I have about 200 fruit trees at 8’ spacing and they are in their second year. I know that’s a lot of trees for one person to maintain - mowing and weed wacking is a full time job. I would like some debate from forum members on the use of weed fabric under my fruit tree rows. I am against herbicides, it is not an option. But realistically, long term maintence of dealing with weeds in my tree rows takes too much time. Mowing between the trees has ended in many broken hoses, even when the deck is high.
I haven’t seen any orchards using weed fabric. If I just wanted a 3’ strip down each of my orchard rows to protect my trunks and hoses from equipment, is this going to effect the health of my trees? The ground does become like cement under that stuff… but I figured eventually the roots would spread out under ground beyond the width of the fabric.
Or, leave a square around each tree and just use wood mulch for that opening, but fabric still in between the trees the rest of the way to lay my hoses on so maintanence is a breeze. Wood mulch is expensive though.
I just can’t keep my weeds and grass under control without some way to control the tree rows. How bad is weed fabric?
I am not sure what type of fruits you have, I have found that the fabric can be a problem as sometimes the quack grass weaves it’s roots right thru. I did, however, go to a u pick cherry orchard where they did just as you suggest it seemed to work well for them. They had no mulch on top and the few weeds that made it thru the holes were minimal.
I have a similar set up with my figs in a netted hoop house. I have
a 4ft.wide row of fabric on both sides of the trees separated by 1 ft.
of soil in which the trees are planted. It’s all mulched with pine chips.
I still get a few weeds, but they’re easily managed.
Sounds a lot more convenient then what I’ve been doing lol
I’m not sure whether I should go with 3’, 4’, or 6’ fabric? My trees are 8’ apart, I want as little as possible but wide enough to be able to mow under the branches that will eventually be an 8’ width.
What do you do with weeds in the 1’ of dirt between each strip? I would rather cover the entire area, but wasn’t sure the best way to do that with an opening for the trunk. ??
Also, any opinions on product choice?
Not sure of the differences for my purpose… woven, unwoven, weight? Lifespan??
I cut it into 4’x4’ squares and use under my fruit trees. No mulch on top. Whatever product you go with, make sue it is designed to be used without mulch (UV treated). Most landscape fabrics will fall apart in a hurry if not covered with mulch/rocks/whatever.
You have to use the woven if you don’t use mulch because it is formulated to withstand several years of UV exposure and spun fabric isn’t. You can use mulch with woven as well, and it helps rain penetrate the fabric which is somewhat resistant to rain, especially hard rain. Spun is more porous, much weaker, but will last a long time when covered by mulch. Either system may encourage voles, but they don’t take too much time to control in the fall if you are willing to use poison bait stations- peanut butter baited traps under trays are the eco-alternative.
Wood mulch and fruit trees don’t go together in my experience. Too many issues with voles/mice as well as fungal problems. If I were going to mulch, I’d go with crushed limestone or whatever rock mulch was readily available and cheap.
Well, I’d like some clarification on that. To say it has issues without explanation isn’t entirely helpful. What fungal issues? How did you try to control voles? I’ve managed an awful lot of small orchards over the years with mulch in the humid region, and mulch actually keeps the trees drier than sod, IMO, especially if it isn’t frequently mowed. I’ve certainly had no extra problems controlling fungal diseases of mulched trees. For voles, my worst issues occur in infrequently mowed meadows.
I forgot to mention one problem I’ve experienced with mulch that isn’t an issue at first but in the humid region may eventually become one. If you remulch annually and scrape off the old, placing it under the fabric, you can gradually make your soil excessively rich for fruit trees, making them too vegetative and probably reducing brix because of greater and greater water holding capacity and organic N release during the warm months when it serves vegetative growth and disservices fruit.
My trees are grown for deer first and humans second. The floor of the orchards is a clover mix (e.g.-foodplot), so that isn’t great for attempting to control voles/field mice/lined ground squirrels and the like. I use 36" aluminum window screen on my tree trunks for vole and other chewing animal protection. Bobcats, feral cats, and raptors provide the only other vole control.
I used wood mulch in an orchard on my old place in southcentral WI. It may well have been an anomaly but I ended up having significant powdery mildew issues the year I put the mulch down. Removed it the next year and no more problems. Was it the mulch? I don’t know. I don’t care either as I don’t need to use it to successfully grow my trees.
Dang Mike! I’ve seen it several times by now, but every single time I see photos of your orchard I just stare in awe! Holy cow that is a beautiful, orderly, clean, perfect orchard! That really ought to be in some magazines if it hasn’t been yet!
@jxz7245 Janet, I’m guessing you certainly know this, but since it hasn’t been mentioned by you I just wanted to be sure you know that you can actually spray around your trees with a round-up type weed killer and keep it clean that way. I’ve been doing it a few years as have others here and if you are even reasonably careful and your trees are more than a year or two old, it won’t hurt the trees and will keep all weeds and grasses away.
You might object to spraying, or not like how it looks, or have health/environmental concerns of some kind-and if so I respect that completely. But I just wanted to make certain that you haven’t ruled out spray because you thought the trees wouldn’t tolerate it. I mulch my trees heavily and also spray so it looks pretty good (to me). You don’t see big dead grass/weed circles, just clean mulch. Anyway, just wanted to mention spraying just to be sure you know its a viabile option, albeit one you may have ruled out for aforementioned reasons.
This is what I use Ground Cover/Weed Barrier
A 300ft roll is only $60. and will last for years. I have some that’s been down
10 years. I use it mainly for my melon patches, but decided to also try it in my fig hoop house, and it works like a charm. I prefer the one foot of bare soil, in order to facilitate adding and removing trees. If you’re that hesitant about spraying with a weed killer, hand weeding is not that bad. I always sit on a
stool with a bucket next to me. I applied the shredded pine mulch for aesthetic purposes, because it’s on the side of my garage, and visible to the neighborhood and I’ve yet to have any complaints in the six years I’ve had it up .
It took some work last season but I am collecting a very good dividend this year. Not having to waste hours weeding each weekend after coming up from the City is worth it . If left unattended it would be a knee high weed orchard in no time at all!
Last weekend I spent 12 minutes( I timed it) walking and picking off a weed here and there. Didn’t even break a sweat… Well maybe that was because of the rain …
It is absolutely crucial to keep the mulch at least six inches away from the trunk so the voles/mice can’t make a convenient fort for the winter and eat your tree.
On the other hand, wood chip mulch adds life to the soil, which sets up a biodiverse soil food web that impedes pests and greatly improves nutrition as well as the mycorrhizae. Fruit trees usually need a more fungal balance to the soil than what we’re giving them so it helps that way too.
One hot August afternoon the summer before last ( 2016) I had had it with weeding. I had to do something so this is what happened. First, came the decision that one of us had to go, either the weeds or me, and since they weren’t helping with the property taxes, I was not going anywhere. Second, the required goal (no weeds, no way!) became apparent. That was the easy part. Third, figuring out the best way to keep them at bay. From chemicals to roofer’s torches to goats and chickens. That was a tough winter on Google. Fourth, decision made. A hybrid combination of uncovered fabric between rows and a nutrative mulch over the tree roots. Fifth, find the right stuff to use… Back to Google, Amazon and Growingfruit.org. Sixth, have hardwood chips ( not shredded) delivered. 150 Pressure treated Lanscape timbers picked up. (Wait for memorial Day and 4th of July weekends when Home Depot had them on sale for $1.99 instead of $4.49 each). 5 oz. Dewitt landscape fabric in different widths for the different rows (from 7 to 9 foot widths). Seventh, the only benefit to last years late freeze that knocked out 90% of the fruit was that I had the time to devote to laying down the ground cover. Eight, sit back and enjoy!