When planting out a native or a fruit tree into the garden it is helpful to mulch around the root zone to ensure it gets off to a good start. In the initial stages a seedling will have to compete with the weeds and grass for water and nutrients. As the tree matures the roots will be much deeper into the soil and have a better chance of survival. Mulch also helps reduce moisture evaporation from the soil.
Ten years ago it was the fashion to use thick black plastic sheets to keep weeds out. It was very effective, but did not allow good water, air and nutrient penetration so it’s less popular these days. A better alternative is a biodegradable ground cover or weed mat. These are sold as sheets of recycled fabric or paper. You can also buy squares for trees that have pre-cut holes in them. They retain moisture well and keep the weeds out. Add mulch on top to cover and disguise.
Using layers of newspaper and cardboard as weed prevention is a popular permaculture technique. You can also use black plastic or old carpet as a way to kill grass and weeds. (Do not use synthetic carpet or coloured magazine paper as they can leach nasty chemicals into the soil). Cover the area for several weeks, move to a new area and then replace the bare patch with a thick layer of mulch.
You may like to plant a living mulch around the base of your tree. Typically a living mulch is a dense ground cover. Suitable Australian natives include Banksia Roller Coaster, Banksia Pygmy Possum, Creeping Banksia, Creeping Boobialla, Grevillea Poorinda Royal Mantle, Grevillea gaudichauidii, Guinea Flower, Matted Bush Pea and Prostrate Red Grevillea.
Any other suggestions?