Reading I have heard of 'understory' plants and understand that in a forest the ground is never bare... but what can I plant that is not going to take the nutrients from the fruit trees?
At the moment I am experimenting with using living ground cover as mulch and have planted some sweet potato cuttings, and last year planted watermelon and allowed it to ramble amongst the trees.. the same can be said of pumpkins. This is also where I am planting some more perennial style plants so that the beds don't get hogged for such long periods of time - eggplants, pigeon pea, taro, etc.
I guess what I am trying to understand is:
How close to the trees can I plant - does it depend on the type of tree because of the different root structures? At the moment there is quite a mix of trees citrus, paw paw, tamarillo, chocolate pudding, avocado, pepino, and guava...
What kind of plants can I plant - just things like ground covers mentioned above or is there specific vegetable plants that have shallow root systems that are gong to be fine? Or maybe some sort of clover?
Am I better off getting a whole heap of styrafoam boxes and putting these under the trees to plant in and stick to the heavy mulch as moisture retention/ weed control?