Written by David S.
If you love the idea of fresh fruit straight from the tree, consider adding a small orchard to your landscape. If you are interested in growing and preserving your food, adding fruit trees to your property is an excellent way to have fresh fruit almost year-round. With so many options of fruit trees available and so many dwarf varieties, you can add quite a few varieties of trees without overcrowding the yard.
This blog discusses:
- The time of year to plant bare-root trees
- About bare-root trees and their care
- Soil prep for transplanting bare-root trees
- Questions you might have about bare root fruit trees.
What month do you plant bare-root trees?
Generally, January and February are the two months when you would plant bare-root trees. However, determining when to plant a bare root fruit tree is less about the month and more about the tree. You want to plant bare-root trees before they start pushing new growth. That can be as early as December or as late as March in some years. The good news is that in Southern California, you have a wider window for planting trees – bare root or otherwise.
If you consider the microclimates of the region, you can dial in a more specific time. A good resource is the plant experts that you find at all five of our Southern California Green Thumb Nursery locations. Please stop in, browse the trees, and chat with our plant experts. They are here to help your garden and landscaping projects remain on track and end successfully.
How long do bare-root trees take to fruit?
Interestingly enough, the roots of a fruit tree have very little to do with whether the tree bears fruit. Most trees bear fruit at specific ages. For example, an apple tree may not bear fruit until it is 4-5 years old. The tree’s age determines when most fruit trees will start bearing fruit, and it is different for every cultivar.
How do you prepare the soil for bare root fruit trees?
Soil for bare-root trees is straightforward. However, certain trees have different soil requirements. For example, citrus trees require highly acidic soil (5.5 pH), whereas an apple tree may do just fine in soil with a pH of 6.5. So the first thing to do is to check the pH needs of the trees you want to plant. If you need help with that, stop by one of our five Southern California nurseries and chat with our plant experts.
Once you have the pH requirements for the trees, it is easy to build a soil mix that suits that tree. Fruit trees generally want well-draining soil. It is good to use some dirt from where you dug the hole. Supplement that with a quality bagged product such as FoxFarm Strawberry Field for fruit and berries.
Aim for well-draining soil with plenty of organic material. Newly planted bare root fruit trees will need to keep their roots moist but not soggy. Again, a bioactive ingredient can help the plants become established. The soil microbial life forms, such as Mycorrhizal fungi, help the roots meld with the soil, making water and nutrient uptake easier for the tree.
It is also essential that you evaluate the native soil where you will plant the tree. It should not be overly sandy nor overly comprised of clay. Generally, you’d use about 2/3 of native soil with 1/3 parts of potting soil. However, that ratio is not hard and fast as you can use more or less potting soil depending on the quality of your native soil.
Can I plant bare-root fruit trees in winter?
You can plant bare-root trees in winter, but they are often unavailable until late winter or early spring. Once you purchase a bare root fruit tree, you will need to plant it before it starts to push buds. In short, a few weeks at most after you buy it.
Should you soak bare root trees before planting?
Yes. You should soak most bare root fruit trees for up to two hours in water before planting. At Green Thumb Nursery, our bare root fruit trees are not “so” bare root. They are packed in soil to keep their roots vigorous. Do you need to soak the trees you buy from us? Not so much. They are ready to go in the ground as they are.
How to Choose A Bare Root Fruit Tree
The root structure is essential, as is the diameter of the trunk. Fruit trees are grown in rows and uprooted by a tool attached to a tractor. The process is not gentle, and so the root structure can suffer. Here’s a closer look at choosing the best fruit tree.
The Root Ball
The root ball should be spherical, with roots on all sides of the tree. Those roots will support the tree as it grows and become essential structural supports when the tree matures. At the least, you want three side roots on a root ball and preferably four or five. At Green Thumb Nurseries, our trees are packaged in dirt, making it difficult to see the roots. Gently compress the root ball in the bag, and you should feel those stronger roots.
Look at the trunk of the bare root fruit tree. It should be at least 1/2 inch in diameter and preferably 5/8 of an inch. Trees with trunks 1/2-5/8 of an inch diameter are the more mature trees from the crop of fruit trees. Because bare root trees are not grown in individual pots, they must battle it out in rows and fight for nutrients and water. Therefore, a tree with a thicker trunk had good resources and likely a good root ball.
The tree’s height is not as important as the condition of the roots or thickness of the trunk. A handsome tree is in proportion to the size of the trunk. Many fruit trees will back bud when pruned correctly. Back budding is an art taken from Bonsai. It is purposely pruning branches to force branch buds to develop. It is a way to shape the tree, even while young, so it grows into a lovely form as an adult.
As we approach bare root fruit tree season, now is the time to reach out to us about specialty trees. We have a large selection of fruit trees but can sometimes order unique or exotic trees. Give us a call or stop by any of our five Southern California Green Thumb Nursery locations.
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