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  • From: Jay Cutts <>
  • To: mailing list at ibiblio - Northamerican Allied Fruit Experimenters <>
  • Subject: [nafex] mulching trees
  • Date: Tue, 19 May 2015 18:44:03 -0600


Here's a dilemma I've been wrestling with for years. I'm at 7000 feet in NM. I have a number of rather small trees planted out in a field. There is a very invasive grass that grows in the field - I think it's Western Wheat grass - that sends out underground runners for 4 or 5 feet.

I don't know how to protect the soil immediately under the tree and then out under the drip line and a little further. In some places I've put down two layers of weed barrier, covering maybe a circle with a diameter of 4-5 feet. It does keep the grass from coming through but the grass roots are still pervasive in the covered area. After a while, the grasses do poke through the weed barrier.

I'd prefer to have a nice circle of organic mulch that would break down in that area but then the grass goes completely wild, growing right through the mulch.

I'm assuming that letting the grass grow under the tree is bad. I guess it will use up nutrients and just feels like it's choking the tree out.

I'm wondering if there is something I can plant under the trees that would outcompete the weedy grass. The weed grass doesn't do as well if it gets shaded out (the trees are too small to create shade) though it will still spread.

If I planted something like alfalfa, could I plant it right up to the base of a young tree? If I leave the area immediately under the tree bare or mulched, the grass will come in.

We only get 18 inches of rain a year, so anything that is planted for a cover crop is going to have survive on that or it will be stealing water from the tree.

Another issue is that the soft, mulched and watered area around the base of the trees is perfect for attracting gophers. I've had gophers down a 5 year old tree by gnawing off the base in the winter. Who knows how much other damage they're doing underground to the tree roots. So the nicer I make the soil around the trees, the more gopher damage I have. Help!



Jay Cutts
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