How To Successfully Plant Bare-Root Fruit Trees

Posted: March 14, 2017
Category: Tutorials
Comments: 0

Why Bare Root Fruit Trees

Bare root trees come to you dormant, looking a big like a twiggy tree. By planting them when dormant, or not blooming, the roots grow better than when stuck in a pot.

Planting them in the spring is the preferred choice for northern growers, ensuring that trees have enough time to become established before winter. Trees should never be planted during summer as the weather is too extreme and the soil holds little moisture for long.

1. Location is not just about real estate

Choose your location well. Fruit trees love sun, ensuring that your fruit ripens and has good sugar content. Your location should have at least six hours of sunlight, eight is even better. You want to have soil that is rich in nutrients and can retain moisture. Also, ensure that there is room for your choice tree to grow to it’s full size.

2. Dig The Hole Correctly

The first thing you must do is remove the grass or sod from the location in a three foot circle. Then dig a hole big enough for the roots to sit in comfortably as well as grow easily.

With heavy or compacted soils, loosen up and dig out twice the diameter and depth of the roots on the tree you are planting. When removing the soil from the hole, keep the topsoil and subsoil in separate piles and avoid mixing the soils together.

3. Put The Tree In The Hole & Backfill

Place the tree in the hole you just dug. Make sure that the graft line - the location on the tree where the scion wood is grafted to the rootstock - is above the soil line. Feel free to ask for help identifying this location if you are not sure.

Hold the tree plumb and backfill the hole. Begin backfill using the subsoil first. Pull out any rocks that land on the root system. Do not place any sod back in the hole. Push your hand into the soil to help eliminate any air pockets that could collapse under heavy rain. Press the soil in carefully with your heel and smooth out the top layer.

We recommend NOT using any fertilizers in the trees’ hole to ensure that the tree sends its’ roots deep in search of nutrients. You can add in ¼ cup of kelp meal to help provide key micronutrients that are slow releasing.

If you are planting trees on dwarfing root stock, now is the time to stake it. Install one 4”x4”x8’ rot resistant post or 1”-2” diameter 8' metal pole with at least 2’ to 2 ½’ in the ground. This post is for structural support and will tower over the newly planted tree, this is ok. Use a wide, flexible tie material (narrow or sharp edges are more likely to cause wounds to the tree due to friction). The tree should have the ability to move some, you’re just looking to prevent toppling.

4. Mulch The Soil

Now, after planting and staking (if needed) add a layer of mulch around the area you have dug to help your tree hold its moisture level and create a fungally dominant soil which helps your tree thrive. Mulch helps hold in the moisture and prevents us from having to water all of the trees in our orchard. Wood mulch is preferred for trees as it has the correct biology already on it.

You can add a thin layer of compost to the surface before mulching. Add a minimum of two inches of a natural wood mulch to the entire surface.

5. Water It Well

Water buckets

Last, give your tree a good, deep drink of water.Water the tree slowly with half of a 5 gallon bucket of water. We use pond water with all of its nutrients, but regular water works great too.
If the future few weeks are dry, do this once a week until it is established. Only water for the first year unless you’re in an area that is experiencing drought. This helps train the tree's root to go deep, making them more resilient in the future.

Lightly heel in the moist soil to firm up the tree, re-rake the surface of the mulch and make sure the tree is labeled.

What To Expect

Within weeks of planting, you should see leaves bursting into new life. Your fruit tree is alive and ready for a full season of healthy growth.

Purchasing bare root trees for spring planting is the most successful and economic way to start fruit trees in cold climates. Knowing how to plant them successfully so they grow quickly is a skill. Learning that skill will get your orchard off to a great start. Your trees will be healthier and fruit will appear quicker.

Bare root trees are ONLY available in early spring. At Winter Cove Farm, we sell them from December until very early May. Order early for best selection.

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