What's the benefit of gravel vs. mulch? I know large bark steals nitrogen from the tree as it decomposes, anything else?
Do you use a weed mat and gravel or just the gravel?
I put down a weed barrier that allows moisture thru but not weeds - DO NOT USE PLASTIC! use an actual weed barrier fabric - should be able to get at your local big box home improvement stores in the lawn and garden section. I used to use mulch but I have voles get under it and chew off all the support roots of one of my fruit trees. I decided that gravel would be much more difficult for them to burrow in and I have not had an issue since. It's coarse enough to allow the rain to pass thru, heavy enough to hold the weed barrier in place and I get mine from my creek.....so it's cheap as well. The gravel I use is roughly the size of the stuff they use on county roads and the like - not the stuff the size of your fist and not pea gravel either. I also only make about a 3 foot diameter cage at 4 to 5 feet high to encourage vertical growth.anything that sticks out beyond the cage the deer will prune for you. I really prefer 5 feet tall if I can. Hope this helps.