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How to Mulch Your Fruit Trees and Bushes

How to Mulch Your Fruit Trees and Bushes

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So you don’t want to buy fruit from the supermarket anymore? I get it.

Nothing tastes better than fruit that you’ve grown with your own hard work.

Here’s the thing, though: Growing a fruit tree can be a bit tricky, as several factors go into providing the ideal growing environment. That includes adding mulch around your tree.

Applying mulch isn’t as easy as spreading it around your tree and being done with it. There are various factors to consider.

So, in this post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about mulches so you can enjoy delicious, juicy fruit.

What Mulch Is Best for Fruit Trees?

Before I explain how to apply mulch around your fruit trees, I need to cover what different types of mulches offer so you can choose the one that works best for you.


Compost is an excellent choice because it contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, the three primary nutrients for fruit trees.

It can provide the soil with organic matter and prevent weeds from growing. Not only does compost protect surface roots from extreme climates, but it also improves the soil’s draining abilities.

It’s worth noting that a few types of composts can change the soil’s acidity levels. So, keep the soil requirements of your fruit tree in mind before choosing a specific compost.

For example, if you’re growing an apple tree, avoid using mushroom compost. Apple trees prefer acidic soil.

Adding the alkaline mushroom compost will reduce the soil’s acidity, making it unsuitable to grow apple trees.

Leaf Mold

Leaf mold feeds a wide range of beneficial microorganisms in the soil and improves its texture and drainage/aeration abilities.

It allows the soil to maintain a proper balance between offering nutritional value and protecting your tree from potential diseases.

The best part? You can make it yourself at home, although it might take a couple of years to decompose.

How to Make Leaf Mold

All you have to do is gather fallen leaves from your neighborhood and pile them in your garden. Try to stick to fresh leaves, as they’re high in nitrogen, and their cells would still be hydrated.

Sprinkle the pile with water to moisten it and cover it with a piece of tarp.

The decomposition process can take six months to two years. Eventually, the leaves will crumble and turn dark brown.

Pro tip: You can speed up the decomposition process by shredding your leaves with a lawnmower before piling them in your garden.


Besides nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, manure contains various other nutrients like zinc, copper, and selenium. Although any type of manure would benefit your fruit tree, some are more effective than others.

LivestockAverage NPK for manureHot or cold
Chicken1.1 – 0.8 – 0.5Hot
Rabbit2.4 – 1.4 – 0.6Cold
Sheep0.7 – 0.3 – 0.9Hot
Horse0.7 – 0.3 – 0.6Hot

As you can see, chicken and rabbit manures have a higher NPK ratio, so they’re the most effective types on this table.

Despite all the nutritional value it offers, using manure doesn’t come without risks.

The Risks of Excess Manure

Adding too much manure can be fatal for your fruit tree, as it can increase salt levels in the soil to the point of toxicity.

You’re probably wondering what the hot and cold labels in the previous table are. They refer to how dangerous the manure’s nitrogen content can be when it’s fresh. Hot manures can release their nutrients quickly, burning the roots of your tree in the process.

So, you need to let them decompose before applying them. Besides burning the roots, fresh manure also has pathogens, which can cause plant diseases.

On the contrary, cold manure releases slowly, so you can apply it without risking burning your tree.

How to Apply Mulch Around Your Fruit Tree

Applying mulch around your fruit tree is pretty straightforward. Notice that I said “around” not “on.” That’s because you want to leave 3-4 empty inches around the trunk to give it enough room to absorb oxygen.

All you have to do is grab a few buckets of mulch and spread them around the trunk, covering the diameter of the tree. Ideally, you want your mulch to be thick enough to prevent weeds from growing but not too thick so it doesn’t suffocate your tree.

Around 3-4 inches should be thick enough. However, if you live in a windy area, you can add an extra inch or two, as the wind might blow some of the mulch away.

Pro tip: If these annoying weeds grow around your fruit tree before applying mulch, you don’t have to pluck them off one by one. Covering them with construction paper should be enough to kill them over time.

When Is the Best Time to Mulch Your Fruit Trees?

As we’ve already mentioned, one of the primary roles of mulch is to prevent the growth of weeds. So you want to apply it in early spring because that’s when weeds start appearing. Don’t do it too early, though.

Remember, your tree will have just survived the freezing temperatures of winter. So, give the soil some time to warm up.

When to Replace Mulch for Your Fruit Trees?

There isn’t a definitive answer to that question, as several variables factor into the equation. If you’re using organic mulch, you can replace it once every year or two, as it doesn’t decay quickly.

However, the type of mulch you use can influence your decision. Undyed mulch can change colors after about one year. If you don’t like having gray mulch in your garden, you can replace it with a new patch.

If you’re using a cheap brand of dyed mulch, the color can mix with the soil over time. So don’t wait longer than one year to change it.

Is Non-organic Mulch Good for Fruit Trees?

I understand why you might want to go with non-organic mulch. After all, compost and manure aren’t that visually appealing. Although it might bring unique aesthetics to your garden, is non-organic mulch beneficial for your fruit trees?

Landscape Fabric

There are several advantages to using landscape fabric in your garden. It prevents weeds from growing and increases airflow in the soil.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as it gets. As you know by now, fruit trees feed on organic nutrients. Landscape fabric can’t offer that. So you’ll have to remove it, feed your tree, then put it back.

That’s not the most efficient growing process, if you can’t tell.

Black Plastic Mulch Sheets

I’m afraid black plastic might be a more impractical option. Not only will it not provide the necessary nutrients for your fruit trees, but it’ll also limit your soil’s ability to absorb water and air.

Final Thoughts

The next time you mulch your fruit trees, remember to use organic materials, as they provide the necessary nutrients your plant needs. While each type has its pros, some are more effective than others.

Consider how each type will cater to your trees’ needs.


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