Barefoot trees arrived with snow still on the ground - advice needed

Hi All,

I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’m in SE. NH. Zone 6a, right on the edge of 5B. Friday we got ~7" of snow.

Gurneys shipped me my Stanley and damson plum bare root trees last week midweek and they arrived yesterday. I requested a delay, but the braindead response I got was “you can preserve your bulbs by refrigerating them until the soil thaws.”

How early is too early to put these plums in the ground?

They were shipped with nothing by the roots to provide moisture. I put some damp paper towels in the bag and put them in my basement that gets little light.

My understanding is that these guys need dirt asap but I’m just not sure what to do.


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I think you did the right thing.

I was told not to plant bare root when the ambient temperature was below freezing but it was OK if it got below freezing otherwise.

The ground can’t be frozen of course.

I wouldn’t put them in the basement, (unless it’s just a couple days) it’s probably warm enough that they could break bud. I’d go with a garage if you have one. Is it expected to warm up quickly? As in - you could get them in the ground in a few days?

I would probably keep them in the garage in moist sawdust or even some sand or potting soil if it were me.


fruit trees are actually pretty resilient bare rooted, the most damage they get is from moving them around esp if below freezing because the roots will break or simply what happens with digging them up or planting them.

Second worst thing is that they dry out too much, I let them sometimes get a bit dry out of laziness, and they do fine for a couple months bare rooted in a somewhat open plastic bag in the garage with temps around 40F.

Keep them cool, moist, dark and they will last fine. If they get warm THEN start to worry as you are because the time is ticking. Most trees can even handle a few degrees below freezing as a bare rooted plant but don’t quote me on that part.

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Hello Mike,
I’ve had the exact same thing happen a few years ago here in February when there’s always at least 6 inches of snow on the ground from lake effect. We get so much snow (5b with 112 annual inches of snow) that our ground never freezes (it’s a gift from the snow gods). I was able to clear the snow away and confirm that only the top 1 cm of earth was “frozen,” everything below was above 32 degrees and perfectly workable. So I just dug the holes, put the trees in them, watered heavily to settle the soil (with lukewarm water from the house (it was barely 35 degrees air temp when I did this). Then I replaced all the snow to reform the insulating layer. It worked on 5 out of 5 trees, all woke up, and all are still alive to this day.
So my recommendation is to check to see if under your snow cover the ground is frozen solid or not. If not, you’ll have a good chance of success if the buds are still completely tight, by putting them in right now, and recovering them with snow.


Do they exhibit toe nails? Clip those before planting.

If the ground isn’t frozen, plant them.
You’ve dampened the roots already it sounds like.
Keep in cool place if you can’t dig holes yet…

(I have an apple tree that got really thrashed by storms last Friday… Should have staked it.

I’d suggest burying them in a snowbank if you could protect them from critturs.

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Hi everyone, thank you all for your wonderful advice. In the fall I put down a layer of cardboard with multiple inches of mulch on top of that. So it sounds like my ground may be movable under all that insulation.

Due to the current wet conditions by me, should I still water these guys in after planting? (in addition to soaking the roots for 20-30 minutes in a bucket before planting)

I’ll post some progress pics after I get them in

Water them in enough to settle the soil around the roots. The snow melting will make that union of soil and root tighter, but the more contact there is from the beginning the more protection the roots have.

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Thanks for this,

I moved them to the garage and I should be able to get them into the ground tomorrow.

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