Before you begin
The first thing is to assess what you already have and understand the value of it. There are bound to be overgrown patches of nettles and other ‘weeds’. These might look untidy or unimportant, but many butterfly caterpillars feed on nettles (peacock, small tortoise shell, red admiral and comma) as well as many moths and caterpillars.
Deadwood is a vital habitat for thousands of species. This can be a pile of logs, pallets or brash. The decaying wood is vital for many insects and it creates a refuge for the likes of ground beetles and hedgehogs. Ground beetles prey on insect pests.
Such piles may look untidy but nature doesn’t do tidy. It is within all those nooks and crannies within such piles that the many thousands of invertebrate species thrive and feed.
Fungi need deadwood to exist. Trees need to make a symbiotic relationship with fungi in order to survive and thrive.
Mulch with shredded native hardwood will benefit the trees by keeping weeds at bay and retaining moisture. Decomposing wood encourages insects and encourages the vital relationship that trees need with fungus in the root zone. As the mulch breaks down it feeds the tree, which becomes ever more demanding for water and nutrients as it reaches maturity.
Regularly mown grass may look nice and give off the impression that the orchard is well looked after, but it reduces diversity. Leaving grass uncut for most of the year weakens the most vigorous grasses and allows other plants to establish, increasing plant diversity. It will also create tufty areas of grass and allow for some bare patches to form, which is an important habitat for ground nesting bees.