mulch for apple trees

Asked June 26, 2016, 11:29 PM EDT

Hi, I have planted 500 apple trees (mostly 2nd years) this spring and I am considering applying mulch to the base of the trees to help prevent weeds and keep in moisture. If I do apply mulch, do I need to make sure not to cover the graft union? Should I be mixing anything in with my mulch? Thank you for your assistance.

Kendall County Illinois apples apple trees horticulture

3 Responses

Yes, mulching will help the ground retain moisture making it available to the trees and not just to evaporation and it will help hold down weeds. DO NOT ALLOW MULCH TO TOUCH THE TREE TRUNK. Mulch a "donut" around each tree with the mulch 3-4 inches away from your trunks. Piling mulch against the trunks leads to disease and decline . No do not add anything to the mulch and never, never cover the graft union.

Thank you for your answer! I have 2 more questions please.
1) I was told not to spray any herbicide on the newly planted trees; however the weeds are a lot of work to remove with so many trees. We decided against mulch as we were worried about hard rains pushing the mulch against the graft union, so we are just weed whacking. Are there any organic herbicides or otherwise that would be effective yet no harm a tree so young?
2) The graft union sank below the soil line on some of our trees. Probably due to the fact that we planted some of these in the rain. We are digging them out this weekend. My question is what kind of damage may result of these being below the soil?
Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Please do not let my comments about being careful with mulching keep you from mulching. It will help with weeds and helping keep more moisture in the ground and available to your new trees. It also helps moderate soil temperature which is important to those young, growing roots.

An herbicide is an herbicide, organic or not, it can kill or severely damage your young trees so please the mulching is probably your best bet.

Trees where the graft junction is below the soil line are doomed for failure sooner or later. It is the weak spot on your tree, having it below the soil line will encourage rot, disease entry or insect entry. It is difficult when planting young whips to make sure the graft junction stays above the soil but it is important. In the fall mulching with straw should help protect this vulnerable area from winter cold and dessication.