If you're planting a fruit tree and want your tree to be healthy and productive for many years to come, you should plant a bare-root tree rather than a potted tree. Bare root trees are easy to plant and generally cheaper than nursery-grown trees. There are several benefits of planting these young trees in winter. However, you should know a few important things before planting a bare-root tree.
In this planting guide, we will provide all the planting and watering tips you need to ensure your bare-root tree thrives for seasons. Let's begin!
What is a Bare Root Tree?
A bare root tree is a tree that has been dug out from the ground or nursery bed in spring or fall when they're dormant with no leaves, fruits, or flowers. These tree roots are not covered with any soil or compost, unlike container-grown trees.
The grower will wrap the roots in damp mulch, hay, or newspaper to protect them and then cover them with plastic to keep them hydrated. These bare root trees can then be boxed and distributed. It's important to note that bare root trees can remain in this condition for a limited time. So, they should be kept in a cool and shady location until planting. If bare root trees come into contact with sun and heat, they will emerge from a dormant situation, become stressed, and die without soil nourishing their roots.
When to Plant Bare Root Trees
Bare-root fruit trees should be planted as soon as possible after they arrive to minimize the risk of their buds opening, which indicates that they're emerging from dormancy. Late winter and early spring are the best times to plant bare-root trees. Plant them as soon as the soil has thawed, and there is no prediction for freezing temperature. After two weeks of planting, roots will start growing and developing long before any leaves appear. It takes 10 to 14 days for your trees to start rooting in.
A rainy or cloudy day is perfect for planting these young trees because the soil is soft and easy to dig. Additionally, the rain will moisten the soil and prepare it to accommodate the newly planted bare-root tree. On sunny days, plant the bare root trees in the early morning before it gets hot. However, if there is hail or windstorm, it is best to keep your trees in a cool place and plant them the next day.
Moreover, it is recommended to consult a tree nursery that is familiar to your area so they can advise you when planting conditions are ideal for your area.
How to Plant Bare Root Trees
Open the tree package instantly and make sure the material that surrounds the tree roots is moist, or sprinkle water on it to moisten it. Plant the tree within 1-2 days for the best results. However, if you have to delay planting for a few days, leave the tree in its package and place it in a cool, dark place. Don't let the plant freeze and keep the roots moist. Soak the plant roots in water for 8 to 12 hours before planting. Keep the roots moist throughout the process, before and during the planting.
Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees
- Choose a planting spot that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight daily and where the tree will have good drainage.
- Check the tree's root system. Dig a deep hole and make sure it is big enough to accommodate the root system. It would be wise to have this step done before your tree comes.
- Next, at the base of the hole, add 50% compost, peat moss, or any other soil-enhancing material with the 50% soil you dug out for the hole.
- Place your tree roots well inside the hole and fill the hole gently with soil.
- Add a little water and press the soil down around the roots to clear out any air pockets and ensure the soil contacts the roots.
- Water well and mulch for highest growth.
- Add an efficient irrigation system like drip irrigation to water your bare-root fruit trees precisely. Drip irrigation is an effective irrigation method that delivers consistent water directly to plants' roots in a controlled amount.
- Lastly, you may want to support your tree using nice and sturdy stakes. When deciding whether to stake, consider the plant's stability as well as the strength and direction of prevailing winds. If you're unsure, it's best to ask a nursery professional.
Mulching and Protection
Add a thick mulch layer around your tree to prevent weeds and maintain soil moisture between waterings by avoiding evaporation. You can use any organic material you have for mulching, including compost, dead leaves, or wood chips. Mulch should be spread broadly around the tree in a layer about 20 cm thick. Make sure the mulch doesn't touch the trunk; otherwise, it can rot the bark.
Moreover, carefully look for common risks in trees, like sunscald in the summer, bark cracking in the winter, and damage from lawn equipment.
How to Water Bare Root Trees
Proper watering in the first two to four weeks after planting the young bare-root trees is crucial for their survival. The roots shouldn't dry out completely, nor should they be drowned. This is the time when roots become active and start delivering the water to the entire tree. Therefore, make sure the soil remains evenly moist during this period.
During the first two weeks, water the tree every other day. Consistent watering will encourage the roots to reach their maximum potential. This is one of those rare times when giving some extra water is better than giving too little.
After this period, you can wait between watering's to allow the soil to dry slightly. Ideally, you only need to water once a week. Deep watering that moistens the soil deeply to the root mass is better than numerous light watering's.
The Bottom Line
Planting a bare-root tree is one of the affordable and easiest ways to add a healthy, food-producing plant to your garden. Make sure to follow our guide to carefully plant the bare-root fruit tree. After planting the trees properly, water them regularly with an efficient irrigation system like a drip irrigation system or Deep Tree Watering Stake. Additionally, prune trees annually for better yield and protect them from pests and diseases.