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what to plant under an apple tree?

Bristol, United Kingdom Gb

I am new to gardening (bought house with big mature garden last year) and need to plant a nice perenniel in a large ish border with a small ish apple tree already in it . . . what will grow well in the fairly poor soil (think the tree steals a lot of the nutrients)?



Charface, what would you like best: apples or plants? You cannot have both. If you want a healthy apple tree you should think of the tree needing nutrients and sparying for diseases and pests, thinning, pruning. If you look after your tree well, then you should never plant anything underneath as the plant will be a competition for anything, water, fertiliser etc. Besides it could give the tree fungus or insect pests unknowingly.
Sorry to be so strict, but underneath the apple tree should be nothing else but soil, no weeds, perhaps some mulch ( keeping it away from the trunk ), but that is all.
Good luck, save your tree, it's going to bring a lot of pleasure in years to come. Keep plants to a border.

3 Aug, 2009


I would wait to see if the apples are any good. If they are a good variety, come at the right time and taste good, and ideally can be stored for a time, then you should do as Marguerite suggests. We always marvel at the heavily cropping apple trees in the professional orchards over here in the heart of an apple growing area, but they keep the ground fairly clean and use trickle irrigation, including nutrients in the water. And the trees are all under a netted area to protect them from birds and wasp damage.
Why not grow some spring bulbs under the tree as you will still be keeping the ground clear for most of the year, and the bulbs will add interest and flowers before the apple leaves come out. They wouldn't compete with the tree in the same way as ground cover plants or other plants and shrubs.

3 Aug, 2009


Bertie that would be a good idea. Yes, I know about apple trees, we had 2400 of them, lol. But lucky enough we didn't have to put bird netting over them. The birds did some damage, but there was plenty left. We also had plastic eagles flying over, haha.

3 Aug, 2009


Did the plastic eagles work, Maguerite? It's just that here one of our (French) neighbours hangs a plastic hawk in his cherry tree, and claims it keeps the birds away. I've often thought of trying it when I find a suitable plastic bird somewhere as the birds always get our cherries before we do.

4 Aug, 2009


OK, thanks for the advice - the apples aren't that nice actually, but perhaps taking care of the tree for a season might change that . . . .will get mulching and weeding!

4 Aug, 2009


Good for you Charface! Thinning is important too, lots of sunshine and they should sweeten up.
Bertiefox, we found those eagles helped, but of course we didn't have hundreds of them, so they still came. We had to gun them down at one stage, they were parrots mainly. But the cockatoes are the worst, as they split the apple in half and eat all the seeds, they only eat the seeds and a flock of those birds can strip a tree in one minute flat. So we also had a scare gun. If you want to buy one, go to a farm supply outlet where the growers go and I am sure they have one.

5 Aug, 2009


And I thought blackbirds were bad!

5 Aug, 2009


I think saying that you shouldn't plant anything under an apple tree and that they NEED to be sprayed and fertilised is a bit extreme. I've worked at an 15 acre orchard for six years and it is clear that trees with nothing growing is not a great option. If you don't underplant the you either have to spray herbicide under them this creates bare soil which is unprotected from erosion, evapouration etc and. If the soil is not at it's best then the tree will be stressed leading to poor fruiting and susceptability to diseases and pest. If you don't spray herbicide then you will get grass growing underneath which isn't good for young trees as it interferes with the roots (old trees isn't so much of a problem as they have done most of their growing already). You could try planting beneficial plants around the tree, deep rooting plants and bulbs are best because they don't interfer with the trees root system. Therefore Comfrey and chives are two good options. Comfrey brings pottasium and other nutrients up from the subsoil and puts it into the top soil and also you can cut it four times a year. Chives are said to prevent apple scab after three years and also bring beneficial insects into the vicinity of the apple tree (in fact all alliums are good but chives are the best). Mint is another good one for letting grow under a tree (if its a small tree then maybe something like penny royal would be best) it's aroma is beneficial to the trees health, it covers the ground excellently and it also attracts beneficial insects.

If you have bad soil then comfrey is a must!

20 Jan, 2012

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