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Tree Pruning & Site Slashing

This project involved pruning the orange trees, slashing grasses and weeding. This is because the previous owner of the farm allowed the trees to grow with little or no maintenance leading to infestations. So, we needed to prune the plants for fresh circulation of air. We also had to weed underneath trees which competed for nutrients with the orange plants. In addition, we wanted to plant cover crops between the oranges to help in soil retention. Cover crops slow the velocity of runoff from rainfall and snowmelt reducing soil loss due to sheet and rill erosion. Some cover crops (legumes) are known nitrogen fixers and contribute to soil fertility. Overtime the cover crop regimen will increase soil organic matter improving the soil structure, stability and moisture holding capacity suitable for plant growth.




The process of pruning, slashing and weeding

We did everything i.e., pruning, slashing, and weeding manually. We didn’t have weed whackers for trimming the weeds or cherry pickers and hoist to reach the higher branches. Instead, the worker had to climb the orange tree and use cutlass and handsaws. As a result, it took us 3 weeks to slash the entire site. Similarly, pruning took between 3 – 4 weeks to be completed.







The goal of this project

As mentioned earlier, the role of this project was to boost soil structure, stability, and air circulation. Moreover, planting cover crops was important prevent soil erosion and enhance moisture retention. Weeds can be defined as “plants out of place.” Weed seeds are dispersed by wind, irrigation water, or are carried by birds and other animals. Perennial weeds species regrow each year from below ground parts. Therefore, tree fruit growers should continually manage weeds in orchards especially in the “weed strip” the 3 – 8 feet wide band under the trees in the tree row. Since the weed strip is difficult to mow (e.g., low hanging branches, tree trunks, trellis posts and irrigation system), other weed management methods are used.


Weed compete directly with tress for essential nutrients and water during the growing season. This is usually the case for young plants. Additionally, certain insect pests that live host plant weeds can multiply and invade the oranges causing direct damage to the fruit which result to significant economic losses. Moreover, tree damaging rodents like to hide and overwinter in the habitat created by the weed cover. While there, they feed on tree bark and roots and cause damage. So, if weeds are controlled destructive rodents (meadow voles, mice, etc.) will be deprived of their habitat especially in fall. Also, significant weed cover under trees reduces accessibility of the farm by workers and machines. Having said all that, the overall goal was to maximize on quantity and quality of the fruits we produced.


Challenges

As stated above we lacked modern pruning and slashing tools. This challenge made the work last longer (3 weeks for slashing and 3 – 4 weeks for pruning). Also, we pruned many branches which were challenging to dispose. So, we had no option rather than to burn the branches. Burning could not be the best solution since the carbon dioxide released causes to greenhouse effect. However, we used the wood ashes a source potassium into the farm.





Conclusion

Even though we achieved what we wanted to achieve, the work was exhausting. Moving forward, we would need better maintenance tools to make the work less stressful. We also plan to get a chipper to create mulch to cover the soil and boost moisture retention.

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