Companion Planting for Orchards
Adding more plants to your orchard area can help by:
- Providing nutrients to your fruit trees
- Preventing weeds from competing with your fruit trees
- Attracting pollinating insects and other beneficial insects
- Adding colour during winter
- Providing more food from less space
- Providing a wind-break to reduce stress to your fruit trees
Providing Nutrients and Offering a Wind Break
- Acacias and tagasastes have a symbiotic (win-win) relationships with most fruit trees by providing a renewing source of nitrogen and a wind break to the fruit trees. Many organic fruit growers grow small acacias (eg. Acacia floribunda) between their fruit trees.
- Also, when the acacias die (many species have a short 7-15 year life), you can use their dead frames as a trellis for climbers like passionfruit, kiwifruit and grapes
- Clovers are another great source of nitrogen
- Members of the Proteaceae family can accumulate phosphorous in the soil, providing further nourishment for your fruit trees.
- Deep-rooted herbs, especially comfrey, are great at bringing nutrients from deep in the soil up to their leaves. All you need to do to fertilise your fruit trees is chop off the comfrey leaves and place them under the mulch under your fruit tree. The deep roots ensure that they compete less for nutrients with your trees.
Preventing Competition from Weeds
- Food producing ground covers (including nasturtiums, celeriac and chamomile) are great at smothering grasses that otherwise compete for nutrients. Native spinach (warrigal greens) and fools cress (Apium nodiflorum) are other great edible ground covers. Deep-rooted globe artichoke, parsnips and horse radish are also great at controlling weeds while not competing with your fruit trees for nutrients.
Attracting Pollinators and Beneficial Insects
- Dill and fennel attract parasitic wasps which control pest insects.
- Lavender, peppermint geranium and rosemary attract pollinating insects, and they emit a lovely smell which confuses pest insects.
- For pest control it’s also good to attract insectivores (eg. honeyeaters) with a few scattered flowering shrubs like banksia.
Adding Colour in Winter
- Bulb flowers can be planted beneath your fruit trees to offer colour in the winter time. Daffodils, which flower in winter then die back for the rest of the year, are popular for this purpose as they never directly compete with deciduous trees.