House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

What Are the Best Mulches for Fruit Trees? 9 Great Options & What to Avoid!

Breadfruit Ulu Tree_Mang Kelin_Shutterstock

Putting mulch around fruit trees can prevent weeds from growing while improving the moisture retention of the soil underneath. But mulch can actually do much more.

Organic mulches can also provide nutrients to your trees. However, in the same way that some mulches leach healthy nutrients into the ground, some also leach unwanted substances. So, listed below are nine of the best mulches for fruit trees.

trees & plants divider 9 Top Mulches for Fruit Trees

At the very least, a mulch needs to prevent weeds from growing while improving moisture retention of the soil. It should also look good and be appropriate for your growing conditions. For example, while straw bark can be an effective mulch, it can also attract pests, so it shouldn’t be used if you live in an area with a lot of voles or rats. Keep reading to learn more about the best mulches for fruit trees.

1. Manure

Espoma Organic GM3 3.75 Lb Organic Chicken Manure Plant Food

Strictly speaking, manure and mulch are different because they serve different purposes. Mulch is used to prevent weeds and protect the soil while preserving moisture in the soil. Manure is used to add nutrients to the soil that benefit the plants.

However, manure can also insulate the tree roots, and composted manure releases nutrients slowly while providing protection, so it can combine some of the benefits of mulch while also providing nutrients. When using manure as mulch, it is best layered to give the full benefit.

2. Cedar Mulch

100% Natural Cedar Shavings

Cedar mulch stops weeds and helps retain moisture around the base of the tree. It also has natural oils that work as an insect deterrent, so it can help prevent pests from doing damage to your fruit trees. It is especially effective at preventing termites and ants.

3. Bark Mulch

OLDCASTLE LAWN & GARDEN 52058064 Hardwood Mulch

Bark mulch consists of larger chunks of wood than other mulches. This means that it takes longer to break down, therefore offering protection for longer so you don’t need to replace the mulch as often.

4. Leaf Mulch

With a little time, you can create your own fruit tree mulch. Leaf mulch can be made by gathering fallen leaves and leaving them in a pile. It does take a year or two, but the leaves will turn into a leaf mulch that helps with moisture retention in the soil.

You can speed the decomposition process up by shredding the leaves before creating your pile. When collecting leaves for the pile, avoid oak leaves and leaves from diseased trees.

5. Straw Mulch

Organic Garden Straw (5lb)

Straw is not only a good mulch for strawberries but also for fruit trees. It does a good job of protecting the soil, but you will either need to buy seed-free straw or pull the strands out of the box and shake the seeds out before applying them around the trunk of the fruit trees.

If seeds are left in the straw, they will root, and you could end up with unwanted plants. Straw can also attract pests like voles, who will nest in the mulch.

6. Shredded Paper

Shredded paper can provide a good barrier for the soil, although it provides no nutritional benefit to the tree. Use a paper shredder and lay the freshly cut paper around the base of the tree. As it gets damp and starts to break down, the paper will knit together, effectively creating a paper mat to sit atop the ground.

7. Cover Crops

Cover Crop Seed Blend by Eretz

A cover crop, or living mulch, is a crop of plants that are grown near the base of the tree. These provide natural mulching properties, and they help prevent soil erosion while enabling the ground to retain more moisture.

Living mulch is not usually recommended for young fruit trees. Once the trees are mature, they will take moisture and nutrients from the soil before the crop does, so there will be no detriment to them.

8. Ramial Mulch

Ramial mulch is made using the young branches of the trees that you manage. When you cut the young branches, keep them, chip them, and add them as mulch to the ground.

These branches have very high nutritional value, so when they break down, they will also provide the trees with the nutrients they crave.

9. Willow Mulch

Willow mulch is similar to ramial mulch. It is made from the young branches of the tree because they have a higher concentration of beneficial nutrients.

Willow mulch is made from the young branches of willow trees. Willow not only contains nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and other vital nutrients, but it also contains salicylic acid that helps protect your fruit tree from disease.

wood divider Mulches to Avoid

Not all mulch is considered suitable for fruit trees. Some create a virtually impenetrable barrier that prevents weeds from growing but also stops beneficial nutrients from getting through.

Below are three mulches that you should avoid putting around your fruit trees.

1. Fabric

Image By: weinstock, Pixabay

Fabric does create a barrier that prevents weeds from growing and taking nutrients away from your tree. But it also stops any organic matter from getting through to the tree. If you use fabric mulch, you will have to lift it so that you can add fertilizer and other food.

2. Plastic

plastic bottles in a trash
Image By: VIVIANE626, Pixabay

Plastic provides even more of a barrier than fabric. It will stop weeds, but it will also prevent moisture from getting to the roots and will even stop oxygen circulation.

3. Rubber

Image Credit: Lovesevenforty, Pixabay

There are several reasons rubber mulch isn’t a good option for fruit trees. When it breaks down, it releases a host of chemicals and other unwanted materials into the soil and surrounding groundwater. It can also smell bad, too.

Is It Better to Put Mulch or Rocks Around Trees?

Rocks or gravel can do a decent job of preventing weeds from growing around your fruit trees. It also comes in a pleasing array of colors and sizes. However, the rock retains heat, which can dry up soil and prevent your tree from getting the moisture it needs. But it costs more and doesn’t contain any beneficial nutrients.

How Do You Make Fruit Trees Grow Faster?

Good mulching can certainly help fruit trees grow faster, and there are some other methods you can use to help encourage faster growth.

Do leave a gap of about 6 inches between the base of the tree and the start of the mulch, however, and ensure that you provide fertilizer and moisture on a regular basis. Prune properly in the spring and take steps to prevent aphids from destroying your hard work.

trees & plants divider Conclusion

Some orchardists layer their mulch, effectively combining nutrient-yielding soft mulches covered with a harder mulch that will help retain that moisture underneath where it is of most benefit. Planting cover crops, which is also known as living mulch, is also an effective and natural way to provide the protection your trees need.

Featured Image Credit: Mang Kelin, Shutterstock


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools