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Bare Root & Potted Trees: Terms & Information

Planting & Care Instructions

Can't plant your tree right away? "Heel in" your tree until you can!

When your Bare Root stock arrives, open the plastic bags immediately. It is best to plant right away, within a week of delivery. If you cannot plant right away, you may “heel in” the plants to protect them and keep them alive (but still dormant) until planting in the permanent spot. To heel in Bare Root plants outside, pick a location that is shielded from wind. Dig a trench about twice as deep as the roots are long, with one side of the trench sloping at a 45 degree angle. Place the plants, roots side down, so that the trunks/stems are supported by the sloping side. Cover the roots with soil or sand and gently tamp down to avoid air pockets. Periodically check the root area, keeping the soil moist.

To heel in Bare Root plants inside due to snow or frozen ground outside, you can store them in a cool place like a root cellar, basement, or garage. It’s important to choose a place where the temperature stays between 38 and 45 degrees F. This ensures that the tree roots neither freeze, nor the tree break dormancy. Place the roots in a container with soil or sand and be sure to keep the root area moist.

If you don't have a permanent location for your tree or are just not ready to plant it in the ground, you can plant it in a pot as a short-term solution. We recommend using at least a 10 gallon pot. Nut trees have very large root systems and should only be planted in the ground. We do not recommend planting nut trees in pots.

How to Plant Bare Root Trees

When you receive your trees, they will be boxed securely with their roots wrapped in plastic and their limbs and roots trimmed back (not fully pruned) to fit inside the box. First, inspect the bag and make sure that the media around the roots is still moist. In the event that the media requires additional moisture, use a clean spray bottle to moisten it evenly.

The day before you plant, inspect the roots. 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.

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 specifically formulated our PrimeStart Bare Root Booster Blend, 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 tree will benefit from while establishing itself, in combination with humates and mycorrhizae.

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 deeply. 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 one and three inches below the surface of the soil. In the case of a single grafted tree, the graft union is normally between two and five inches above the soil line.

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. 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 specimen.

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. Do not overdo it, a slight tilt 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 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. Backfill with the same soil.

Lightly compact the backfill with your hand, adjusting the tree gently so that the backfill covers the dark trunk color line that represents the bare root tree'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.

Tips for Planting Finicky Trees

Almonds are subject to desiccation, especially the buds, and should be protected from the wind and from drying out. Use diluted, white, water-based, latex paint and paint the tree to protect it from heat and sun damage.

Persimmons - When planting Persimmons, it is important to remember that persimmons are not water loving plants. After the tree is planted, it should be watered with a good soaking to remove air pockets in the soil, and then it should be left alone. The plant shouldn’t be watered again until the buds start to break. Excessive watering is the primary cause of failure in bare root Persimmons.

Mulberries are prone to desiccation and frost damage when planted from bare root. To reduce the risk of plant loss, it is a good idea to thoroughly hydrate the plant and prune back its lateral growth to reduce the amount of surface area exposure.

Multi-Grafts: To increase survival rate of grafts, it is important not to let one graft overtake the tree. If the different fruit varieties (the limbs) are not well-spread on your trees, use a spreader to separate them. Always plant the smallest limb (the “weakest” bud) to the south/southwest to ensure that it gets plenty of sun. Prune back the strongest growing varieties by 2/3. Prune back the weakest variety by 1/2 — or not at all. During the summer, watch the growth-rate of the smaller limbs to determine if pruning is necessary at that time. If the weakest variety is 1/2 the size of the others, it’s best not to cut it back. In that case, only prune back the more aggressive limbs. Summer-prune when necessary in order to let sunlight get to all of the developing varieties. Keep even sunlight available to all of the developing selections. After the third season, maintain the multi-budded tree so that each fruit-type grows in balance with the others.

Tree Fertility

Nitrogen fertilizers should be applied only after the first year. It should be applied in early spring, mixed into the the top 6” of the soil in a broad ring that is approximately the diameter of the trees' canopy (the “drip line” of the tree). In the long-term, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, along with sufficient nitrogen, will significantly enhance tree health and fruit quality. High quality composts are also recommended as they contain a naturally balanced blend of nutrients, minerals, and probiotics. Natural kelp compounds are a great addition to fertilization regimes, whether added to irrigation water or used as a foliar spray between bud coloration and 1” fruit size. Avoid synthetic fertilizers as these can destroy many of the naturally occurring beneficial soil organisms that nurture healthy root systems. Synthetic fertilizers also tend to produce overly lush and unnatural top growth that attracts common insect pests and micro-pathogens. We recommend planting with our PrimeStart Bare Root Booster Blend (Item #F2000). This all organic blend provides just what your plants need. It has small amounts of all the major nutrients and many micronutrients, made more available by the humates in the mix. In combination with the diverse species of Endo and Ecto-mycorrhizal inoculant that are in PrimeStart, your plant's roots will have the ideal environment in which to grow and multiply.

Ongoing Tree Care

Staking may be necessary but should be done carefully. A young tree that struggles a little against the wind, without being blown over, develops tissue in its trunk that will strengthen the tree as it matures. Tightly staked trees that do not develop this tissue are at greater risk of wind damage as they grow older. Staking should provide emergency assistance to a young tree, but should not interfere with its natural capacity to resist wind. To properly stake your tree, drive two sturdy poles deeply into the ground on opposite sides of the tree from each other. The two poles and the tree should demarcate a straight line directly into the prevailing wind. Using a plastic tie or cord attached securely to each pole, create a loose harness that will allow the tree sufficient movement in the wind at least a few inches in all directions. If rain is not timely, then occasional watering will be necessary.

Over-watering can kill young trees. Moist, workable soil is sufficient; soggy soil is dangerous and often fatal. As the tree matures, you will want to water deeply but infrequently; commercial orchardists water for more than 12 hours at a time, but sometimes only two or three times during a season. As your tree matures, pruning will become the most critical factor for proper growth and development.

Spraying fruit trees during the dormant season is an important preventative to many diseases and pest problems. Traditionally, fruit trees are sprayed three times a year: at leaf drop (Thanksgiving), during full dormancy (New Year’s) and at bud swell (Valentine’s Day).

Disease Prevention

For Disease Prevention –There are many organic fungicides, insecticides and miticides available to control pests on fruit trees, nut crops, citrus, vegetables, and ornamentals. Download our Solution Chart for Pest Control to find helpful information on specific disease and pests.

Shipping Information

Bare Root Trees - Ship up to 10 Bare Root Trees for $29.99!
We ship our bare root trees on a first-come, first-served basis beginning in mid-December. We are unable to delay shipping due to many factors, most importantly limited storage and our warm California climate which causes bare root trees to break dormancy much sooner than in colder areas (bare root trees must be dormant to best survive shipping). If you are unable to plant your tree(s) right away, read our instructions on heeling in trees. All of our bare root trees come with free professional pruning, which will put the tree's stored energy first into root growth rather than leaf production. Our bare root trees ship in special boxes with their roots bagged in moist sawdust to help ensure their survival during transit. Up to 10 trees can fit in a box (due to their size, nut and multi-graft trees count as 2). Each box ships for $29.99 via FedEx Ground (or FedEx Home Delivery) to the lower 48 states. Bare root trees cannot ship via USPS, and cannot be shipped to P.O. boxes. We are unable to ship our bare root trees to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Bare root trees cannot be combined with potted trees.

Potted Trees & Vines - Ship up to 9 Trees/Vines for $19.99!
Our potted tree/vine varieties include Almonds, Figs, Pomegranates, Olives, Kiwis and Gojis. Up to 9 potted trees/vines can ship together in one master box. Potted tree/vine boxes ship for $19.99 to the lower 48 states via FedEx Ground (or FedEx Home Delivery). Potted trees/vines cannot ship via USPS, and cannot be shipped to P.O. boxes. We are unable to ship our potted trees/vines to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Potted trees/vines cannot be combined with bare root trees.

Limited Dormant Tree & Plant Guarantee (When Planted in the Ground by April 1st)

Claim Deadline is June 1st (with the exception of persimmon trees, which have a deadline of June 15th). Claims placed after June 1st (or June 15th for persimmon trees) will be denied.

Please note: Our trees will come to you professionally pruned to approximately 4 ft. in height to put the tree’s stored energy into root development vs. foliage production.

What We Guarantee
Our only guarantee is that your dormant tree/plant will arrive in good, viable condition and will leaf out by May 15th (historically 98% of our trees do). This guarantee is only available to customers who purchased their tree/plant directly from us, and who planted their tree/plant in the ground by April 1st (or temporarily in a pot if the ground in their zone was still frozen solid).

What We Cannot Guarantee
We cannot guarantee that your tree/plant remains alive & healthy, or bears fruit, as there are too many variables beyond our control in order to do so (i.e. soil preparation, planting, fertilization, weed & pest control, adequate irrigation and/or drainage, chill hours, compatible hardiness for your zone, proper choice of pollinator, etc).

How to Request a Credit
If your tree/plant does not leaf out by May 15th, please perform a scratch test by checking for green under the bark, a few inches over the graft. If the scratch test reveals a brown cambium, that means your tree/plant is dead or dying. Watch our video titled Bare Root (Dormant) Warranty on how to perform this simple test. If the scratch test revealed that your plant is dead or dying, pull it from the ground and take pictures of the entire tree/plant, including the roots. Submit your claim & pictures by sending an email to us at no later than June 1st (or June 15th for persimmon trees). We will review your claim and issue you a credit (not a refund) for the purchase price of your tree/plant (excluding shipping).*

(*) We reserve the right to not issue credit for items that have already been replaced. We also reserve the right to require photographic evidence that the tree/plant was not killed by root rot, rodent or mechanical damage.

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