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Understory plants for fruit trees

Understory plants for fruit trees


Understory plants for fruit trees

During the fall of 2019, my husband and I are embarking on the daunting task of getting rid of our extensive fruit orchard, which is about 3/4s of an acre, and moving our home and family to another site. We have finally reached a point where we know exactly what we’re looking for in a new site, and have narrowed it down to 5 properties, but this weekend we had our first site visit. The woman we spoke with was a perennial Gardener of the South, and from the way she described things, she really gets it. She’s full of great ideas about our type of climate here in Houston, and how to best deal with the abundant summer heat and numerous summer storms. One of our biggest problems has been “Searing August Heat,” and she offered many suggestions for understory plants that will help moderate the heat, but also help shade the trees and block sunlight from early spring to late fall. She said that yellow goldenrod and bergamot (prickly pear) will help shade early spring trees, and they’ll also help moderate the heat. I learned so much during our visit and am looking forward to our next visit in late April, when she will go over our property and present us with many more ideas. We’re pretty much giving away our house, and my husband will be staying here to run the farm, so we can’t afford to be choosy about getting a new house, or neighbors that will be difficult to live with.

Our best offer has come in to us already, and she said she doesn’t expect to see any counter offers, which means we’ll take that offer on April 30. There is a ton of work to do, and as of this writing, we’re just now starting on site preparation.

I’ll be sharing some of her ideas with you, but first, let me tell you a little more about us. In 2003, our home was destroyed by Hurricane Rita, which devastated most of the Texas Gulf Coast. All of our major trees, shrubs, and perennials were either destroyed, or severely damaged. The devastation was so complete that we had to start from scratch. We’ve had to rely on organic orchards and gardening, and our farm, since then. Now, my husband and I have moved our family to Houston, and we want to become more self-sufficient, and continue to increase our food production. We are full-timing our homes and homeschooling our kids, and this involves living in more than one climate zone, because we won’t have a house in one area until the weather is warmer.

For most of my gardening experience, I’ve been a hybrid gardener and haven’t depended on understory plants as much, but now I’m seeing the benefit. I’m planning to have a large weeping cherry near our front door and throughout our garden and backyard, and I’ve heard that some of our blueberry bushes will be close to the house, and they won’t be producing for at least two years. Since we haven’t used pesticides on our farm in several years, and didn’t want to use any on the new farm, it seems we have a lot to learn. Many of these new species we’re adding should also be biennial for their first year.

We’re blessed to have a large heated greenhouse, but we will be limited on a lot that’s nearly two acres in size, with no sun in the winter. I was in shock when she told me that we don t have many places to plant groundcovers to help shade our summer plants, and she has come up with several ideas for the water in our planter. In some areas, water will be so limited that we will have to grow plants in pots or in the planter. I would like to find out more about biennials, and she’s going to have me create some seedlings from her own seed collection. I ll be busy for awhile.

Suckers from peaches

As you know, we have a huge orchard and plan to add more. This is why I want to learn more about what s best for our new home, and to have an extended list of the best understory plants for any area. The first ones I ll share are some understory plants we ve learned about from her. The first are from a planting at the Alabama Botanical Gardens called, The Wedge. The plants that she says to plant under apple, peach, and nectarine trees, are given to us in the January Gardener column on the SBG website. I can t wait to put these in and see how they do, along with an article she wrote for Sunset magazine that gives some really good understory plant ideas.

The first two are goldenrods and prickly pear. Both are biennials, and it doesn t seem to matter where you plant them, just get them in the ground during winter, and the following spring, transplant them. I ll be looking for white and yellow ones. I ve read that pricklepears are harmful to beak seedlings from peaches.

June 2007. We have a large field of blueberries, and the number of bushes that didn t produce berries is astounding. Because of the humidity here, we have many of the berries


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