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[nafex] Straw Mulch to delay leafing out

I just returned from my 200 tree experimental apple orchard where I
transplanted about a dozen trees on Ottawa 3, Siberian, and Bud 490
rootstock.  All trees were very easy to dig up and transplant.  They were
one year whips about 3 ft. tall.  The ground was not frozen down to the one
foot level that I dug down to to transplant the trees.  Trees are still
totally dormant and I can still take scionwood if I wanted to.  For me green
tip is still a week to 10 days away.

I use a 4 inch straw mulch on any tree on M26 to hold in the moisture during
the summer.  When I tried to replace a tree under the straw mulch, I was
surprised to see the ground was frozen solid under the straw.  Clearly the
straw mulch should delay green tip by a few days if you have a tree you want
to delay coming out of dormancy.  I do soak the trees late in October, and
the wet ground freezes under the straw and is slow to thaw.

I've noticed any apple tree about 3 or more years old seems to do well with
a straw mulch.  However younger trees do poorly under a mulch and seem
stunted. I was curious and checked out why by talking to some of the experts
at the Agriculture Canada Summerland Research Station in BC.  Their mulch
tests confirmed my results as well.  Apparently a young apple tree needs
heat on the roots to grow well, and the straw mulch cools the ground plus
delays leafing out in spring.  Once an apple tree is a bit older, say 4
years plus, the roots seem not to be bothered by the cooler temperatures and
later start.  So if you live in a cold climate, don't mulch young trees
until they are a few years old.  I no longer mulch young trees, and the
increase in growth the first few years is very noticible.  Black soil kept
weed free around the young trees gives the best growth by far in my climate,
at least for the first 3 years or so.
Bernie Nikolai
Edmonton, Alberta

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