Go Ahead! Purchase Your Bare Root Trees This Winter
Part of my garden plan for the new homestead is to have a variety of fruit trees. Can you really be self-sufficient without them? Apples and pears are on the list for sure. Maybe even a peach tree. I haven’t decided whether to purchase online or look for local sales. My garden center always has a great deal on bare root trees this time of year so I’m shopping for deals.
My apple and pear tree area still needs some work and it will be several weeks before I can get to clear the area. I also don’t want to pass up any good deals. Since it’s usually too muddy and cold to do any planting right now, I can be confident my trees will survive. I just need to use this simple technique – heeling in bare root trees – to keep them alive until I can plant them in their permanent spot.
The practice of “heeling in” is a good planting technique to know on just such an occasion. This trick prevents the plant from breaking dormancy early and keeps the roots moist until you can plant.
Heeling in Bare Root Trees
- Select a sheltered spot and dig a trench, one side vertical and the other at a 45 degree angle. Make it wide and long enough to fit all the plants roots and keep them from crowding. The trench should be about a foot deep.
- Remove any plastic and other wrapping from the roots.
- Lay the uncovered plants down on the sloping side of the trench.
- If you have multiple trees, they can be closely bundled together.
- Spread out the roots along the bottom of the trench.
- Fill the trench with soil, firming lightly.
- Water if the soil is dry. It is important that the roots do not dry out or freeze
- Keep the roots moist, but not soaking wet, until you can plant the tree in its permanent place.
According to Amy Grotta, extension faculty in forestry education at Washington State University in this Organic Gardening article, “You can leave plants heeled in for months, but I would suggest holding them that way only for a few weeks,” says Amy. “You don’t want them to break dormancy before planting.” Plants that come out of dormancy early are susceptible to frost damage, so plant as soon as possible to prevent harming your new purchases.
If your ground is frozen you can also heel in your bare root trees in a cellar or garage. Use a five gallon bucket and cover the roots with damp sawdust or use a wheelbarrow. There should not be any standing water around the roots.
If you see the buds swell, your tree has broken dormancy and needs to be planted right away.
When you are ready to put your plant in its permanent place, remove it from the temporary ditch and soak the roots in a bucket of water for up to one hour. Hydrating those roots before planting will ensure success for your tree.
Watch this Raintree Nursery You-Tube video to learn all the information you need to know to properly plant your new fruit trees. Did you know that you should trim the roots to fit your planting hole? I sure didn’t. Plus, she is really aggressive pruning the cherry tree once it’s in the ground and I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do that without the video.
This excellent article from Stark Brothers Nursery offers suggestions for keeping berries and other small bare-root plants that can’t be placed in the garden right now. Consider storing them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Place them in gallon size zip bags and don’t store them with your regular produce because fruits and vegetables give off gasses as they ripen. To be extra cautious, you can double-bag your plants in the airtight plastic.
What are some of the methods you have used if you have to put off planting?
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