Gravel for mulch ???

luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)July 18, 2012

Is there any reason that I can't use river run gravel for mulch around my fruit trees and blueberries ? Anyone using gravel for mulch? Thanks, luke

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The people who had this place originally put down tons of gravel, and I've been cursing them ever since.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 5:19PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

From personal experience, weeds can grow right up through gravel quite easily (unless you put down some weed barrier). I still would stick with a wood mulch.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 6:56PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

Even if you put down weed barrier, the seeds blow in on top of it, and they wind up growing anyway lol... Gravel is a PITA to remove!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 10:28PM
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alan haigh

Gravel can work well with a heavy landscape fabric. Just make sure the fabric lets plenty of air and water through. I manage some apple trees in a courtyard that is all gravel with apple trees growing in boxes that were supposed to be dwarfs when planted 75 years ago. They were actually on M7, I believe. The roots have long since established primarily under the gravel and the trees are thriving.

They get a lot of reflected light from the light colored gravel, which can be an asset of a problem depending on the season. Because the trees are elevated in boxes, Roundup can easily be applied to anything tough enough to go through the gravel.

The problem with woodchips is that over the years you may make your soil just too rich for optimum fruit growing IMO. You don't want to grow fruit in a soil fit for corn.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 5:27AM
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Gravel tends to heat up the soil. IF you live in a hot area, with low rainfall, gravel is the last thing you want.

If you are trying to extend the season by a few days, or live in a cooler area, or are growing heat loving trees (like apricot), the gravel might work, but weeds grow though.

For multch, I use leaves. Leaves create good fertile soil, without over saturating it. They shade the soil, and help the water from evaporating. And on top of that leaves are free !

If you DO use gravel, you may want to sow a cover crop. THis help fertilize the soil, attract beneficial insects, shade the soil, and aid in the overall health of the tree.

All my fruit trees are in the garden beds, mixed with other food, flowers. I use clover, yarrow, comfrey and sage as a ground cover. CLover is a great nitrogen source, yarrow has massive roots that drill into compacted soil, giving it some air and also brings up nutrients to be more available to the tree. Commfrey does the same with minerals and nutrients, except that you can use it as a green manure, cut it down 3 times a year to fertilize the soil. You can also make a very good "tea" by fermenting comfrey plants in water,and use as a foliar spray, or soil fert that is 100% natural.

Harvestman - I know you have more experience then me, but I think you arent 100% right about the woodchips.

Woodchips, when they break down, absorb nitrogen. All fruit trees need a good supply of nitrogen (too much is bad of course :P ) Using too many woochips will force you to use more nitrigen fert if you arent careful.

You have to think too, what tree doesnt want decently fertile soil? Fruit trees produce better in fluffy soil that is rich in organic matter. The only fruit trees that ive seen advised against this is the "evans" cherry, and other tart cherries. Again, it is true that over fertile soils can affect fruit set, but that is why its importiant to understand soils role in gardening, rather then ignoring it.

Giving an annual top dressing of compost/manure will give a balanced level of nutrients, if done properly. Using a good groundcover/mulch keeps these nutrients from getting washed away, keeps the soil moist (less watering), and boosts fertility.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 8:33AM
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alan haigh

I have mulched my trees with wood chips and stable waste (mostly wood chips) every spring for over 20 years in my current location and I have found my trees beginning to get excessively vegetative in the black loam I've created.

Woodchips only temporarily tie up N near the surface but the humus they create releases plenty. They also attract bacteria that take N out of the air and put it in the soil.

I have read research of apple trees mulched for ten years becoming increasingly vigorous. I believe at some point you might as well let the trees coexist with sod. Fruit trees need moderate vigor as a general rule.

It all depends on your native soil and weather. If you don't get much rain during the growing season you can regulate vigor by holding back water.

Gravel does not increase soil temps as I understand it and light colored gravel reflects light so it should have the opposite affect.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 8:28PM
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john222-gg(Mississippi 8a/8b)

harvestman I have a hard time with wood chips where I live in the south we have real bad problems with ants.wood chips is like A magnet for ants at the present I have no mulch around my trees.I tried the rubber rings but did not like the results.I am still looking for a good mulch of some kind. I did not like gravel it is bad when you cut grass

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:14PM
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alan haigh

John, have you tried cedar? I don't know if that would repel ants but I'm guessing that the slower decomposition might not provide the food sources that regular wood does, especially cedar bark.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 5:36AM
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john222-gg(Mississippi 8a/8b)

I really appreciate the advice I will go get some and try. Don't know why I did not think of that's why I am glad we have the FORUM thanks

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 3:51PM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

Thanks for your input. I have some of my landscape where I use river run gravel around shrubs like lilac and viburnam. After a few years of spot spraying with Roundup I see hardley any weeds. The type of mulch that's available in this area is generally hardwood chips, bark or the bagged stuff from HD, Lowes or gas station. I think that this bagged mulch has introduced new types of weeds into this area. It's a huge business.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 6:50PM
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