe­cially when grown around and un­der ap­ple trees:

a wide sea­son of flow­er­ing pro­vid­ing food for ben­e­fi­cial in­sects;

peren­nial growth habit re­quir­ing lit­tle main­te­nance;

it out­com­petes grass species that would other­wise re­duce ap­ple yields;

it elim­i­nates the need for her­bi­cide strips or mulching;

it pro­vides a habi­tat for ben­e­fi­cial in­sects;

its tap roots do not com­pete strongly with ap­ple tree roots;

it in­creases rate of leaf lit­ter de­com­po­si­tion which pro­vides nu­tri­ent cy­cling and disease preven­tion ben­e­fits;

it traps black spot fun­gal spores that are shot up in the spring air from the fun­gus (which over­win­ters in leaf lit­ter).

Al­ter­na­tives: wild car­rot, wild parsnip, dill and co­rian­der, but they do not have them same pro­tracted flow­er­ing pe­riod or per­sis­tence.

5 Buck­wheat, Fagopy­rum es­cu­len­tum

This is a fan­tas­tic weed sup­pres­sor in au­tumn – it can even out­com­pete couch – plus a rich food source for bees, and it pro­duces an ed­i­ble grain. The BHU re­ports vine­yard Waipara Hills grows buck­wheat in ev­ery 10th row of vines and has found it suc­cess­fully helps to con­trol leafrol­lers (no in­sec­ti­cide was re­quired) over sum­mer be­cause it is a great food source for par­a­sitoid wasps. Other ex­per­i­ments on the BHU farm have shown it also helps feed par­a­sitoid wasps that pre­date wheat aphids and the di­a­mond­back moth. The re­sult was buck­wheat (and also phacelia, which also tested well) is now planted through­out the BHU gar­dens ev­ery 20m in se­quence (so it is con­stantly in flower) to pro­vide pro­tec­tion against aphid and cater­pil­lar dam­age.

6 Com­frey, Sym­phy­tum of­fic­i­nale

Citrus has very shal­low roots. Com­frey pro­vides a deep root­ing, non­com­pet­i­tive un­der­storey that ef­fec­tively brings nutri­ents up from lower in the soil pro­file and ful­fils other roles such as out­com­pet­ing weeds and grasses and im­proves soil con­di­tion. A fur­ther re­fine­ment to the sys­tem is that ducks or geese can be used to graze and man­age the height of the com­frey.

Note: com­frey can be in­va­sive and will grow from any tap­root left be­hind in the soil. This is why it’s of­ten used free range in or­chards, but is bet­ter con­trolled (eg, in pots) in a gar­den.

Source: Peren­nial Crop Un­der storeys, www.bhu.org.nz

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