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orcharch establishment and long grass

Posted by banyan NZ z10 (My Page) on
Wed, Dec 4, 02 at 23:37

This is a repost from the organic forum, see if anyone different answers here :-)

I have an area of long grass that I want to convert into an orchard. Its about 3 acres, and the grass on it (mainly Paspalum spp) is currently around 4-5 feet tall! Rather daunting....

I need some advice here. Using organic methods on a smaller area, I'd usually go in and mow the grass, then sheet mulch it with newspaper covered by the organic matter, and then establish my orchard and ground covers through the mulch. But this 3 acres is going to need a lot of newspaper, and its on a reasonable slope.

Is it possible that simply mowing this much grass and weeds down hard and leaving it where it falls could sufficiently suppress regrowth while my crop and ground covers establish? Or is this just wishful thinking...?

I'm aiming to establish scarlet runner bean as a permanent ground cover (perennial in my area), and apply alley cropping techniques with various Acacias, Paraserianthes lophantha, and a few other legume trees. I need to get these sown asap, but need to control the grass first.

Any advice welcome!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: orcharch establishment and long grass

I think it's going to depend on how sensitive Paspalum is to short mowing or overgrazing (does it persist in sheep pastures, for example). Over here, the tall native grasses I'm familiar with will suffer from repeated close mowing or grazing and could be suppressed by that method.

RE: orcharch establishment and long grass

g'day banyan,

i mowed the grass in the area i wanted to start my orchard in then planted my trees amending the holes as i did i used newspaper over the grass area and covered with compost and cow manure then covered with mulch, i did this around each treew then we laid newspaper over the grass between the trees and covered this with mulch.

our trees are planted along the contours, the area around the trees was done out to about 20"s from the plant, this will be increases to maintane a mulched area to the drip line of each tree as they grow.

we now just slash the grass between the rows and let it compost down this adds extra nutrients, and encourages a good soil structure and stops moisture loss.

if you wanted to add to the grass between the rows you could sow alf alfa or clover or any of those pasture improvers. if you contact a recycler you should be able to access all the newspaper you need. just keep topping up the mulch as is needed.


mail len

lens garden page

RE: orcharch establishment and long grass

Hi I have a similar situation, live near seattle and have about 2 acres of lawn, about half of which I used to plant some fruit trees and nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs. Now I want to kill the grass between the trees in order to plant understories of clover, flowers and some edible and beneficial perennials. I am planning on sheet mulching except cant for the life of me gather enough cardboard or newspaper for such a large area, am stunned at how unavailable it is in large quantities- it seems most of the larger stores around here get paid to recycle it so dont want to give it away. I have been rounding up burlap sacks and am considering using some old white cotton fabric I have, but my concern with the fabric is A) the bleach used to make it white and B) perhaps it isnt 100% cotton, dont know how long it may take to decompose. And also, I have read that an impenetrable layer can smother the earthworms underneath since they need to come up for air. Yikes! I have lots and lots of them, the soil is soft and the only problem is the cursed grass (no particularly invasive type, just well-established old pasture grass). Sorry to ramble, but I am wondering if I should use the fabric and if using it wont kill my wormies! Am also wondering if 3 inches of compost on top and then a mulch will be enough to build the soil (It is sooooo expensive to buy that much compost, i dont have a truck and am establishing a compost pile but so far it is small). Am also wondering if I can plant my seedlings and seeds directly into the compost (it is aged already) or do I need to wait...
Sorry to ask so many questions but I am so new to all this! Thanks....

RE: orcharch establishment and long grass

One thing that I am going to try is smothering the grass with a dense cover crop. My first shot at it will be using buckwheat, thickly sown. The recommended amount of seed to sow for this particular use is 3 lbs per 1000 sqft (about 31'x32').

Buckwheat is a fast, heavy grower that produces a lot of top growth (said to shade out just about all weeds), and it produces a lot of underground growth as well, but it is not nitrogen-fixing (I'm thinking of dealing with one problem at a time).

It appears that it grows so fast that you can mow and resow several times in the season (before the flowers set seed), and when the first frost comes, it will kill it and it will lay down to protect the soil. If you let it flower and go to seed, the honeybees will love the flowers, and it will reseed by itself. Of course, if the birds or your chickens 'distribute' the seed, you may have it everywhere next year.

We shall see.


Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in California has some good charts and info on cover crops.

Here is a link that might be useful: Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, home page

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