Wanting to understand mulch


Sounds good, I will take note not to apply too much. I have learned (from this site) that soil too nutrient rich can be a problem. I mistakenly assumed that improving the soil to a very high level was the trick to producing good fruit.

Now I occaisionally fertilize my trees and they grow very slow but I am sure our cold zone plays into that. If I put the manure under the trees ( they have not all fruited yet) I will make sure no fertilizer is applied in the spring unless the tree tells me it needs something.


Your conditions are so different than mine that you should take anything I suggest with a grain of salt.


I will. I do appreciate expert advice from the members on this forum. My conditions are different, but we all need a starting point, and the best place to start is with information from those who have had success.


Well, I do have 50 years of experience with many types of mulch. For years I mulched with whatever I could scavenge- now I use mostly commercial mulch in commercial quantity.


My woodchips are finally getting moist from the snow melt. This should get the pile of chips working with bacteria and fungus next spring. I piled the new chips on the old woodchip pile since many organisms to break them down are already there. There are 2-3 big utility truck loads of chips in the pile.


Are there any concerns over getting mulch (from any source) that has walnut trimmings/leaves/whatever included?


It is a concern, yes, but not a deal-breaker. Although many plants are susceptible to jugulone, many plants are relatively unaffected, to include most fruit trees. In addition, composting the material for 6 months should break the jugulone substance down enough where it should not be a concern.

Here is an article from the Iowa extension that covers the topic in more detail. Hope that helps.


Thanks for the link and response. I asked only because juglone eventually killed (my anecdotal observation anyway) several pears and apples on my old place. Fortunately, there are none growing on this place or in the area. They were like weeds on my old place in southcentral WI. When I researched juglone back then, it seemed like there was a lot of conflicting information available. I’d read one state’s extension that would say plant “X” was resistant to juglone, then find another state’s extension saying that same plant may be killed or negatively impacted by juglone. From what I could determine, soil type has a lot to do with whether susceptible species will be impacted by juglone or not. Heavier soils seemed more likely to have and maintain higher levels of juglone than lighter/sandier soils.


Yes, I understand your concerns. I’ve gotten some wood chips from other places and I’ve always composted them down some before using it.

Only if I’ve shredded it myself and know what it is am I comfortable using it fresher.


I’ve used green coarse hardwood sawdust from a firewood business ,for 7 yrs. around my trees and under my bushes with no nitrogen deficiency. I’ve even tilled it into my clay compacted soil in the fall to loosen it up and had great growth come spring. i put 3in. of this sawdust every spring and by the following spring theres barely any left. i just lay on more compost and top dress another 3in. of sawdust. dig down a few in. its nice black soil full of worms! i barely have to water. cedar is good at keeping weeds and bugs at bay but i did notice that it does stunt growth some. esp. if you mulch heavy with it and use it year after year.



I appreciate this conversation- I’ve learned a lot by reading from everyone’s experience.

I am preparing a 1/3 acre orchard planting for this Spring, and I continue to be concerned about voles- particularly because I hope to employ hardwood mulch on the orchard floor.

Based on everything I have read, it appears there really is no fool-proof method of preventing vole damage- particularly underground?

Where I am located (Western Kentucky- Zone 7a) we are predominantly in pine vole country, but do also have meadow voles.

My plan at present is to encircle each tree with an approximately 2’ ring of peastone mulch approximately 3-4" thick and to surround this with hardwood mulch at a similar depth.

I’ve considered buying vole/gopher baskets, but their size (and cost) seem to not provide a sustainable solution.

Based on what you all have tried, do you have any pre-plant recommendations for mitigating pine vole injury?

Thank you all for your help. I sincerely appreciate it!



I manage trees in pine vole country and they are more difficult than the meadow variety, but they do come up to the surface to feed in mid fall or so. I trap them out of my own orchard-nursery with peanut baited traps covered with a small cement mixing tray or something similar. When winter comes on too soon I may also use bait stations and poison them out. I get complete control this way.


Thank you, Alan. I sincerely appreciate your response.

Do you mind to share with me what traps / bait stations are working for you?

Do you expect that the peastone helps mitigate the potential for root girdling? Based on previous comments, it sounds like you have not had excessive trouble using hardwood mulch relative to pine voles?

Thanks again for the input- I am grateful.



Peastone is the classic remedy I’ve never used but assume would work for meadow vows, However, pines do damage on extended roots without necessary chewing the actual crown at the base of the tree.

I know that mulch encourages voles, but controlling voles is the least of my worries in successfully getting crops from the trees I manage. I have plenty of time in fall and it doesn’t take much of it. Squirrels require the most of my attention.

I use protecta bait stations because they are relative cheap and adequate. I like snap easy mouse traps. https://www.amazon.com/Snap-E-102-0-019-Mouse-Trap-6-Pack/dp/B004B9XPOO



Thank you again for your input- I sincerely appreciate it. If I might appeal to your generosity once more, have you found that pine vole activity is easy to spot in your hardwood much via an 1" - 2" diameter hole?

Just curious if it is harder to see their tunnel openings in 3-4" of mulch?

Thanks again for your reply- I really do appreciate it!



i do the same but use 12in pieces of 3in. pvc pipe with one end sealed with duct tape. put the chunk of bait all the way in the back and place with the open end slightly down so water doesn’t enter. i do this in the fall all around my orchard/berry bushes. i haven’t had vole problems since. i place 3in. of new mulch around my plants every spring also.


I do sometimes see holes and that is where i catch the most voles, but I always move the traps throughout the orchard and nursery (it is very young trees that are most threatened). If I see holes I definitely put a tray with traps over them, but set trays about 6’ apart everywhere I have apple trees.

I do think they come to the surface and forage at night, not just to the top of their holes. .


i don’t have issues w/ them in summer . lots of foxes, owls and hawks here. only in winter under the snow. had a row of nanking cherries that they ate so bad , none resprouted!


Great feedback and great idea, moose71. Thank you for the idea and strategy!



Thank you again, Alan. I really do appreciate the advice.