The lambs arrived in the orchard yesterday. They are there to help eat down the unwanted undergrowth. Essentially, they are part of weed control. Conversations had been going on over the last few years between me and City of San Jose staff, on how to get a grazer into the orchard to help control growth. Goats were the initial thought because they are used regularly for weed control, but goats will eat anything and would have damaged the trees. Thoughts turned to sheep since they are a more gentle grazer. This past spring, some sheep were brought to the orchard as a side project of a larger grazing control project the city has going on at the water treatment plant. Sadly, after only a couple of days, the sheep started peeling bark and eating the buds off the trees and had to be removed. At that point, the folks that own the animals considered using lambs since they are smaller, and can be trained to a point. Hence, lambs in the orchard.
It’s all part of a larger plan to improve the health of the fruit trees by improving the condition of the soil. Previously, the soil in the orchard was tilled multiple times a year to control weeds. Over the years the repeated tillage destroyed the structure of the orchard soil. Compaction had become a huge problem. The tillage also had to stop because the orchard is potentially burrowing owl habitat. The long term goal is to rebuild the soil in the orchard, but it will take a few seasons to get there. We started mulching last year and managed to get most of the orchard covered. The corner that didn’t get mulched is where the lambs are finding food. They will be there for a while to control any new growth that starts as the orchard gets rained on. Stop by and have a look.
You can find information on Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, including where to park, schedules of classes and all other information of what goes on in the park at grpg.org.
To read more about the history of the project, you can check the project page our main web site.
More pictures of the lambs can be seen on our Facebook page.