Mulch is essential in growing fruit trees. It reduces the growth of weeds that steal the minerals in the soil needed by fruit trees to grow and bear fruit. Mulch also helps maintain moisture in the soil; fruit trees protected with mulch will not easily dry out in the summer months. Mulch can control erosion, and, when it decomposes, it becomes a great fertilizer. Mulch comes in different kinds, most of which are used for fruit-bearing trees. When using any type of mulch around any variety of fruit tree, be sure to keep the mulch approximately one foot from the tree's trunk or disease and rot can occur.
Best Mulch for Fleshy Fruits
Apple trees (Malus domestica), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, and other trees that bear fleshy fruits such as pear trees (Pyrus spp.), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 10, require mulch capable of releasing nutrients over long periods of time. Mulch used around these trees needs to withstand the wet weather conditions these fruits thrive under, particularly in the case of apple orchards in the rainy Pacific Northwest.
Bark mulch is the best fit for fleshy fruit trees. It is long-lasting and breaks down easily to replenish nutrients in the soil. Bark mulch also works well in wet weather conditions and degrades better in wet environments. These mulches are readily available at any lawn and garden center, and are typically made from softwood trees.
Best Mulch for Citrus Fruits
Trees that grow fruits high in citric acid, such as oranges (Citrus sinensis) and lemons (Citrus limon), both hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, require special fertilization that could be considered toxic to other forms of trees. Citrus fruit trees are naturally resilient when it comes to acidic soils and actually benefit from them.
Mulch made of pine-needles and crushed pine-cones is ideal for use with citrus fruit trees because of the nutrients they release into the soil. In addition, the materials for the mulch are readily available in most of the country. A few inches of pine-needles placed around the base of the tree will provide an ample supply of mulch for about half a year.
Best Mulch for Tropical Fruit
Trees that grow tropical fruit require a special mulch that is high in rich organic material because tropical fruit trees consume nutrients in the soil at a faster rate than other trees. The mulch must be capable of replenishing these nutrients at a very fast rate.
An ideal mulch for these trees is usually a mixture of grass or straw, blended with organic fertilizer, such as cow dung. This material will decompose into the soil very quickly and will need to be replenished every three to four months. Many tropical fruit growers like to add chopped fish to the mulch as a way of increasing the potency of the mixture.