ORCHARDS AND VINEYARDS
The advantages of a good mixed sod under and between tree and vine rows are well known but how to manage the system is a hurdle that sometimes prevents people trying. One answer is controlled grazing at high stocking density which forces the animals to eat weeds as well as the palatable grasses and legumes and ensures a rich sod of mixed species, rather than a weedy mess.
Properly managed, livestock can improve your vineyard or orchard while cutting maintenance and input costs and boosting income. From goats or geese to cattle or sheep, almost any domesticated stock can increase plant diversity, control weeds without herbicides and increase fertility.
Small scale (3-10 hectare) orchardists or vignerons can start with a small (up to 12) mob of sheep or flock of geese managed intensively. Don't spray any herbicides and for good weed control start grazing early in the spring when the young plants are palatable. Keep the enclosures small to ensure rapid grazing down of the forage and move the stock frequently, as often as every 3 or 4 days. The leaf and fruit drop in orchards provides high quality feed and the clean up, by animals, in autumn is an additional benefit because it minimises disease and destroys the habitat of over-wintering pests. Some caution must be exercised as animals can overdose on too much fruit.
The question of how to physically manage the stock between the tree and vine rows is relatively simple and is best achieved using portable electric fencing. A new system of electric fencing has recently become available and it represents great advances in both protecting the vines and trees from stock, the stock from predators and in managing the block grazing.
Electric netting is not new to British, European or American orchardists or vignerons but is was always felt that this type of system would not be effective in Australia because of our dry seasonal conditions and the consequent difficulties of good earthing. Technological advances in electric netting design have overcome these problems and ELECTRANETS MASTERFENCE, the world's leading multi system, with three modes of operation, works perfectly even in dry times. Electranets are made from inter-twined stainless steel and polyethylene filaments woven in a flexible grid, with semi-rigid compressed fibre verticals every l75mm giving a l.22 meters high fencing pattern similar to traditional sheep fencing. The lower horizontal strands are closer spaced than those at the top and connected to a good energiser of the correct type, the entire grid becomes "live" offering an impenetrable pain filled barrier to predators trying to get in or stock trying to get out.
Electranets come as a complete system with each 50 metre roll supplied with 14 high tensile, double pronged, insulated supaposts, diagonal strainer twines, a repair kit and extensive instructions and helpful hints. Fifty meters can be erected in ten minutes and taken down in half that time.