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  • Jill MacKenzie

    December 22, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    So, I am a very conventional apple grower. I just want to share my perspective on having plants under the trees.

    We prefer a clean “herbicide strip” during winter to discourage voles and mice.

    We tolerate winter annuals like red deadnettle and hairy bittercress that bloom very early in spring and then disappear.

    Any taller, later weed that manages to germinate shoots on up and impedes fruit coloring on the lower branches, and really annoys the pickers. These people are managing a bag full of fruit, crouching down and stretching up, walking all day back and forth between tree and bin, for weeks on end. The last thing I want is to make their job any harder. So we keep the area directly under the tree “clean” as much as possible.

    We also generally don’t want flowering plants in the orchard after apple bloom. We don’t want to attract pollinators during our spray season. With domestic bees, we know they have been removed after bloom. But there are so many other insects that could be drawn into the orchard by blooming groundcover. We do them no good by luring them in and then hitting them with a fungicide or insecticide! So our goal is grass grass grass in the alleys.

    The worst thing for us is the suite of woodies that germinate from birds perching on the trellis wire. Poison ivy, cherry, sumac, grape, dogwood, mullberry, raspberry, honeysuckle, virginia creeper, buckthorn. . . . These we cut out by hand and paint the cut surface with herbicide to inhibit regrowth.