Food For The Tree
In late 2015 we did soil testing to determine how suitable our soil is to growing peach trees. In that testing we determined that the soil needed nitrogen. This should come as no surprise considering that is an exceptionally common need for most soils, especially those in our area. In order to fill that need we opted to add a top layer of composted cow manure.
When deciding how to fertilize we have the option of using mineral pellets of fertilizer or using something like compost. Mineral fertilizers work well, but they dont have the longevity of compost. Where a mineral fertilizer would dissolve and potentially wash away in a heavy rain, compost wont. Compost will continue to break down throughout the year, slowly releasing nitrogen into the soil. Compost will also build up the soil as the microbes that are present in it will go to work on anything else available to them. In fact, RT at Green Cow Compost tells me that once we have applied compost for at least 3 consecutive years that further applications may not be necessary as it creates a self sustaining environment where other organic material continues to break down … like mulch!
The benefit of mulch is multifaceted. When you understand how many ways mulch benefits you, it seems almost criminal not to use it. It’s cheap and widely available so there really is little to no excuse.
Reasons to Use Mulch
Combats Weeds and Grasses
Native Grass and Weeds can effectively reduce first year growth of your peach tree by as much as 90%?! 90%!!! The fact is, weeds and native grasses grow really well here without any help at all. If you put them into a super fertile soil they’re going to grow like crazy. Sadly, your baby peach tree is terrible competitor for nutrients and water when it comes to fighting native grasses and weeds. A few inches of nice mulch will suppress any grass or weeds that would otherwise grow under your peach tree, thereby eliminating the need for your fledgling tree to compete for what it needs to grow. Make sure you get a screened mulch that will remove the really small bits. If the mulch pieces are too fine, the weed roots can grow directly in the mulch. Green Cow Compost screens theirs to remove anything less than 1/4 Inch.
Reduce Soil Erosion
Because you dont want anything growing up under your peach trees (where it would compete with the tree) your bare, naked soil is more prone to erosion. Without the nice layer of grass roots to stabilize your soil it can wash away in a heavy rain. Mulch will help stabilize the soil so that you dont have to worry about your painstakingly fertile soil washing down the drain.
Increase the Fertility of the Soil
Compost is simply organic material that is broken down into base components. Mulch itself will slowly decay over time, releasing nutrients into the soil for your trees. When your mulch is in direct contact with your compost, it will speed the process of decay because the microorganisms in the compost will also munch on your mulch.
Extend the Life of Irrigation Components
Most irrigation components are made of plastics that, while hardy, will eventually weather and break down. Covering the irrigation components, in our case a drip line tube, with Mulch will protect it from the sun and weathering that would occur if it were otherwise exposed.
Reduce Irrigation Requirements
Hot Texas summers will evaporate much of the water that you put out for irrigation of your trees. Using a drip line will reduce the evaporation by putting the water into contact with the soil more directly, but there will still be evaporation before the water soaks into the ground. If you cover the drip line with Mulch, it will dramatically reduce the evaporation of irrigation water because the sun wont even reach the water in the first place.
Fight Late Spring Frost
Peach growers should expect to lose 1 in every 5 crops to a late Spring Frost. When the peach tree blooms, the fragile blossoms are easily killed by a late Spring Frost – thereby killing the fruit. Typically this is a matter of a cold cloudless night where the bare ground gives off all its’ heat to the night sky and cool air settles under the peach trees. Having a later of mulch can help absorb warmth from the sun during the day and releases some of it during the night. It may not be much, but the difference between a tree full of peaches and a tree without any peaches is all too often the matter of just a few degrees of temperature.