If last weekend wasn’t busy enough between arguing with Troy, planting our swiss chard and kale in the garden and my husband with ox blood finishing up the barn (other posts on the barn here, here, here and here), I also landscaped a little. Two things needed to be done, re-mulching the fruit trees and slowly starting our bed up front by the road. Because the bed up by the road is likely only going to happen when I have a little time here and there, I’m focusing on fruit trees for this post.
Now, before I get into this I want to make it clear that I am not even remotely close to knowledgeable of caring for fruit trees. I’m still learning how to figure it all out. I give you this warning because there is a lot of mumbojumbo on the web taken as truth. I’m simply doing what works for us, where we are in the country. Also, our trees are too young to bear fruit so we have at least another year or two before a couple of them are old enough and I’ll find out if I’ve screwed the whole shin-dig up. In the mean time, I’m doing what I can. With that said…
The grass was seriously growing in on the three fruit trees we planted a few years back, and starting to encroach on the trees we planted last year. I was concerned about the roots getting choked out. Instead of wood chip mulch, which would have cost money, we used sawdust to much which was a free byproduct of sawing our lumber for the barn and a little manure from the farm.
I focused on our plum tree first, which looked like this. The discolored part you’re seeing is actually hay, but I didn’t like that green grass all up in that trunk.
To start, I did a cut edge the entire way around. My mother-in-law who is a horticulturalist taught me a sharp cut edge is a good way to help discourage grass, so that’s exactly what I did. Then I cut off the top soil, and made two piles. Pile one was all of the soil I had to shake the dirt off of, and pile two was all of the grass disregarded after shaking the good soil back around the tree. When all was said and done I had about 2″ to fill in to get it back to grass level.
It doesn’t look as nice as bark mulch but for us, it ticks all the marks. I was trying to figure out how to explain this, and I found this great explanation from Cornell about what a mulch should do, which is exactly why sawdust was our choice.
“The ideal mulch is:
- Readily available.
- Easy to apply and remove.
- Stays in place.
- Supplies organic matter to the soil.
- Is free of noxious weeds, insects, and diseases.
It also performs the three functions described earlier: suppresses weeds, conserves soil water, and moderates soil temperatures.”
As well, sawdust is an acidifying mulch which is part of the reason fruits love it (especially blueberries). Keep note acidifying mulch’s can rob nitrogen from the top layer of your soil, which is why despite the fact we have good soil I’ve accounted for this by putting a layer of manure underneath. Be careful about nitrogen though with fruit trees. Too much nitrogen can result in beautiful foliage and flowers but restrict fruiting. The con to sawdust soil is it compacts and breaks down easily, so you have to fluff / add to it every year. For us, it’s the perfect mulch.
See how much better it looks in comparison to the other two trees? You can barely even see the third tree—but I promise it’s there.