- You can spray chemicals to kill the grasses, and have bare soil. To me this is a bad idea. Not only do I not like strong chemicals near my food, I also know that chemicals kill off organisms in the soil that are trying to help my grapes, and my fruit trees.
- You can mulch to reduce the growth pressure. In some ways, this is a great idea. But you need to be careful that the mulch doesn’t touch your tree trunk, since this can encourage fungal diseases and root rot. Also, studies carried out by the Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens show that you get better water infiltration where you have growth under your trees, than when you have mulch. That’s important if you rely on rainfall or surface watering for your orchard.
- So you have grass, and forbs, and some clovers growing under your trees. And you just leave them there. They grow very tall, especially the grasses. Until the dense wet environment around your trunk does one of a couple of things. It either encourages rot, and kills the tree. Or it encourages a damp, warm environment that leads to disease. Plus it gives snakes a place to hide, and can be a fire risk as it dries out in Summer.
- Which leaves us with growing pasture right up to the tree trunk, but keeping your ground cover short. and that’s a labour cost.
There are jobs that everyone associates with growing fruit. Things like harvesting are easy to romanticise, even though they can be exhausting physical labour. People also think about winter pruning. Less easy to romanticise, but personally I’d prefer to be rugged up in the rain than sweltering outside on a 35 degree summer day 🙂 The items people tend to forget are the small, annoying jobs. Things like mowing. Things like de-suckering. Basically, there are a few options of how to manage the grass in your orchard or vineyard.