apple/pear orchard companion plants

Asked March 1, 2015, 8:52 AM EST

Hello. We planted 10 apple and 4 pear trees last year. We want to be able to create a natural environment for this area. I found an article about sample companion plants for an orchard area (Fedco online catalog). Basically, they suggest planting living mulches, dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, beneficial insect accumulators, and pest confusers. While I like some of the ideas, there are some plants that are considered invasive (comfrey, horsetail for example). I would like to be able to do a lot of these ideas but I don't want to cause myself any long term issues by putting in stuff I can never get rid of. Right now the orchard is surrounded by a grass/weed mix. We keep it mowed down throughout the summer. To the south is an open field that a local farmer uses. To the west is a gravel road. Our acreage is very open. Thank you. Pat

Clinton County Michigan

1 Response

I tend to focus on a simple approach to orchards. There tends to be less problems with insect pests if you maintain a grass ground cover for most of your planting. Broadleaf plants / weeds tend to encourage plant bugs, plum curculios. Although legumes will provide nitrogen, they also harbor destructive insects. The use of mulch under the tree helps to suppress weed competition. Initially, clean straw serves as a good mulch, aged wood chips work well, especially if your soil is sandy. It is good to have flowering plants nearby that attract pollinating bees, but not in the orchard for the reasons given above. Living mulches are more useful in well established trees (7+ years old) but may be too competitive on young trees.