Companion planting with Fruit Trees

What grows well with fruit? Companion planting with fruit trees isn’t only about planting a lot of pretty blooming plants in the orchard, although there’s certainly nothing wrong with planting nectar-rich flowers that attract pollinators. Compatible plants for a fruit garden also serve as living mulch that eventually decompose and enrich the soil. Fruit tree companion plants help keep weeds in check, conserve soil moisture and may even discourage pests – all with very little extra work for you.

Comfrey – Comfrey roots grow deep into the ground, helping to pull nutrients and minerals from the soil. Because it’s such a vigorous grower, comfrey out competes weeds. Freshly cut comfrey serves as rich, nitrogen-rich mulch. Be sure to plant comfrey where you want it, because once established, it’s probably going to be there for a very long time.

Marigolds – Marigolds attract pollinators, but that’s just the beginning. These cheery plants also discourage nematodes in the soil and a variety of other pests above the soil. Marigolds tend to self-seed, so you may need to plant them only once.

Nasturtiums – Nasturtiums are believed to discourage codling moths, a scourge that can plague several fruit trees, including apples. Plant nasturtiums seeds at the base of trees.

Chives – Chives produce pretty blooms that attract bees and other pollinators, but the onion-like smell keeps pests at bay. Garlic provide similar benefits.

Echinacea – Echinacea is a pretty, drought-tolerant daisy cousin. The long taproots loosen the soil and make deep nutrients and moisture more available to fruit trees.

Lavender – Lavender smells great, but the aroma confuses pests and often sends them packing. Rosemary has a similar effect, and both attract pollinators.

Fennel – Fennel is an herb that attracts parasitic wasps, beneficial insects that help control a number of pests. Dill, mint, basil and coriander provide similar effects, and you can also snip a bit of these herb plants for use in the kitchen.

Spring Bulbs

Autumn is the time Spring flowering bulbs start to arrive in store. Most spring flowering bulbs are dormant during summer and emerge after the cold winter. The variations in seasonal temperatures have become a require part of their growth cycle. They need the warmth of summer when dormant and they need 8-10 weeks of cold in winter to complete the development of their stems and flower buds inside the bulb.
A lack of winter cold is one of the main reasons for bulbs not flowering as well expected. It causes a lack of bud development and short stems, particularly in tulips and hyacinths. As an insurance policy against a mild winter you can chill your bulbs in the fridge in a paper bag for around 8 weeks before planting them out in late autumn. Try to keep them away from fruit and veges as the Ethylene gas produced by ripening fruit can be very damaging to tulips and hyacinths, causing bud loss.

When planting, always prepare the soil to at least 20-25cm deep as many bulbs establish long roots. Plant bulbs in well-drained positions, on raised beds if necessary, to give better drainage. In general bulbs should be planted to a depth about 2-3 times their height.

Bulbs don’t need fertiliser at planting time, all the goodness they need is already packed inside! Fertiliser on the surface with a specific bulb food as they emerge in spring and again after flowering to boost their growth and as the nutrients start to receed back into the bulb for next season.

If planting Tulips and Hyacinths in pots make sure you put them in a cool spot where the pot is not likely to be heated by the sun as they’re expecting consistent cool conditions in winter, not a yoyo of hot to cold through day to night.

Nothing beats a vase full of Spring Daffodils and Tulips. To harvest the flowers of bulbs, snip them with a sharp, clean tool during a cooler part of the day (evening is good; morning is best) and immediately set the stem ends into water a couple of inches deep. Trim the stems again, cutting on the bias to promote water intake, when transferring the flowers into a vase. To prolong the vase life, let the flowers rest in a cool, dark space for at least several hours before moving the arrangement to its intended spot. Change the water on alternating days to prolong the life of the arrangement. If a spring cutting garden isn’t yet offering floral companions for the bulb flowers, try adding material from other areas to the vase, such as twigs from shrubs and the unfurling or colorful foliage of perennials like hostas, ferns and heucheras.