Mulching Young Trees
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
" On account of the nature of the land at my disposal for nut orchards," writes Dr. Robert T. Morris of New York, "it was necessary to devise some labor-saving plan that would cover the whole ground in a general way. The 200 acres set out to nut trees consist in part of open tilled land, in part of rocky pasture land, difficult of cultivation, and in part of newly cleared forest land with stumps and vigorously sprouting roots. I had previously had some experience with perpetual mulch, and decided to apply this method of treatment to the entire orchard.
"It seemed to be desirable to confine the mulch to limited areas around the trees, and for this purpose I finally chose galvanized iron netting. This is more expensive at the outset than lath or boards, but it lasts for 20 years or more and in the end is very cheap. My netting is 1 foot high and it en-circles a diameter which is estimated to include the root spread of any given tree. The netting stands up like a board up to diameters of 6 or 8 feet, but after that it is supported by yokes of galvanized iron rods stuck into the ground at any desirable points. As the trees grow the diameter of the mulch cage is increased.
"For mulch I use forest leaves chiefly, as they are abundant and handy. Wood ashes are sprinkled over the mulch in March. They force rapid growth safely if used properly. The chief objection to the permanent mulch seems to be in its furnishing a home for field mice, which gnaw the bark of young trees in winter. My present plan is to surround each trunk near the ground with a collar of tarred roofing paper loosely curved, but I may later choose a galvanized fine wire mesh to insure better circulation of air.
"I do not see why the mulch cage cannot replace laborious and expensive clean cultivation and expensive special fertilization of the ground for all sorts of orchards. It seems to have solved the problem in connection with a few fruit trees on which I have tried it. The trees grew so rank that it was a question at first if they would not spend all of their force in making wood, but plum trees, especially, bore so enormously in addition to making growth, that further experimentation will be desirable."