Which mulch is better for fruit trees?


Here is what my local nursery is offering. Both are the same price.
Which one of these options is best for mulching fruit trees?

  • Redi Gro (A natural forest product) Western red bark - no artificial colors, no chemicals/rubber/etc Ingredients - Fir Bark

  • Redi Grow, Shredded redwood mulch - no artificial colors, no chemicals/rubber/etc Also called gorilla hair


What purpose do you hope to achieve with mulch?


Stay away from shredded redwood. I made the mistake of covering a large portion of my orchard with it years ago. It does not break down. That’s a bad thing. You want your wood chips to decompose into soil.


Sometimes it is good- it depends on the needs of your soil. Bark mulches in general are slow to break down, but redwood has to be the gold standard, it has compounds that make it virtually indigestible for micro-organisms. Whole logs can remain on the forest floor for centuries (or several decades, anyway).

Fruit trees usually function best in conditions that encourage moderate growth- therefore average soil is ideal, as long as it contains the essential nutrients at adequate rates. So slow break down of mulch can reduce labor and material costs.

However, mulches that break down quickly not only add organic matter to the soil more quickly and feed soil organisms much more generously, the process also improves soil tilth and helps aeration. These are almost always great assets in vegetable and flower gardens, but the need is more variable in orchards.


Water retention, Weed prevention, Long lasting so I don’t have to replace every year, Beneficial to fruit trees in any other way possible + everyone here says mulching is good.


You’ll need to replenish (top it off) every year or so.

I like the 1" kiln dried conifer bark. “Sequoia Brand” is one of the producers in the western states .


If you have access to a pick up truck you can get various mulch at places like http://evergreensupplyonline.com/ for a much better rate than buying bags. They deliver too but the fee isn’t worth it unless you are getting many yards.

I always liked the look for bark nuggets and they last a while. I also would get tree trimmer mulch which is better for the soil (mix of green leaf matter and brown wood all chipped up together). Best of all it’s free. This guy used to give me loads from time to time and his truck is only 5 yards; https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-branch-manager-san-jose


There isn’t a better mulch than arborist chips right out of the chip box, IMO, and you can often get them for free or for a couple six packs for 3-4 yards. Their freshness is usually not a liability when used for fruit trees. Compounds from fresh can be harmful to tender young vegies, though.



Fresh tree trimmer cuttings often contains diseases and insect pests. I prefer something cured.


I’m in a situation where I want to keep maintenance at a minimum. I started by using organic mulch (wood chips and the like). I had two issues. First was rodents liking the mulch for nesting and subsequently damaging trees. The second was that it broke down and constantly needed to be replenished. I have since switched to air and water permeable landscaping material cover with quarry stone. The stone holds the landscaping material in place forming a weed barrier and helping prevent moisture loss. Nothing likes to nest in stone and it is permanent.

As Richard says, it all depends on your purpose.


Thank you all, lots of great questions and suggestions!

GeorgiaGent - Great links, Thank you!


Fresh is free and in our region doesn’t represent an appreciable threat, but that is something ones cooperative extension should have regional knowledge about. It probably also helps to know the arborist, if you want to know about the health of the tree source. Here in the northeast, I’ve never heard of fresh chips being a problem and Cornell recommends their use almost unconditionally.

Chips are often shredded to make a fancier product that I often purchase directly from the yard that did the shredding, but this is an extra step that takes energy and costs money. If you don’t have the land to age your wood chips, having someone else do it would also add expense and steps. The more they are aged the shorter they last, so it may also increases maintenance time but this aspect may be a wash, because chips shrink as they age and probably faster when fresher. .

When I’m trying to improve soil, I also much prefer aged- it gives more bang for the buck in water holding capacity and other ways and looks better- especially with rough chips that have lots of strips.


Bald and Pond Cypress in the SEUSA have the same properties as redwood. Same plant family, only different genus. The locks on a local dame made out of pond cypress planks held back a 1,500 acrer 25 ft deep pond for over 100 years before they had to be replaced. The planks making up the millhouse overhead have never been replaced or painted. God bless.



“Here in the Northeast, I’ve never heard of fresh chips being a problem”.

Well, you don’t live in central MA. We’ve had a bad case of Asian Longhorned beetles. I can’t even cut down my own trees. It has to be done by a certified person. In addition, wood from infected trees is to be destroyed, not allowed to be used.

I don’t know where the companies that sell mulch in my area, get their supplies from. As far as I know the beetle infection in our area has been bad. They cut down ten of thousands of trees, infected and suspected of infecting by these beetles. Town officials have roamed neighborhoods checking trees and tagging them. Very serious and frustrating issue.


I don’t think it is a problem throughout central MA. According to this publication, the only place they are actively fighting it is in Worcester county. I would assume all licensed arborists are aware of the problem in the quarantined area and they are certainly legally restrained from distributing chips from infested trees. But you bring up a good point, although it’s possible to exaggerate actual danger. What represents actionable risk ultimately is a subjective evaluation- but your cooperative extension can probably make relative risk easier to deduce.



You are right Central MA is bigger than Worcester County. We just happen to think that we are a big part of it :grin:

Exaggerating the issue or not, the fact that we can’t legally cut our own trees in our yard ( small to medium size) is a pain.


i use cedar mulch occasionally. takes a long time to break down and inhibits weed growth for a few years . if used once and awhile it won’t affect the tree or shrub that its around. also deters soil borne pests if mulched fairly fresh. don’t turn it into the soil or cover for at least a few years until its oils vaporize and break down or cedar will affect plant roots. smells great the 1st season too!


so far i don’t think they have been found in Maine and i hope they don’t! would kill our forestry backed economy not to mention our privately owned trees! between these beetles , the emerald ash borer and the wolly ageilids it will be a miracle if our forests survive another 50 yrs! sad.


If you want fresh chips and are willing to take the risk, here is how I got mine for free.

“Helping arborists get rid of wood chips. Helping gardeners get cheap mulch.”


They take a small donation for the delivery.



I hope they never get anywhere else. They love maples. A few years ago at the peak of destruction, so many trees were cut down. Woods became empty spaces, very weird-looking scenes.

Town officials gave us free trees as replacements but no maples, horse chestnuts or birches.