Opinions or feedback please! We are planting a pilot acre in Michigan with 256 English Oak and 30 Filberts at the end of this month. Ph tested by MSU Soil Biology lab came back at 6.3. We did weed kill-off and 10 tons lime and tilled. We are going to be using staked tree protectors, and I'm thinking we may not need deer fence. Now, for ground cover...We don't want to continue to use herbicides and want to keep this organic from this point. I know it is risky to plant clover because of the nitrogen fixing property of legumes, but we have a lot of weeds in our fields, and the clover chokes them out and helps the clay soil become more loose. Has anyone used a mix of brohm grasses and clover? The plan is to mow between the rows.
I will share our experience and that may help you to make a decision. We put both 4' tree protectors and the 7' fence. If we would do it again it would be only fence. With tree protectors only trees will not be protected 100% from the deer. In large amount of cases protectors impeded the tree growth and having them in place created difficulties to clean from the old foliage. The other issue we have had the voles, that forced us to put tree protectors deeper to protect young root system to be snapped ( we lost about 10% of the trees due to the voles activities), but there is a caveat by moving tree protector deeper impeded tree growth and in some cases tree did not survive. First two years we used herbicide "Round Up" we have stopped (for the same reasons you did) two years ago and tried manually remove weeds it helped but during hot summer months it is almost unbearable so we found a compromise and seem is more natural herbicide but it is pricy. Here is the link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007HGU85W/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1. Ground cover - we did not find a perfect ground cover and currently we experimenting with lavender it works but it is a lengthy process, so we currently doing both manual and herbicide applications until lavender will take over.
Comment about lime, the started with 1.2 acres of orchard 6.5pH and applied 30t of lime the reason is, once trees are in the ground it is difficult to amend soil and by doing such a large application would create a buffer that would last for a long time. After 4 years we're still maintaining around 7.5pH. I hope this will helps and not too late for an answer you are looking for. Good luck.