Experimental Homestead

Bulbs Under Fruit Trees Part II: Understory Progress Report



This is an update to my previous post on experiments with fruit tree understories using flower bulbs.  I get quite a few page hits from people searching for information about fruit tree understories and bulbs under fruit trees and wanted to get this update out there for anyone who is working or thinking along similar lines.  To summarize my project, the goal is to establish an understory for fruit trees which grows up quickly at the start of the winter rainy season to smother weeds, but then goes dormant in late spring/early summer leaving a matt of dead leaves to shade the soil and to slow moisture loss during our long, dry summers.  This whole plan is to address specific problems of a Mediterranean climate with wet winters and dry summers, and may not have much relevance to climates with significant summer rainfall.
The bulb growing season is about to start again.  I’m digging stuff up and figuring out what the next moves are. The bulbs have not filled in enough to be sure of how the experiment is working quite yet, but I have enough preliminary information to warrant a short post on my experience so far.  I’ve planted experiments to just Amaryllis, just Narcissus, Narcissus and Amaryllis mixed, and one that is Snowflakes, Bluebells and Oriental Poppies together.  The Oriental Poppies, Snowflakes, Bluebells and almost all of the Narcissus varieties that I’ve tried are now off the list.  They either have foliage which is not dense or wide enough, or they die back too late in the season.  It is important that the understory go dormant early in the season so that as much water as possible is left in the soil.  The Snowflakes and Bluebells die back too late.  The Oriental Poppy also dies back late and turned out to make poor cut flowers so it also does not add any economic benefit. The only real contenders I have here at this point are the two original ones- the Chinese Sacred Lily Narcissus in both double and single (see edit below) and the Amaryllis including Naked Ladies and some cool hybrid Amaryllis. Continue reading

September 20, 2012 Posted by | Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Garden Stuff | , , | 6 Comments