Planting Your Bare Root Fruit & Nut Trees
The fundamental considerations and subtle nuances of growing and caring for trees are beyond the scope of this introduction to bare root tree care. This information is one part of a series focused on how to plant bare root trees. Please see our resource center where we offer additional instructional videos and articles, as well as our bookstore.
The day before you plant, spread the roots and inspect them. Any roots that are not firm and plump should be trimmed back to healthy tissue, above any damage or withering. We also recommend soaking the roots overnight in a bucket of water. With some basic preparation, now your bare root tree should be ready to plant.
It is not recommended that you fertilize your bare root tree with high levels of major nutrients at the time of planting, especially not Nitrogen. This is why we formulated our PrimeStart Bare Root Booster Blend organic fertilizer which is intended to be mixed with your soil while planting your tree. It includes small amounts of many slow release minerals and nutrients that your bare root tree will benefit from while establishing itself, in combination with humates and mycorrhizae.
When you are ready to plant the bare root tree, dig a hole the same depth as the root system and two to three times as wide as the root system. Current research indicates that a saucer shaped hole with sides that slope gently upward, the same depth and three times the width of the root system stimulates the most root growth.
Do not plant your trees too deep; it is usually best to plant the tree to the same level it was planted in the nursery. The large perennial roots should be between 1” - 3” below the surface of the soil. In the case of a single grafted tree, the graft union is normally between 2” - 5” above the soil line.
Cover the roots and provide a solid, compressed “soil cone” at the bottom of the hole that will support the root system and prevent it from being crushed and broken while backfilling the soil. Please make sure that the sides of the hole have not been “glazed” while digging. If this has occurred, break through the “glaze,” roughing up the soil with a trowel or hand-held cultivating fork.
If gophers are a problem in your area, a wire gopher basket, should be placed in the hole with its bottom modified to accommodate the soil cone you have provided to support the root system. Gophers are less of a threat to mature trees, but this protection could mean the difference between life and death for a young bare root tree.
Two more factors must be considered before planting: wind and sun. If high winds will be a factor in your planting location, then the tree should be tilted slightly towards the wind’s prevailing direction. A slight tilt is all that is necessary and will suffice.
To prevent sun damage to your new tree, orient the outward curve of the graft union toward the direction of the afternoon sun. The graft union’s inner surface is highly susceptible to sunburn. A trunk wrap or painting the trunk with half and half mix of water and white latex paint is recommended. Place your tree on the soil cone at the bottom of the hole, orienting it towards the direction of the wind and sun.
Lightly compact the backfill soil with your hand, adjusting the tree gently so that the backfill covers the dark trunk color line that represents the bare root’s original planting depth. Water the tree thoroughly and watch for settling. If undue settling occurs, elevate the tree very slightly to raise its height and release any subsoil air pockets.
For more information on caring for your bare root tree, please visit our resource center.