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  • From: Bob Randall <>
  • To: mailing list at ibiblio - Northamerican Allied Fruit Experimenters <>
  • Subject: Re: [nafex] mulching trees
  • Date: Sun, 24 May 2015 11:23:59 -0500

With mulch there is always a dilemma between what is desirable and feasible.
In nature, trees life in places with fungal dominant soils and prefer a
forest floor type mulch with lots of lignin in layers from uncomposted on top
to humus on the bottom. Grasses with few exceptions prefer a bacteria
dominated soil. So if you have your choice mulch with shredded tree branches
composted or leaves or straw, but not green succulent herbaceous material
including grass. See The Soil Biology Primer at

All this is made more complicated by the lack of moisture in many places, so
that not only is there not much material to mulch with, but also it takes
forever to rot unless it goes through the gut of animals.

What is possible in any given place therefore is based on knowing what the
aim is and doing your best with in cost and labor constraints to get a

I live in warm Houston where in El Nino years it never stops raining it
seems, everything except concrete rots, and branches of trees grow at an
alarming clip, so mulching is simply a matter of finding the time to do it.
Santa Fe is dry and cold a lot, so not much grows or rots. Your best bet is
to find plant material that is an industrial byproduct I would guess.

Bob Randall

"Share What You Grow and What You Know!"

Bob Randall, Ph.D.

> On May 24, 2015, at 10:52 AM, Lee Reich <> wrote:
> How about letting the grass grow wherever it wants but keeping it mown
> short. The organic matter from the clippings will improve the soil and the
> constant mowing can keep the grass from becoming too competitive.
> Lee Reich, PhD
> Come visit my farmden at
> <>
> <>
> Books by Lee Reich:
> A Northeast Gardener's Year
> The Pruning Book
> Weedless Gardening
> Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden
> Landscaping with Fruit
> Grow Fruit Naturally
>> On May 19, 2015, at 8:44 PM, Jay Cutts <> wrote:
>> Folks,
>> 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!
>> Regards,
>> Jay
>> Jay Cutts
>> Director, Cutts Graduate Reviews
>> Lead Author, Barron's MCAT Prep Book
>> Lead Author, Barron's MCAT Flash Cards
>> Lead Author, Barron's LSAT Prep Book
>> (505)-281-0684
>> 10 am to 10 pm Mt Time, 7 days
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