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We stopped by Walkers to pick up some produce and a couple of grafted mangoes from Walkers Nursery, and decided to hop on to the tour of the site that was starting just then.  Not only does Walkers grow incredibly tasty mangoes and avocados, but they also do it in a way that I have never seen before.  Their orchards are in rows, but the rows curve slightly with the landscape, and have more than one type of tree in them.  

 Orchard Layout

Goals

  • To be a heavily-producing mixed orchard system, that’s easy to manage and profitable over time.

 Challenges

  • Orcharding can have any number of challenges associated with getting high quality fruit.
  • The wind and the soil at the site are currently not ideal for a high production orchard system.

SolutionsWindbreak with vegetatioon_1200

  • Through the implementation of large earth-sculpting strategies and planting windbreaks, we can help protect the orchards from the wind.
  • Using compost, compost tea, mycorrhizae fungi, and chop and drop systems, we will improve the soil year after year, while constantly helping to create progressively better conditions for optimal fruit yield, taste and nutrition.
  • We will employ highly skilled orchard and nursery managers to oversee the selection, grafting, planting and operations of our orchard systems.

Water

  • Planting areas will be located in an appropriate location that’s relative to where catchment dams are located whenever possible, providing on demand irrigation piped in.
  • Swales will generally be appropriate in this planting pattern helping to infiltrate more water into the soil system.
  • Irrigation of orchard systems is very important, and should be drawn from catchment dams whenever possible.  If this is not possible, then pumping from one of the lakes will work just fine.
  • Over time the soil’s capacity for holding water will increase as the soil increases in organic matter.

Planting

  • There is a multiple phase plan for the planting of the site.
    • In the first phase of planting, quick stick (Gliricidia sepium), leucaena (Leucaena spp.), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) and other fast-growing species will be planted generally following the contour on six foot intervals.

Pioneer establishment


    • The contour will not be followed exactly because it is more important to maintain proper spacing in the orchard rows.
    • These species will set shade and start the long-term process of fixing nitrogen. They will also provide a medium-term source for chop and drop mulch.
      • These plants will provide a large amount of material for use as woody mulch in the orchard, either chop and dropped or put through a mechanical chipper.
    • This planting will set the spacing for the entire orchard system so it’s very important to get the pattern right.
  • Cut down every other row of legumes small
  • When pre-existing species are already established on site, use them to our advantage to help us achieve our goal.
  • Utilize them as shade and windbreak for more sensitive long term establishment species.
  • Wind breaks on the crescents will also be planted at this same time according to the windbreak details page.

 

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  • After the pioneer species plantings have established themselves, we will come back in and plant the orchard system. This may be at the beginning of the next rainy season or the following.
    • The spacing and specifics for planting the orchard depend on whether the individual rows are being planted up in small, medium or large tree patterns.
      • We see the overall coverage of these three orchard types being:
        • Small: 40%
        • Medium: 40%
        • Large: 20%
  • Demarcate the rows which will hold the orchard trees, and also choose which alleys will be access alleys and which will be chop and drop alleys.
    • As it comes closer to the time to plant out the orchard, we will want to clear all plants out of the access alleys, but the others in the chop and drop alleys can be kept.

 

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  • Following the planting pattern of Stefan Sobkowiak’s Permaculture Orchard, every two rows of the orchard (at least two rows) will be planted with a pattern of three plants, two fruit trees and a legume. It is important to choose two fruits that are harvest-able at the same time of the year.  This makes the harvest that much easier.
    • Plant the fruit trees on the pattern shown above, as this will help to reduce problems with pests and parasitic fungi through lack or transmission pathways.  Tree A is never touching the foliage of another tree A.
    • Plant the occasional coconut tree on a 60-foot spacing to add the emergent layer and an additional harvest-able crop to the system.

I thought an orchard was supposed to be straight rows of one type of fruit, but there were generally two or three fruits per row, planted together for their shared fruiting season, which makes it easier to harvest.  And inter-planted are pigeon pea and other legumes, which gives them a second marketable product, but also fixes nitrogen into the soil and grows mulch!  The food grown at Walkers isn’t certified organic; it’s way beyond organic!

Earthworks

  • Swales and windbreak crescents may be appropriate in these planting patterns depending on the lay of the land and particular plot being planted.
    • Medium slope: 10 – 18 degree slope:slopeorchard2
      • swales are recommended on five vertical feet spacing.
    • Light slope: 3 – 10 degree slope:
      • swales are recommended on five vertical feet spacing.
    • Flat: 0 – 3 degree slope
      • swales are not recommended here.

Landscape Connectivity

Phases of Development

  • The earthworks should be completed first, and then pioneer planting should be done immediately during the rainy season following the earthworks, as this will establish pioneers, hold the soil and start building the conditions required for the successful orchard.
  • The fruit trees will start to be grafted and grown out in the nursery for about two years before planting.
    • This allows the legume trees plenty of time to set shade, reduce wind exposure and build organic matter on site.
  • After two years of legume establishment, the fruit trees will be planted and managed for optimal fruit.
  • A couple years after that, we should be harvesting bushels and bushels of high quality fruit.

 Ongoing Management

  • Orchards have lots of important maintenance considerations which should be handled by a orchard manager.
  • In addition to somewhat standard orchard management practices, the permaculture orchard also utilizes the ability to grow mulch and uses soil food web technologies to increase the health of the soil.
    • Every other ally between the rows of fruit trees will be densely planted with fast-growing legume trees which are meant to be managed by chop and drop or mechanical chipping and added to the surface of the soil, under the area covered by the drip line of the fruit trees.
    • Fungal-dominated compost tea will be prepared and sprayed on the trees, mulch and soil once per month throughout the life-cycle of the trees.
    • Adding beneficial insectary plants and dynamic accumulators of minerals is also recommended in the planting rows.

 


 

planting plots diagram small size

 

 

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