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I am a landscape designer and have a client in Hyrum with an orchard of about 25 misc. fruit trees. Of course the clients want low maintenance. What is a good way to control weeds in the orchard? Turf? Bare soil and cultivation? Bark mulch? If turf is a good option, what variety? Thanks.

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There are several options for controlling weeds in the orchard.  One that is very popular in areas is to plant turf in the rows of the orchard and leaving the drip-line of the tree turf free.  If this option were used 203 inches of mulch could be placed under the drip-line.  I would not recommend using a regular turfgrass such as Kentucky bluegrass.  Grasses such as this have very different water requirements than trees.  You would have to water to optimize the health of one or the other.  The turf usually wins.  Grasses such as hard fescue or a type of cabin mix would be more suited for an orchard setting.  You may also consider buffalo grass.  Occasional mowing will be required.  With this information, I am assuming irrigation is available.

Tilling /cultivating on a monthly basis is another option.  It is easy, given the correct equipment is available.  In combination with this a pre-emergent herbicide this this method can be effective.  Consult the label for specific instructions. 

Weed control is also possible with products containing glyphosate (RoundUp, Killz-All, etc.)  Extreme caution should be taken to not get the product on tree trunks or within the drip line of the trees.  The latest research suggests that repeated glyphosate application made in these areas are harmful to many trees.  Also, do not use a soil sterilizer at all in this situation.

As with most things in life, there is no perfect solution.  If the clients are wanting a more manicured look I would consider an appropriate turf.  It would mean more maintenance than tilling.  If absolute low maintenance is the goal, tilling and pre-emergent would be acceptable.

Posted on 24 Nov 2008

Taun Beddes
Horticulture Agent, Cache County

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