What can I plant under my fruit trees?

Q.

Hi, I want to grow and develop a wild plant area under all of my fruit trees. But dandelions and docks predominate. How can I get a better selection of wild plants rather than weeds. Under four of the fruit trees I have planted wildflower mix. Thanks.

Margaret Davidson

A.

Hi Margaret, underplanting fruit trees is a good idea to encourage pollinators as well as deter pests and diseases. As well as sowing seeds, considered planting cuttings or plants such as comfrey which is deep rooting and pulls nutrients to the soil surface, as well as the leaves being a rich source of nitrogen and potassium for plants. Phaecelia (purple tansy) is great for attracting beneficial insects and pollinators, they can be grown from seed. Bergamot (bee balm) attracts pollinators, nasturtium helps to deter insect pests, especially codling moth and can be sown by seed or plants. Queen Anne's Lace is a great plant for pollinators and beneficial insects, sow from seed or plants. A few other suggestions are borage - great for pollinators and seeds very easily. Tansy and marigolds are great for protection from insect pests. Cosmos and California poppy are also good for attracting bees and other pollinating insects. Most of these plants need a free draining soil, dock and dandelion thrive in damp soils, ensure the area is free draining enough for these plants to establish. Before planting, rake in some compost or garden mix into the soil under the trees so that there is enough soil for the plants to grow into. If planting plants dig in some compost into each planting hole to give plants a good start, they may or may not require watering to get established, depending upon how damp the soil is already. Over time, the dock and dandelion will hopefully get over taken by the other pollinating plants. Lianne     

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