Cherish your inheritance (and a new style of mulching)

With the acquisition of Dreamland we inherited an existing mixed orchard consisting of well-established apple, pear, peach and cherry trees. These trees will be the main fruit bearers through the coming summer and fall – and for a few more years to come as well, so the time has arrived to give them some necessary care and attention.

Apart from the fact that Dreamland is right next to Homeland, one of the big drawcards that swung our interest in the property was the bunch of established trees. Despite being slightly neglected, the biggish established trees normally produce some really yummy fruit! Gae and Pauline regularly gave us some of their produce. However up to now, with all the new developments and planting going on at Dreamland, these trees have been neglected even more. They have had no “food” or water and the weeds and wild grasses have been taking over underneath them.

Existing orchard – neglected

So a multi-stage project was born. Every tree had to be cleaned of weeds and grass, then fed with fresh organic mushroom compost, irrigated and mulched properly.

As the ground gets harder and harder, it progressively becomes more difficult to remove the grass and weeds. Some of it I could still put out by hand (and sweat), but on some parts I had to use the whipper-snipper first, followed by a petrol tiller (Ryobi calls it a Cultivator) to thoroughly remove them. Originally I bought the Cultivator to try and get rid of couch grass – but it was a dismal failure at that. The grass kept clogging up the grinder wheels – and, besides, the couch just broke off and grew again. But for grinding out a few dried out weed roots from the hard clay soil, it is ideal!

Old orchard cultivator


So, the trees were weeded, a layer of new fresh organic mushroom compost was placed around each one, irrigation pipes were added, companion plant seeds were planted directly in the compost and lastly, the new trees were mulched. This time, we used seeds for the companion plants – we just couldn’t afford to acquire new seedlings anymore – we bought so many for the new trees that the budget has been blown through the roof.

Old orchard cleaned and composted

Royal treatment for the trees

Circular mulching

With these established trees I used a “new” style of mulching – I call it circular mulching. Yes, dear friends, it is now a patented method – one radish or equivalent small vegetable or berry for every tree where you use this approach… I wished! Jokes aside, the reason for this approach is that the trees are quite big, so the irrigation line along the tree’s drip line is quite big too. If I leave the compost between the irrigation pipe and tree trunk open, you can just imagine who all would like to establish themselves and grow there. So I mulched the inside area as well, and just left a thin strip all along the irrigation line for the companion plants. Less maintenance coming up, I reckon.

Old orchard ring mulch

Circular mulching

It was quite funny. At one time I was mulching the old orchard on both sides of the path leading to Homeland, so I had to cart in quite a few loads of mulch. Fortunately someone had previously trimmed a neat little “Y” in one tree where I could comfortable leave my rake when I went to fetch more mulch. No back breaking picking it up from the ground. It’s the little things that gives us pleasure!

Rake stand

Three or four “man-days” later and the job was done – time well spent! These trees will be feeding us for the next few summers while the others become established – especially the bigger ones.

Old orchard done

Job done

Late on the last day as I was finishing up, we had the most amazing rain! Large silver drops shimmering in the sun. It was such a hot day and the rain was gorgeous – I just kept working right through it. Unfortunately it didn’t come out clearly on my phone camera – but it was just so glorious.

Lesson learnt

You cannot put all your focus on new projects and new plants – oftentimes it’s the older established trees that will provide you with the most and/or best produce for quite a while to come. But they also need feeding, water and a bit of TLC.

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

3 Comments on Cherish your inheritance (and a new style of mulching)

  1. Wow that is a great job! I’ve just taken on a smaller sized orchard, but it’s still going to require a fair whack of work to bring it back to a reasonable standard (much neglected). Fertilising and proper mulching is on the cards for next weekend I recon.

  2. It will be interesting to discover what fruits your orchard delivers! When we moved into homeland there was a neglected apple tree that had a few sour green apples. After a similar treatment as above, it now mass-produces the sweetest crispest red juice apples! We still don’t know their name though 🙂

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