Adding compost/mulch around citrus trees

pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)November 4, 2006

Ok my neglected trees have never been fertilized or sprayed with pesticides till today and the grass was growing right uyp to the trunks. I removed grass 2 feet from trunks around the perimeter of the tree. Spread a cocktail of bone meal, blood meal, triple super phosphate epson salt and watered liberally.

Now I was wondering if it is good practice to fill in the sandy soil I exposed with 2 inches of compost. Also laying a layer of newspaper on the ground to prevent weeds / new grass from sprouting I've heard works but not sure if it's suitable for citrus. Lastly, if a multch covering over the compost should be used, or just outside of that 2 foot perimeter should the mulch be used and spread away from the trunk. The soil is sandy as I am in Florida, so I figure the added compost will continually feed he roots with nutrients. Anyone see this as more hamful than good? You advice will be appreciated.

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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

anyone.. anyone? I want to get these citrus trees up and running on all cylinders. If I don't hear anything I will go with my gut and spray again tomorrow morning. I thought this was an active forum, but maybe the weekened is slow.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 8:25PM
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suzannesks(z 7 WA.)

sounds like you've been busy,but keep the mulch away from the trunk of the citrus trees.The compost is very benifical,and the bonemeal and the rest hopefully are dug in and around right?Now,pick yourself up some Miracid, Miricle grow puts this out,(1)Tablespoon in a gallon of water and dump this also around your trees twice a year,per tree and your good to go! Also give this tree also a shower once in awhile and this too will help with the buggies that want to bed down in your trees.As far as the newspaper your fine there, but again stay away from the tree trunk.And your trees will be hApPy CaMpErS.***Suzanne

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 8:37AM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

I use plentiful mulch and compost around my citrus year-round. I find pine bark makes a better mulch than anything else, and it is easy to pull weeds out because the mulch is so chunky and doesn't pack down. I put compost and mulch right up against the trunk, with never any problems. I do the same with all my other tropical fruit trees.

I rake the mulch away every other month or so, put down a citrus fertilizer, and cover the fert. again with the mulch to keep it hidden from the chickens. Citrus grow all year here, just slowing down a little in winter. I add shovels full of compost at least 3 times a year. I just put it on top of the mulch, and it feeds the trees just fine.

I have over 40 trees. The worst problems I've had are leafminers and hurricanes.

I do see lots of Citrus grown here with plain sandy soil around them, and no mulch.

I like the neat look of the mulch.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 10:52AM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

I like the look of mulch too. I did read today that because citrus trees have shallow roots the mulch may cause root rot if there is an abundance of rain, but with sandy soil I doubt this will be a problem. During the summer months I can pull the mulch off if it gets too wet.

How far away would you recommend from putting mulch. I read 11cm is a safe distance, but the roots extend many feet from the trunk so what is it?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 11:31AM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

I'm not sure what you mean in the 11:31 post?

I planted most of my newer trees on mounds, since I learned that we flood during storms/hurricanes. My poor adult citrus were under water for 2 weeks after Jeanne and Francis slammed us. They survived, even after losing the bulk of their trunks/foliage when they were twisted in circles. They are now looking very good.

I usually have the compost/mulch extend from the trunk to the outside curve of the foliage. That way my husband is not tempted to run the lawnmower under them. Big trees have big mulch circles. Little ones may have only a 2' across circle.

I mulch my potted trees too, from the pot rim to right up against the trunks. I wonder if the "no mulch touching the trunk" is a cold climate issue? I have not seen any ill effects of mulch right up to the trunks, on any of my fruit trees, palms or veggies.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 6:05PM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

gcmastiffs, I meant in the 11:31 post that websites specifically say not to mulch citrus trees due to their shallow root systems. And they say if you must mulch do it at least 11 centimeters from the trunk. My question was basically, "Ok if you can't mulch near the trunk, wouldn't mulching the roots which are close to the surface and extend pretty from from the base of the tree extending beyond the drip line even. Wouldn't that be just as harmful for roots to rot in an abundance of rain? I wasn't thinking of mulching outward to the drip line that would be extreme. I pulled away 2 feet from the trunk down to bare sand. On top of that sand I layered compost (still not touching the trunk I left a 1 foot gap) Along the berm of the outer edge of the compost is where I layed down thick newspaper . From the berm outward I piled the mulch. Basically the mulch is used for a weed barrier, but the grass is still growing under the drip line mainly because most of the leaves dropped. Hopefully new citrus growth will take care of the grass.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 6:54PM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

pepprz, what websites are you referring to? It seems logical that plants with shallow roots would benefit *most* from mulch. I mulch my Blueberries at least 4" deep "because" they are shallow-rooters and need both the acidity from the pine bark mulch, and the minimal moisture retention it provides.

What kind of mulch are you planning on using? I use Pine bark, or fir, or coconut husk chips. They do not pack down. Weeds can, and do, grow right over it, but they are easy to pull out, since the mulch is so chunky.

If citrus roots don't rot after 2 weeks of being completely underwater, I shudder to think of the conditions required to cause rot. Potted citrus are different. They can easily be overwatered.

I don't want grass under my trees because then they need to be hand weeded, or mowed, or weedwacked. My citrus all tend to arch downward, with fruiting branches nearly touching the ground. I do not want a lawnmower near these. Grass grows just fine in the shade of the trees, unless mulched/weeded.

Unless your trees are in low areas that flood, I do not think that mulch will harm them in any way.

But, do what works best for you. Judge how your trees do and adjust accordingly.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 8:34PM
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Citrus trees are susceptible to foot rot (and also root rot, but that's not the problem here). Foot rot is when the base of the trunk, at or just above the soil line, rots. For that reason, the official recommendation is never to mulch a citrus tree in Florida. Certainly they don't need any mulch. We use none on our collection of over 100 trees, and the entire commercial industry does not mulch. All that being said, if as others have recommended you keep the mulch from piling up against the trunk, it may do no harm.

I'd recommend testing your soil pH before using Miracid or any other acid-forming fertilizer. Most Florida soils are already too acidic for citrus, and must be limed regularly. If your trees are on 'Swingle' citrumelo or Poncirus trifoliata roots, you want a soil pH of 5.5-6.0. On any other rootstock, 6.0-6.5 would be better.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 1:33AM
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dghays(Z10A FL Brevard)

UF discussses using mulch in their citrus documents, but suggests 12-24" from trunk. Certainly roots dealing with mulch would be more desirable than competing with turfgrass. I agree I've never seen an orange grove with mulch, perhaps the low hanging trees shade the ground enough to keep weeds somewhat at bay, and it would take labor to administer. I'm sure they'll do fine either way.

Lisa, glad your citrus took that flooding, that's a potential worry for my outer property, despite mounding. I think floodings effect can be variable according to conditions on a certain property, more destructive on some than others, even if it lasts the same amount of days.

Malcolm, that's a huge citrus collection, what are your favorites for fresh eating?


    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 7:06AM
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parrothead_fa(z10 FL)

I have heard citrus trees don't need mulch in Florida also. I don't use it even though our soil is sandy, because we have other plants and trees which require a pretty fair amount of water, so we run the sprinklers quit eoften. The bare 4-5 cirle around the tree helps the soil dry out more quickly between waterings, and so far the trees don't seem to exhibit any ill effects from the frequent waterings. I have used a small barrier to block the water from spraying directly on the tree for the ones plated close to a sprinkler head. This keeps the ground from becoming soggy around the tree. Dave

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 11:47PM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

Here are pictures showing what I did. For the Ruby Red Grapefruit in the first 2 pics the mulch did slide back towards the trunk more than when I placed it down but there is still a margin of bare sand between it and the mulch so no harm no foul.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 12:01PM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

From the looks of things from your picture you need nutients added to your soil. You have to add plenty of humus to your soil as much as the color would be black. The grass is also seem to need more nutients. But first like Dr. Manners is saying test your soil first and go from there. Then cultivate at least 6 inches all the way to the drip line and mix those mulch with the soil and add some more black top soil and some a lot of steer manure.
What you need is aerate the soil and some fertilizer.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 4:25PM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

Bencelest you do realize this is Florida where I live. The soil is supposed to be sandy for Citrus. Adding compost to the soil over the roots would be overkill. I just mulched the area to avoid the weeds/grass that was overcrowding the trunk which I pulled back a few feet. I think going all the way to the drip line with mulch is extreme.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 4:42PM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

I used to live in Florida. It is up to you. Mine is just a suggestion. It is just my opinion. No harm done. You can do what you want.
I lived in Pinellas and lakeland both very sandy soil. I would need to add humus to the soil in order for my calamondin lived otherwise it is just planting a citrus in pure sand.
But like I said you can do whatever you like.
My last post here and thank you.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 5:34PM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

So who was right and who was wrong? Bencelest or Malcolm Manners. Both had opposing views and both are rather experienced with Citrus and both gave advice with the mindset they both lived in Florida.

Is it ever prudent to use Roundup on Bermuda or some other weedy grass that really starts thriving under the tree canopy? Nothing worse than weedy grass to take over where your tree roots need to get water from.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 9:54AM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

Here is the same Ruby Red Grapefruit tree almost 3 years later than the earlier pics in this thread.

And here is the same tree just a little further back so you can see the height of the grass. The grass was just cut down a week ago.

Basically I am saying I am fighting a losing battle. Since I started the mulching back in Nov '06 the mound has gotten taller but the weeds kept growing through it...

So much for the lasagne method of fighting weeds. I have used cardboard, layers of newspaper, coco mulch, cypress mulch, anything and everything and this grass from hell will not stop growing here.

I even tried spraying full strength vinegar on it but it yellows/browns the top but the roots of these grassy weeds are so deep it doesn't kill it.

Short of using the black landscapers fabric over the top of the mound, what else can you suggest, I have virtually tried everything over the years.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:26AM
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tolumnia(FL 9)

I just get down on my hands and knees and pull up the grass. I usually need a knife or trowel to help cut through the rhizomes, but it is the only way I have been able to keep grass away from the trunks.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 11:11AM
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pkapeckopickldpepprz(z9 a/b FL)

oh man so basically there is no way around pulling the weeds by hand? I was hoping this is where someone would chime in and tell me Round-up works like a charm for this type of grassy weed and doesn't harm citrus trees.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 5:10PM
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Round up has never hurt any of my trees...Apple,peach and plum....
As for the mulch....I have friends in Florida that also like the look of mulch. But wanting to encourage the roots of their citrus not to be so shallow, and reach deeper in the soil, they only mulch theor trees about 1 inch for the look and that's it.
They also use weed tarp you can buy at Home Depot or any landscaping place that prevents weeds and yet allows your soil to breath and get watered...Then they cover the weed tarp with a thin layer of mulch..
Now if your looking to put mulch to keep the area moist and the soil wet, then your talking heavy, at least 3 inches, and the roots will reach for the wet mulch, and stay absolutely shallow..
They never have a problem with their trees while at the same time look awsome.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 10:30AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yes, you can use RoundUp. Be sure to use a guard of some kind when spraying so that none of the product gets on the trunk AT ALL. You can't see the fine mist, so a guard (a big piece of cardboard, for example)should be used every time.

The commonly accepted belief that RoundUp (and other glyphosate products) cannot be absorbed into the woody trunk is false. Thin barked trees, younger trees, and those with pigmentation are especially susceptible to damage.

Your Bermuda will continue to encroach into this area, because it spreads by underground rhizomes. Spray, mulch, and pull the weeds or spray lightly when it begins to take over. A light misting is all you will need, never drench the soil. But protect the trunks of your trees.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 10:31AM
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Mulching only and inch or two up to the trunk is fine..More than that, then you might be asking for a rot problem on the trunk..:-)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 10:33AM
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We use Roundup under all of our trees, and normally hit the trunks. No problem at all, and no toxicity ever, UNLESS we hit green leaves and twigs out at the edge of the canopy. We're pretty good at avoiding that. The commercial industry commonly sprays the trunks of the trees with Roundup, again, with no damage. You do have to avoid that on very young trees, which still have some green bark. But once it turns grey/brown, you're ok.

If you can find it, a herbicide with fluazifop-p-butyl will do a nice job of killing Bermuda grass and other true grasses (but not weeds in any other plant family). We last bought it as Ornamec brand; we've had it in the past as Fusilade, Fusilade 2000, and Grass-B-Gone. It's slow (3-5 weeks for a complete kill, and may require a second application), but it is systemic and it does work.

Malcolm M. Manners
John and Ruth Tyndall Professor of Citrus Science
Florida Southern College

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 3:46PM
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Hi Yield Kill-Zall Super Concentrate Weed & Grass Killer is just as good as Roundup and maybe more than half the price. It just depends where you find it. The feed & seed store nearest us has it quite a bit cheaper than Ace. You won't find it at your big box stores.

The application ratio is the same 2 and 1/2 ounce of herbicide to 1 gallon water.

About mulching ... If I knew I wasn't going to water and it didn't rain enough, I would mulch. I'm a heavy mulcher on everything, but nothing goes under my citrus sugar plums.;) Was I happy when I found out that Hi-Yield was safe to use in the soil where I grow food. It just has to stay dry for a couple hours and the warmer it is outside, the better.

I won't allow our money to buy any product assosiated with Monsanto.

A fact sheet is linked below

Here is a link that might be useful: herbicide, Hi Yield Kill-Zall

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 1:56AM
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The cost of Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicides, went up this year and most likely will continue to increase. (just in case you like the idea of getting rid of the Bermuda grass in your neighbors' yards)AND, just because you kill it all tomarrow?, it will be back forever and ever and ever.

Good luck, you are are real trooper. :)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 2:28AM
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I've noticed several of my citrus trees are experiencing curling leaves and have a lifless look to them. It's mostly the younger trees but there is some evidence of the same on the older trees. What could be the problem and how do I treat it?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:20PM
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I notice the talk of mulch here is all about water retention but what about the equally important fact of slow release added nutrients.If you spread chemical fertilser and then compost as a mulch,you have an organic and chemical combo that enhances each other....I often use grass clippings for mulch as its a perfect supply of organic nitrogen(very high in nitrogen) which is essential for good growth of citrus.I always keep away from trunk and do the same for my feijoas.If you planted your citrus at the correct depth in the first place with the roots just below the surface and keep the mulch away from the trunk,keep a circle around the tree free from growing grass/weeds and do the fert then should have the perfect spring boost and your citrus will love you for it.I always do the above in spring and then again in Autumn and let the rain take care of the rest but then the climate is different here in NZ.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 8:04AM
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As for the grass or weeds...on a wet day...go out with your boots on and a spade and dig down a couple of inches and dig it all up from the roots and create a nice sized circle where you refuse to let anything grow ...De turf it so to speak and then spray the area with round up...let everything die and then fert and compost...Then weed regularly and try to pull weeds out roots an all..If they snap they will just grow back again from the roots.thats what i would do anyway.I could be full of poo mind LOL

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 8:18AM
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From the research I have seen the laymans term is that weeds compete and are vastly more important to be taken care of the first couple of years. Mulch is the best bet, landscape fabric is about 3/4ths of mulch, bare/cleared land 1/2 of mulch, and weeds 1/4 as productive overall. I can't remember where I have seen that but it was a study on a farm.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 8:23PM
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