Mulching fruit trees will cut down on the amount of water the plants lose. It will also protect the roots and add nutrients into the soil, resulting in a healthier tree with better quality fruit. There are many different types of mulch on the market, but they all serve this main purpose. Mulch every year for best results.
Choose a type of mulch based on cost and availability. Wood chips are the most popular because they enhance the appearance of a garden and are easy to find. Straw works well in vegetable gardens because it improves the soil quality and makes walking in the garden easier. Compost or shredded leaves also another good choice because they add nutrients to the soil under fruit trees.
Take into account the acidity of the soil. Peat moss, oak leaves and pine needles are acidic. However, grass clippings, sawdust and leaves (except oak) are non-acidic. Choose one that will not disrupt the quality of your soil. (Many garden and home stores sell a pH test kit that will allow you to determine the soil's acidity level, so you'll know which of the above elements is best to add.)
Cut down on weed production by choosing a mulch that is organic. Look for one that has composted to a temperature of 130 to 140 degrees. This is preferable to other mulches if you tend to have weed issues around the base of your fruit trees.
Conserve water by applying mulch to the base of fruit trees in the summertime. Place it at a depth of 4 ½ to 6 inches for the most moisture retention.
Place the mulch around the base of the tree trunk in a ring-shaped circle. Extend it to one foot past the dripline. The dripline is the outermost perimeter of the tree, as if you were to draw a line around where the branches and leaves ended above.
Use a shovel or gloved hands to pull mulch away from the trunks of the fruit trees in the fall. This will prevent damage from rodents such as mice. In the case of fungus or mildew problems, remove the mulch and let sunlight hit the area for a few days to kill the disease spores.
Supplement the tree with more mulch each year, to accommodate the tree's growth and size.