By E.W Forsyth
Gardeners who have learned the glories of picking fresh fruit from their own orchards eagerly await the bare root season to take their list of desired trees to the local nursery. Your first look at the bare root fruit tree that you envision bearing baskets of fresh sweet fruit may be a bit of a disappointment; it won’t win a beauty contest. But there is a bonus to buying bareroot. As those smart gardeners know, you get great fruit trees at a price considerably less than a containerized tree.
Unlike evergreen fruits such as citrus, deciduous trees go through a dormant phase during which they lose all their leaves. Whether you’re choosing plum, nectarine, pear, peach, pomegranate, persimmon, cherry or quince trees, the safest time to dig these young ones from the field for transportation to the nursery sans soil on their roots, is when they are in a state of dormancy, hence the term “bare root.” Planting your trees without soil from a foreign area means that the roots will grow into the native soil, the same soil they will remain in during their life span, thus ensuring a healthier, stronger tree. If your soil is very poor, however, this may not be an option.
True gardeners have learned patience. They will choose the smaller specimens, as the larger the tree the more out of balance will be the root to stem ratio. And while it may be momentarily painful, top that first year bare root off at 2 to 3 feet in height, with no side branches remaining. Doing this means that the scaffold, which is the lower side supporting structural branches, will be lower to the ground, making harvesting and pruning less of a chore. And while we’re on pruning, peaches and nectarines will need to be heavily pruned each dormant season; apples, pears, almonds, plums, persimmon and apricots, once they are established, will only require moderate pruning.
It’s wisest to ready the planting holes for your trees prior to going to the Green Thumb, so that you can get them into the ground the same day. As with most plants and trees, they like loose soil with good drainage, and sunny locations. If your soil conditions are less than perfect, but the location you’ve chosen is, why not plant your new additions in a raised bed? This allows you to completely control the soil into which you are placing the trees. We recommend amending poor soil with Kelloggs Amend.
Group trees that have similar spraying needs, and those varieties of fruit trees that require pollinators. Bees and the wind will assist you with this, so how lucky if your neighbors have cultivars that are needed for pollination of your trees!
Your planting holes should be wide rather than deep. A depth the length of the rootstock, or approximately 1.5 feet, should suffice. Put your hands into the earth and form a slight mound. Place your tree on the mound, gently spreading out the roots so that they aren’t encircling the tree. Use the native soil, or a mixture if you need to amend, to fill in the hole, and don’t fertilize until you see growth on the tree. Once planted, mulch the area around the tree with Kelloggs Topper. For the first two years, dilute the fertilizer by half so that young roots do not get burned.
It will take a couple of years before your bare root fruit tree actually bears fruit, but what a relatively short wait for the satisfaction of knowing that you were a part of the growth process nearly from the beginning. And imagine how sweet that first bite of fruit will taste!
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