Re: [fukuoka_farming] intro- and orchard beginner ideas?
- carrieshepard wrote:
> We have a small orchard that I've added native plum, bush cherries,Hello Carrie,
> apple, and plum trees to and this year I want to add more herbs and
> bulbs and other edibles to.
> I'm very unclear about how best to do this. Last year I fenced in
> the orchard and ran some geese and ducks and they really helped
> clear a few areas of the bermuda grass. I've read that bermuda
> grass or any other grass steals nutrients from the trees? Anyway,
> I've sown some rye grass in one of the cleared areas and have it
> covered with row covering till it's well established as I have free
> range chickens who would gladly eat it all up for me before it gets
> growing well.
> Can anyone more familiar with Fukuoka's experiences give me some
> clear cut ideas for my orchard in particular?
Carrie, I would advise you or anyone with an orchard to seed the ground
with clover or some other nitrogen-fixing ground cover, and plant it
with useful herbs and shrubs, and to otherwise do as little as one
reasonably can. My experience is that Mr. Fukuoka is right. You can get
very good results that way.
It may also be good to plant seedlings of cultivated varieties instead
of using grafted or otherwise cloned trees. In the first two generations
at least, it seems, they produce acceptable to very good fruit, and may
be hardier than grafted varieties for whichever climate you live in
(since the weakest do not survive). Own-root trees may be a bit bigger
than is convenient for picking, but it seems to me that is only an issue
if you are trying to maximize production per acres. If seedling trees
are third generation or more, they may have reverted closer to the
"wild" type, which means they may not be human tastes (cherries on the
small side, apples a little sour or mealy, plums with a very brief
"sweet" harvest period, etc.). even though they will be hardier and more
trouble-free. If you look back through the archives of this group you
can find some discussion of this.
I imagine others can add more, but here are some of my experiences (you
can find some of Mr. Fukuoka's from the copy of One Straw Revolution on
the group web site):
The orchard I have now is a mix of young to middle-aged apples, quinces,
sour cherries, sweet cherries, peaches, and plums (the European
variety). Elsewhere there are walnuts and filberts. There are some other
fruit trees (loquat, apricot, asian pear, asian plums, figs, pawpaw, and
strawberry tree) that are still to young to bear. Just outside the
orchard are grapes (supported on structures, not on the trees), and
blueberry and raspberry bushes. I've begun to add saskatoons,
gooseberry, jostaberry, and black and red currants as an understory
between the trees themselves. If there is room I will eventually add
mulberry, medlar, date palm, pomegranate, and almond trees. The last
three won't produce reliably in this climate right now, but my guess is
that global warming will make my area a little warmer and drier in the
near future (the long-term effects of global warming on any one climate
are essentially unpredictable, unfortunately).
Except for some of my new additions, some of which are volunteer
seedlings, all of these trees except the quince are grafted varieties on
semi-dwarf stock or (in the case of the hazelnuts and walnuts) named
varieties on their own roots. They were conventionally pruned for some
years, and the fruit trees were sprayed most winters with lime-sulphur
mix. For the last few years before I acquired the property the trees
were neither sprayed nor pruned, as the health of the previous owner
deteriorated and he was unable to tend to them. The ground between the
trees was covered in a mixture of barrier cloth and recycled artificial
carpet (from the number of square metres I've removed, it looks as if
this was old carpeting from several different houses), covered with
several centimetres of bark mulch. By the time I arrived the bark mulch
had partially composted, and been colonized by a mixture consisting of
grasses and buttercup. In the past, but not since I've moved in,
chickens were allowed to forage on the ground between the trees.
I have not sprayed the trees with anything, nor treated them for disease
other than to remove blighted twigs or branches from the apples and
"black knot" fungus from the plums, or to remove blighted peach leaves
and twigs. I do not thin the fruit, and do not provide summer water
(except to the very young trees I planted within the last year). I do
not keep hives of pollinating honeybees, but I do put up nesting blocks
for the native "mason" bees. The former owner let the vegetation grow
beneath the trees and periodically scythed it down. I've used the
occasional pass with a lawnmower instead, since in my climate the tall
dry grass is a fire hazard in summer. In places I have removed the old
barrier cloth and carpet, dug in the layer of bark mulch, planted with
whatever shrubs, bulbs, herbs, and so on were handy at the time, and
seeded with clover. That has made the undergrowth quite rich where I've
done it, but hasn't yet affected the trees one way or the other. This is
a long term restoration project, since the feeder roots of the trees had
grown into the layers of bark mulch and carpet, and I don't want to
disturb all of them at once. I haven't added lime, manure, or anything
else to the soil. After a few "corrective" cuts the first year, I've
kept the pruning to a minimum. I don't plan to quit pruning entirely,
since I would like to keep most of the fruit within reach. Besides, as
Mr. Fukuoka found early in his farming experience, it is not good to
simply "let go" with trees that have been pruned all their lives.
All of the trees produce heavily under this treatment, with the
exception of the peach (which bears a few very tasty peaches or none at
all depending on the year). Peaches aren't really suited to my climate,
unless you grow them under shelter against a south wall and spray them
with copper sulphate. The plums are numerous and practically spotless.
The quinces are good, but tend to split when the autumn rains start. The
walnuts don't produce much, but they are still young. The apples and
filberts are the heaviest producers of all. The apples are a little
small by "supermarket" standards, with some blemishes, and about one in
10 has the core eaten by moth larvae, but I get well over a hundred
pounds per tree and all of the several varieties are sweet, tasty, and
good keepers (those obviously insect-damaged I make into apple sauce,
dried apple, or juice): they are good for at least 7 months storage if
packed with care in the bins I keep outdoors under an east-facing deck.
How productive the underplantings of saskatoon, gooseberry, currant,
mint, horseradish, and other useful plants will be remains to be seen.
Disease is no more prevalent than it was before; perhaps less so. A
heavy infestation of aphids came and went on the plums without any
lasting damage: when the number of aphids grew great enough, wasps and
birds moved in to eat them.
All in all, I estimate this orchard is producing much more good food
(even measured by mere volume) than other, more heavily managed,
orchards nearby, and takes very little of my time. I have not sold the
considerable excess, but have given it away to friends, extended family,
colleagues, students, neighbours, charities, etc. instead. However,
there are several local retailers for "organic" produce, and I may sell
to them next year, partly for whatever cash it generates, and partly
because it would be simpler than distributing the produce in such small
A while back there were reports in this group from people who said that
a Fukuoka-style orchard didn't work. I believe these were second-hand
reports, though, not first-hand. They might also have been reports from
people who were trying to make a go of it as commercial growers rather
than merely to become self-sufficient in food. It seems to me that given
the low upkeep costs an orchard of apples and filberts would be
worthwhile in my climate, given the relatively high prices that organic
produce fetches. Perhaps some of the professional growers on this list
can comment on the economics of Fukuoka-style orchards.
As an aside, I've found that with grape vines traditional pruning *is*
necessary. I also remove old raspberry canes rather than leave them as
is. If others have found a less interventionist approach works I would
like to hear from them.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Thanks for the great advice and sharing what you've done with your
orchard. I'm printing it out to add to my garden journal to help
keep me going in the right direction.
I just recieved my own copy of One Straw Revolution, so now more is
making sense. I don't quite understand why you enclose seeds in the
I really love his insights into education and as a non-traditional
home educator, can see lots of overlapping between how I choose to
live (a somewhat frugal stay at home homeschooling mom and wife) and
Fukuoka's choosing to live simply and farm. It's taken a lot of
frugal living support books and email lists to get some of my
childhood public schooled consumerism ideas OUT of my head so that I
am very content now to be home raising my animals and crops.
Fukuoka's do-nothing idea is very similar to that of the Solviva
author's message on 'doing no harm' that if I remember correctly she
recieved in meditation. Anyone who actually farms or in her case
spins and weaves AND farms knows that there is a lot of work
involved, its just the satisfaction level rises to meet the
challenge of the work load.