Crabapple question?


5 year old buck +
I have 12 crabapple trees on order from WoodStock Nursery for this spring. The trees I am getting are already 6-7 feet tall. My question is in regards to weed control. I plan on caging each of the trees. Is it best to use a weed mat and pea gravel or is mulch just fine to throw down for weed control?
I use mulch and the window screen around the tree first.
Others like pea gravel.

At an apple growers meeting in northern Mn., they said mulch was just fine.
I have use a weed barrier and mulch before and had issues with voles chewing off the supporting roots of my trees. I since changed to using the same weed fabric, but collected small to medium gravel from the creek and have seemed to resolve that issue. The mulch can hold/harbor small rodents and without the support roots the tree will die, the tap root simply isn't enough.
Thanks guys
I use landscape cloth and pea-sized limestone gravel ( the sharp, jagged kind ) piled to a depth of 3 to 4" on top of the cloth. My camp area has a ton of mice/voles and any organic mulch just attracted them. They can't tunnel thru the limestone and with that depth of gravel, they can't tunnel under the cloth without it all caving in on them. Aluminum window screen at least 2' tall around the trunks, set down into the gravel so mice/voles can't get inside without cave-ins. Been using this system for 3 yrs. and no probs.
When i planted my apple trees I used the plastic wraps that coil around the tree instead of window screen. Is one better than the other? Do you just use a stapler to close the screen?
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How close to the tree do you staple it? Or do you leave it loose? Any pictures?
Ogema - I guess you were asking me the ? but Stu and Badger supplied the answers. I learned the screen trick on this forum from guys like Stu, Badger, Maya and some others. I only followed their advice for my own plantings and it WORKS !!! The landscape staples are a good idea to hold the screen down to the ground. I just pile the limestone up around the base of the screen then so all the stone is at a depth of 3 to 4". Badger's pic shows the finished product, except mine has stone all around covering the landscape cloth. Each guy has his own particular situation. Some can get away with straw, wood chip mulch, etc., but I need to use stone where my camp is. Rodents can't eat it, nest in it, or tunnel thru it. Weeds don't like it much either. This forum is great for getting several points of view on topics and lots of first-hand experience. That's how I came to try the method I now use - because of the good gents on here. Priceless resource.:)
Thanks everyone, you guys are a great help!
Concerning the window screen I make a 4-6 inch cut at the bottom end of the cylinder of screen opposite the side you staple shut. You end up with two 4-6 inch flaps to cover with gravel to hold the cylinder of screen flat to the ground. These pics might explain it better than my words o_O.



The table from a discarded tablesaw makes a wonderful outside grafting-potting table ;).

I pile some dirt around the bottom of the window screen and make sure it is covered by a couple of inches.

Since I have concerns about sunscauld, I use a wider piece of window screen and then double or quadruple the screen on the SW side. I use the screen to shade the trunk.

Sunscauld is probably only a concern in northern areas.
I might be ble to find a picture this evening.