Freshening the Orchard

Those cages we placed on our fruit trees back in February have done their job well. As far as we know, the deer have more or less left them alone. I say “more or less” because we haven’t seen much deer damage, although we did find a suspicious turd in one of the cages that Amanda believes came from a deer. Who knows?

Although they’ve done a great job protecting the tender trees from the deer (at least so far), the cages have also protected from US the weeds that tend to grow up around the trees. This week Amanda decided she’d had enough of seeing the weeds taking over, so it was time for the hired help to swing into action.

First we removed the cages. Fortunately, the cages are attached to their t-post support at only two points, using lightweight wire we can twist off with our hands, so removing the cages was pretty simple. The hardest part was disengaging the cages from the weeds that had wrapped themselves around the lowest wire with tough, tenacious runners.

Next I used our lawn mower, the kind you could buy at any hardware store, to mow as closely as possible around each tree. Fortunately, the heavy layer of hay mulch Amanda had applied had suppressed most of the weeds around the trees in the Barn Orchard. The main weed problems right next to the trees were in the East Orchard, where we must have been running low on hay. The weeds had no problem coming right up through the thin (1″ or so) layer of hay we had placed there.

With the cages gone and the weeds cut away, I sprayed around each tree with 10% vinegar. We bought four gallons of Nature’s Guide 20% vinegar from Marshall Grain Co. I just pour in half as much as what I think I will need and pour in that much again from the hose to yield 10% for spraying. The vinegar kills whatever it touches but has no residual effect. Just think of it as a gentler form of Roundup. We know it works, because we used it to kill the crabgrass that’s begun taking up residence on the north side of the pole barn floor. The tricky part about 10% vinegar is that we must be very careful not to let it touch the fruit trees themselves. So we kept our spraying very close to the ground when we were near the trees.

With the vinegar applied, Amanda followed up with a nice thick layer of hay around each tree, not just enough to reach the cage, but enough to extend beyond the cage and create a zone around each cage that we hope to maintain weed-free. Then I re-installed each cage, and we were done. The operation took about 20 minutes per tree when you combine all the steps.

The video covers all the steps and runs about two minutes.

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