Gardening: Ley abouts help fruit trees

By Leigh Bramwell

Our neighbour, Keith, who's in his 70s, has been gardening for years. He went from working for an agri-chemical company to establishing and running a successful organic citrus orchard, which gives you an idea of how forward-thinking and flexible he is.

Every now and then he comes out with a gem of wisdom which proves invaluable in the garden.

His latest offering is this: buy half a dozen pots of lavender and stick them in the fork of a branch about halfway up your fruit trees.

Hmmm. Bit of a weird design feature, I thought, but he wasn't out to make a style statement. The lavender will attract bees, which will then pollinate the fruit trees, he reckons.

Lord knows whether it works, but much of what he tells us does, and it'll be a cheap, interesting experiment at the very least.

The Landscaper dearly loves lavender, so having pots of it hanging around in the orchard will be no hardship. He may even take it a step further, he thought, and underplant the fruit trees with different varieties of lavender, which would, I admit, look quite a lot better than the neat but uninspiring circles of bare earth that facilitate easy mowing.

A step or three on from this is herbal ley, a living grass ground cover that helps to control and suppress weeds, retain moisture, prevent erosion and attract beneficial insects and bees. Herbal ley acts as a nutrient fixer and recycler, and there's no question it looks better than the bare earth circle. You can create your own ley for different purposes so, if you want to enhance the look and productivity of your fruit trees, find a mix designed for orchards.

Trees don't naturally grow in isolation or surrounded by lawn or bare earth so it's easy to see how herbal ley will enhance tree health.

Bear in mind, though, that in this context the word "herbal" doesn't mean thyme, rosemary and the like. It actually refers to "herbage" - leafy green ground cover and low-growing plant species.

The way to go about it is to skim off lawn around the tree and then sow "orchard herbal ley" seed.

Plant borage (blue edible flowers), red and white flowering clover, lemon balm, chicory and spring bulbs to attract bees and other insects to fruit trees for pollination and, therefore, more fruit.

Planting members of the Umbelliferous (Apiaceae) family, such as parsley, carrot, parsnip, coriander and dill will help to protect fruit trees from caterpillar and grub pests. Let them flower and set seed, and sow again for next year. Apples also like to be underplanted with yarrow, chamomile, borage, clover, chicory and cornflower.

For soil fertility and nutrients, plant clover and lupin for nitrogen fixing, and comfrey for potassium.

It's not too late to sow or plant a herbal ley if your soil is still moist. Buy a herbal ley mix or persuade friends with yarrow, clover, tansy, lemon balm, bulbs and chicory to divide some bits off their established plants for you and replant them around your trees.

And, if you like, sneak a bit of lavender in there, too.

Earthly delights

If you're around Auckland between now and November 18, you can visit New Zealand Sculpture Onshore - an exhibition of contemporary sculpture at a spectacular clifftop overlooking the Hauraki Gulf.

More than 120 outdoor works by established and emerging artists will be on show, alongside an indoor sculpture gallery, and a display of children's sculpture.

Tell me what's new

When British Garden Designer of the Year Andrew Fisher Tomlin turns up at next year's Ellerslie Flower Show, he'll be looking for The Big Idea.

He's a firm believer in new designers leading the way and hopes to see new designers' unexpected takes on what a garden should be. Fisher Tomlin, who judged at the first Christchurch show in 2009, says he's excited about returning to judge at "one of the best flower shows in the world".

He'll also be looking for the ingenuity he saw last time that proves you don't need big bucks to make a huge impression.


- Hamilton News

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