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Reduced mowing vs. PI and tick concerns?

Posted by Josh Willis 
Reduced mowing vs. PI and tick concerns?
September 27, 2017 02:10PM
My family's orchard has long balanced two ideals: letting the understory generally go it's own way, and managing the risks of invasive vines, poison ivy, and (for where we walk) ticks. The former I'm only recently reading (thanks to HON) as preferred permaculture management, which was great news!

The latter remains an issue, though -- Maryland gets vigorous, vigorous growth from vines & PI popping up everywhere. And (like many parts of the east coast), Lyme is much more a worry than it was 20+ years ago. We've generally kept PI in check by mowing the crap of new PI & cutting off major vines nearby; trying to uproot all of it is a non-starter, as there's way too much of it (and too many sources of seeds in nearby woods). Letting the understory grow seems to just let PI proliferate underneath and take vigorous hold of any trunk or low-hanging branch.

How do others manage PI, or for that matter VA creeper, in a management system that prioritizes less mowing? Is it about planting a better cover for the understory? Our cover is a mix of what we call 'orchard grass' and other cover that has evolved over 40 years -- a swath of buttercups here, a swath of violets here, increasing swaths of japanese stiltgrass, etc., letting nature take its course.

Relatedly, how do others manage concerns about tick-lovin' high grass vis-a-vis a less mowed understory?

Apologies if these are very obvious questions. Your thoughts are appreciated!

Re: Reduced mowing vs. PI and tick concerns?
March 04, 2018 03:11PM
Hi Josh,

Adding a thought here.

Here in the west, ticks are getting worse too, especially with our ridiculously mild winters over the last 4-5 years. Lyme is more common than it was in years past too (not nearly as bad as you folks have it back east though -- I sure feel for you).

In my orchards, deer are the primary source of ticks and if you walk along any of their trails, you are bound to come up with a few of those creepy crawly bastards on you. In my fenced off orchard areas, where the deer almost never get into, ticks are substantially less prevalent than in the areas with a handful of fully mature fruit trees that our outside of the perimeter fencing.

Ticks can make their ways around your property via numerous other animal sources too, but at our acreage -- Deer are the prime culprit.

If you are not already fully deer fenced orchard . . . it is never too late to join that club . . . and perhaps say a fond farewell to the thicker tick populations too.

Have you had any success, or additional realizations, since your original post?

Gopher Hill Apples
Zone 8 in California
Re: Reduced mowing vs. PI and tick concerns?
March 17, 2018 12:01PM
Hi Paul,
Good thought re: an extended deer fence. We actually have one for the immediate ~1 acre yard (lots of alpine beds & specialty flowers), but not the orchard. Deer aren't usually a huge consideration for our established trees...but you make a great point about those little devils hitchhiking on the deer. I made a trek through our forest 2 weeks ago to collect a whip from a wild apple tree, and picked up a tick (in 30 degree weather!), probably from that deer trail.

Re: PI and vines, I'm hopeful the remediation work we put in this year will move things in a better direction. Cleared out an immediate source from the nearby windbreak trees, and cleared out the last 1/3 of the orchard that needed serious deadwooding & base access We're also trying a few trees with the peastone & sod mulch approach others have described here, will see how it goes.

Sorry to hear about the spread of Lyme to CA! What do you grow along your fence line - any issues with vine management? We have a couple places where our attention lapsed and bindweed started to pull the fence down. I imagine a larger fence would be more maintenance in this regard.
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