Living ground cover for between rows

There’s cereal rye in there too. I’ve been working hard to improve the organic matter content of my soil.


That’s beautiful. Do you have grasshoppers? If we had any tall ground cover in our orchard, the grasshoppers would carry the trees away :slight_smile:

Yes I have grasshoppers. They’ve yet to do any noticeable damage to my orchard or garden. In my experience, when you have a very diverse set of plants, you have a diverse set of insects and animals, and the pests are kept in check by the beneficials.


Thanks for the input. Sandy WI definitely describes my ground. Was it hard to get established?

It was unused pasture when we bought it. I sprayed to kill the existing grass, then right before expected rain I broadcast my seed and mowed the grass down on top of it. Small seeded stuff like clover work well this way. They recommend 6 lbs per acre if drilled, up to 15 if broadcast like I did. In September I broadcast 50 lbs per acre of cereal rye and mow down over it so then I have something growing over the winter.


Im playing around with the idea of trying clover between my rows so i dont have to mow often. Where is a good place to order enough seed to do an acer or two? Ive seen lots of clover types recomended. Not sure whi ch is best probably a mixture? Is it safe to roundup existing ground cover as long as its not windy?

Out here, with drier conditions more favorable to rangeland grasshoppers that go through boom and bust cycles, there is very little that nature can do to control them in the boom years. They can strip the bark right off trees if left to their own devices. Hell, they even like to eat through screens on windows and doors if it’s not metal. In a boom year, I’ve seen fields that would otherwise be tall with cover clipped to the ground like it was hayed (i.e., the hoppers clipped the cover at ground level and didn’t even eat the tops). So, I try to keep an area that is less hospitable to them by mowing (and let them roam elsewhere), and let guineas and turkeys clean up any invaders. I’ve been able to manage them that way without any spraying. Occasionally I find a big hopper that is bear hugging a young tree up higher on the trunk, go around the tree clipping it off. I pick those off and squash them. Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about invading rocky mountain locusts anymore – that might be an entirely unwinnable battle.

This article is a few years old, but points out how bad the numbers can get. That year, our turkeys were quite happy, even flying up into trees to reach grasshoppers in the trees.

One of the pictures above shows buffalo grass spreading by rhizomes. I have no experience with buffalo grass, but I planted my orchard into an existing stand of smooth bromegrass which too spreads by rhizomes. I place wood mulch around my trees and bushes. After two years this mulch is close to 100% effective at keeping all annual weeds out. The only weeds that get through the mulch are those spread by rhizomes. Think Canada Thistle, bindweed, and my most troublesome smooth bromegrass. If I were to start again I would first plant my orchard area to a bunchgrass. In my climate my choice would be crested wheatgrass - very drought tolerant. I do think there is value to also planting a clover or alfalfa. If you don’t kill the quackgrass before you start(roundup and tillage) you will have quackgrass spreading into your rows for all of your days.

1 Like

I got mine off Ebay from a seller in Oregon. Did a good deal for 20lbs of the dutch white clover, i tried to find someone selling a more drought tolerant dutch white clover or in a dryer state and apparently that is not a money making prospect for people as i found none. It has worked and i have tried to selectively breed drought tolerance into my clover by witholding water as much as possible.

Native prairie grasses will aerate soil 15’ deep with their perennial roots. Otherwise, Chickweed is a very easy non-native to green carpet with.

Luxin, I’m on the prairie, zone 4, what species of grass can I plant that will root to 15’? Admittedly chickweed is not a big deal in my garden nor my orchard, but it is a bugger to control in my wheat and canola fields.

I love the thought of using living mulch between my rows of apples but really not sure if it would be more of a hassle in a tall spindle orchard. is there a low growing comfrey?

I would like to incorperate white clover and comfrey but do not think a tall growing variety would save me much work?

I like that comfrey can be cut and used to mulch around the trees

1 Like

("what species of grass can I plant that will root to 15’? ")
I would guess he is speaking of Big blue stem.
That would be the deepest rooted prairie grass I know of.
( switch grass , is possibly second ? )
This is not a good companion for fruit trees, too competitive.
But a really amazing grass !

My thoughts of ground cover in the orchard are:…
The best varies from region to region
Don’t want anything too competitive .
Short cool season grasses seem good . They often go dormant in the summer heat. … And …
Use less water . When your trees need it.
So for here (Wv.) examples might be …
Blue grass
Creeping red fescue
Sheep fescue
Chewing fescue
Short turf type fescues
Avoid ky.31 and orchard grass , as they are too competitive
Clovers are good
Especially white Dutch , ladino , black medic, hop clover
The short lespedizas.
Red clover too but it uses more water.
Alfalfa also uses a lot of water .
These legumes often need added phosphorus and lime to get a good stand here.
Lots of native wild flowers in there for the beneficials
This all depends on if you what it to look like a “yard” ?
Or a functional ecosystem ?
In recent years , I mow less, let more native plants grow / bloom. I don’t want a yard, I want a good ecosystem out there.
I live on a farm, not suburbia, so it only has to look good to me
I try not to mow everything all at once, but leave some unmowed areas as habitat, and rotational you mow these areas. If one mows everything really short, there is no place for the beneficial insects to go !
Visitors may think it looks unkept, I despise a short mowed lawn ! Mostly I try to time my mowing to get the most benefit from what’s there,letting things bloom for the benificials, mow short sometimes to conserve water. Keep bad weeds in check. At the same time growing the most organic matter while not being to competitive .
So not that I am doing the best at managing this here, but I have been paying more attention to the good bugs out there, and encourage the plants they feed on.


So, I’ve decided to go with a mix of grasses and clover. I just got my seed today. I’m going to try a mix of orchard grass, meadow brome, white dutch clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and maybe some red clover too. I wonder if I need innoculant for the clover?

where did you buy your seed it should tell you if it was pre inoculated. But it doesn’t hurt one bag will treat 50lb of seeds and its only $6.75 Alfalfa/True Clover - Inoculant | Johnny's Selected Seeds


I just checked and they aren’t. I asked them just now and they thought I should be fine with those plants.

I’d purchase a couple pieces of comfrey if you have any. Not sure where you’re located but I’m in Portage WI.

1 Like

I have dutch clover that came up in my orchard, and I have to put down tarps when I spray insecticide, lol. I can’t mow it short enough to not attract bees to the flowers.

I seeded sheep’s fescue in a hot ditch I have to mow, because it’s supposed to be short/not really need mowing. It’s awesome! It survived our drought, too. It doesn’t creep but I wish it would. I’m going to finish the ditch in it this fall. If I were ever ambitious enough, I’d definitely put it in my orchard.

If it’s far enough away from good trees, sheep’s fescue can also be “weeded” with certain herbicides. It’s that scary herbicide for orchards, so I wouldn’t have the guts, but it works in my ditch for crabgrass, etc.