renovating an old orchard

Vashon, WA(Zone 8a)

Hello all -
I've got about .5 acres of an old apple and plum orchard. I've got a handle on slowly bring the trees back in to proper shape (the last pruning job was simply criminal), and I've got some new trees going in this year to balance out some blank spots. One of the things I'd like to do is get rid of all the grass and blackberry growing up in and around the orchard, but I am not certain what would be the best way to do it. Laying down cardboard and mulch is one option, but there are voles in the neighborhood that have been known to live under that nice protective covering and then go eat the bark off the trees. There's the herbicide approach, but I am concerned that the amount needed might not do great things for the trees themselves. I thought about slowly going and turning over the ground a bit, but I really don't want to disturb the root systems of the mature trees.

Any suggestions?
Thanks!
-Heather

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

I'm sure you could use Round Up for the grass. When it is dead, seed in a legume like alfalfa. This will build up the soil and is easy to keep. Just mow it off a couple times a summer. Let it go to seed at end of year. Birds will love you in the winter & also it will reseed itself.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Put some wire screens (hardware cloth) around the tree trunks and get a couple of wethers. You can always sell or butcher the wethers after the junk is cleaned up...

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