Excerpt from Christmas Tree Production
What is a ground cover? In the landscape, people plant ground covers in shady places under trees. But in Christmas tree fields, growers manage the weeds around trees to create a biodiverse ground cover. These include low growing clovers, strawberries, violets, buttercups, and many other woodland perennials making a green carpet.
Ground covers in Christmas tree fields have many benefits including:
- Reducing erosion so the tree farm is sustainable year after year and streams stay clean.
- Reducing soil temperatures so tree roots take up soil nutrients better.
- Providing habitat for insect predators so fewer pesticides are used and there is less pest damage.
- Providing a habitat for wildlife.
- Reducing problems with difficult to control weeds since there is no bare ground for weed seeds to germinate.
Ground covers make sense. And they help make a good tree!
How have I managed to achieve this, I still spray roundup twice a year, November and February time but i only use 2% dilution rate, at this rate it suppresses the weeds, and i mow maybe once a month between the rows these 2 combined tasks encourage the lower down ground cover weeds such as clover, buttercups and keep the taller ones at bay and encourages beneficial insects such as ladybirds, the grass rows in-between the trees is only cut down to about 4 - 5 inches using a powered scythe mower, this is enough to keep it from growing too tall and still encourage ground cover weeds.
I am considering using a pre-emergence herbicide such as kerb flo in February, this will be mixed in with the Roundup to be applied in one go, It should help to prevent weeds from germinating, kerb granules are also available
Previous years i have tried controlling weeds around the young trees with black plastic, this is fine to start with but i found it made feeding of plants difficult, it stopped moisture getting down directly to the roots, i have even gone around hand weeding the taller weeds around the trees, i think the method i have now is about the easiest for controlling tall weeds
I am not too concerned about the boundary's of the fields i tend to leave a boundary strip to overgrow this again encourages beneficial insect and wildlife
Couple of useful resources i have come across
Weed, Pest, Disease in Christmas Trees
weedkiller Quick Reference Chart For Tree & Ornamental Weed Killers here