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More on the Coppice Orchard system

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Friday 18 May 2007, by kerzello

article by Phil Corbett version Fr à suivre

NOTES ON THE COPPICE ORCHARD

The plan is an aerial view of the coppice orchard. (orchard image)
Species and climate notes are for central UK, adapt and evolve to suit your own conditions.
Each tree occupies a square of about 4 or 5 metres per side.

WINDBREAKS
The coppice orchard is surrounded by windbreaks. If you already have tall hedges, woodland, high walls, etc as a border, you may not need a windbreak.

Windbreaks are used to raise temperature on the sheltered side by reducing windchill. This is important for pollinators as well as plants. In very bad weather bumblebees will choose the more sheltered sites. The coldest winds come from the East and North and on these sides evergreens are used for the best protection, including leylandii and evergreen climbers to help fill the cracks.

Windbreaks also prevent mechanical damage by reducing wind speed. Trees are most vulnerable to damage when they are fully laden with fruit in September. Damaging gales come from Southwest through to Northwest, but are not cold winds, so a deciduous windbreak is ok here, with the benefit of letting the sun through on early spring afternoons.

A windbreak across a slope will cause cold air to dam up above it, possibly creating a frost pocket. Allow for good air drainage.

The windbreak contains a lot of N-fixers, in fact it may be entirely Alder, with Eleagnus or Gorse at the base as draught-stoppers. These will not only grow quickly but some of their N will feed into the system. Mixed species of Alder are less vulnerable to disease than a single specie – avoid a monoculture.

Windbreaks and the land next to them may hold standard trees that we do not coppice, eg, Walnut, Chestnut, Oaks, Pines.

N-TREES
Within the system are numbers of N trees. These are Nitrogen fixing trees and these will be either Alders or Black Locust [Robinia]. The N also stands for Nature and these plots will have other useful plants and structures, bumblebee nests, hedgehog boxes, etc. These plots may contain several trees.
Notice the arrangement of the N trees – every crop tree has an N tree next to it, except for those next to the windbreak, which are benefiting form the n-trees in the windbreak.
The staggered arrangement of the N-trees means that coppicing a row leaves the maximum number N trees standing in the system. When N trees are coppiced they release huge amounts of nitrogen. Make sure these areas have plenty of deep-rooted follow-up plants to make use of this, eg comfrey.

HAZEL
These trees are often found with Alders. They give a nut crop but also are useful as ‘distributor’ species with a mineral-rich leaf fall. Thus they will help spread the Nitrogen from their neighbour. As these will not get bigger than approximately 12 years of growth there might be 2 trees per plot.

FRUIT TREES
Note that this system has twice as many apples as plums and pears. This is a reflection of likely consumption. If you think you’ll need different proportions of fruit then plant to suit your needs. You might want mostly nuts and a few fruits, that’s fine.

POLLINATION
Notice the Apples are in a double row. This allows each apple to be next to 5 others, giving potentially very good pollination. The letters represent varieties. The 2 rows have a total of 4 varieties: A & B in the top row, and C & D in the lower row. The Top row has the ABBA arrangement and the lower row has the CCDD arrangement.
This means that when a N-S row is cut each pair of trees in the remaining rows will be different varieties, and still able to pollinate each other, or putting it another way, loss of neighbouring trees will NOT mean complete loss of pollinators.

Single row fruits, like the plums and pears here, should also be planted on the ABBA principle, rather than A B A B.
If you are planting lots of mixed varieties it will not matter so much. If you have only a few trees of a variety don’t put them all in the same n-s row, or you will lose them all till cropping starts again.

HARVESTING
It will make less work to have the varieties arranged according to season – e.g. all the early plums in one E-W row or half a row, the late plums in another , etc. This will concentrate transport in particular parts of the system, rather than running all around the system to collect all the early plums.

CHERRIES – there are none on the plan. OR cherries are not easy to control, Morello types might be more compliant.
I have grown sweet cherries from seed and I think they may be easier, but of course you don’t know what you have till it crops.
Cherries could be part of the ‘standard’ trees, or grown on dwarf rootstocks as permanent features in the system, or on colt stock as fans along edges, so they can be netted against birds.

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