May 24, 2021 at 4:59 pm #5177Elise BakerParticipant
Does anyone have any recommendations for the best orchard grass? I’ve just planted 1000 trees on some sloping ground and need to determine what grass is going to be the least invasive when it comes time to harvest. I’ve considered annual grasses that are typically used for feed, but I’m not sure that will work. Your thoughts are appreciated.
September 2, 2021 at 12:41 pm #5687Kathleen SedehiParticipant
Have you decided what you are doing with flowers in your cover crop?
I’m going to plant a cover crop this fall and am interested in adding flowers to the mix. I want to understand if I should or SHOULD NOT include nitrogen fixing plants in the orchard.
I’d love to learn from what you have learned. I had the conservationist from NRCS out and she concluded that a cover of creeping red fescue would be an advantage as when it goes dormant in the winter it gets quite sparse which makes for lots of room for digging truffle. I just want to mix in some flowers for the beneficial insects and diversification of species in the field.
Any input is appreciated.
- This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Fabrice Caporal. Reason: Was duplicated, replaced with email question
September 2, 2021 at 2:22 pm #5695Fabrice CaporalKeymaster
I did plant this mixture last year with various success.
It looks like the grasses did not like it much… The most successful flowers were the Lacy Phacelia and the California Poppy. All the other flowers appeared only anecdotally. To note, this might be a totally different observation next year as some of those plants are biennials or perennials.
The problem with flowers is that they are very expensive, so you will have to hit a compromise. To try to save in cost we have chosen to promote self reseeding. We did is to not mow the center of the lanes until the end of June to give a chance for the cover crop to go to seed.
The challenge with that approach is that it got quite wildly and at the end we were concerned with exposure to wildfires. Toward the end it was also getting hard to work out gopher activity as the growth (including the local volunteer) was over 4′ tall.
The advantage is that it saved us at least two mowing of these areas which resulted in less compaction, less labor and less gas. We have noticed a significant (not measured) increase in bird population and we were very happy to see the multitude of pollinators.
The success of your seed mix is directly correlated with your soil. As you know we have a wide variety of soil type in our orchard and we have witnessed a very diverse plant populations throughout. Going from spots with zero germination to some areas that looked like hundreds of plants were thriving.
As for the question regarding the nitrogen fixing plants I have received mixed feedback. Ground cover is used in “standard” farming to replenish the soil nitrogen level and other nutrients, so to promote better successive crops. My understanding of the use of cover crop in a truffier is different.
We have decided to not include Nitrogen fixing plants, but I don’t have a solid argument for or against. I have read that it could be detrimental for truffle growth if the soil is well irrigated and too rich. There is a THEORY that stipulate that the trees tolerate the “truffle tax” on their sugar because the trees needs the truffle to absorb nutrients and water from the soil and if the soil is too rich then the tree can thrive without the help of the truffles and thus would reject the truffle. However there are other papers showing the importance of soil nutrients in the successful mycorrhiza development. Which throws away the first argument.
Some have argued that the cover crop may even compete with the trees, however I believe that our cultivation practices mitigate that risk. We are growing truffles, not trees. We have seeded the cover crop in the middle of the rows only and 4 feet away from the trees (at least while they are young, later on the brule will take care of this). Because the cover crop is mulched back in place we are not depleting the soil of nutrients and in effect we are increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil and improving carbon fixation.
In the end I have decided to use cover crops for these reasons: Increase biodiversity in the orchard, protect the soil from erosion and direct exposure to the sun, limit compaction of the soil. The increased biodiversity will promote the development of a more resilient and balanced orchard which should result in being more productive. The protection of the soil from the elements will help with the development of the biodiversity all the way to the top soil where the truffles grow. Compaction will be mitigated by both shielding the top soil from the droplets and the roots working the soil texture (this is why it is important to choose species based on their root system as well).
For this year we may decide to adjust the mixture but we will certainly do another round of seeding.
Early spring sparsed germination
A more dense germination
Later on in the season
Cover crop in the middle of the rows and soil cultivated in the tree line
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