How to plant bare root trees

I know my trees are rare varieties. For the guys who bought trees from me, I know you guys value the tree very much just like me. But Don’t love them too much. There are two kinds of people who kill the plants. One loves too much; the other fully neglected.

Bare root trees like cool and shade area, keep moisture, but not sopping. Before the root starts working, you’d better shade them if the sun is hot. Dim light help roots start its function.
Now it is excellent time to plant all trees. But southern
area need to shade the trees.
Don’t put in the greenhouse. The hot temperatures will stress the plants.

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Bare root trees are pretty easy to plant. Dig them up and plant below the graft line but above the roots. Plant outside where it will not come out of dormancy too early. Most can do it and those who cannot are those like my grandma who are not looking for advice on how to do it right and always asks the question of did you plant it nice and deep and thinks of bare root as a small plant anyway.

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My pet peeve on bare-root fruit trees are not the trees but the supplier.
I always do well when they ship them to me early even if I have to hold them a week or 2 before conditions allow me to plant.

My worst times with bare-root are when a bare-root company thinks it is ok to ship my order to me in Mid-late May. The tree arrives leafing out. If hot out they can wilt or really not do well.

I much prefer to plant early as soon as I can dig a hole. Nice tight buds and they can slowly leaf out as spring progresses. I now write on all bare-root orders to ship “first week April” as I have access to cold storage at work if needed temporarily. Too bad not all suppliers heed the request. I suppose they are short on help so ship out more southern orders first and leave those going up north for last.

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I don’t think commercial growers shade typical fruit species anywhere. When sun is a problem they paint the wood white, I believe. Only species I’ve heard of deliberately creating shade for is paw-paws.


This thread is confusing me.

I plant bare root trees like any tree, the after care is different if it is planted in summer because you water it more. Storing bare root trees is about keeping them from freezing, and keeping them moist, spray with water if dry. I wrap them in a plastic with a little air flow at about 34F in a garage and plant asap when the ground is workable.
Usually bare root trees are planted in late fall to early spring when they are dormant and get spring rain. General rule is to plant with the graft union above the ground to preserve rootstock influences. Plant the root flare at ground level. Put down some cardboard and woodchips or other weed control, water, put on sun and animal protection.
later on: Add fertilizer as needed. prune as needed, spray as needed.
harvest as desired.
Enjoy tree.

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In my experience it is not them shipping late that is the problem. It is shipping too early. Places like Grow Organic Peaceful Valley ship too early in January when the ground will be frozen for months here. Most will ship to me in April and some will only wait to ship until March and March is somewhat doable here. Another thing I have found with bare root plants is they will take orders without knowing they will have enough in stock. Last year I had a 5 in 1 apple get canceled with Stark Bros and this year I had a 5 in 1 cherry from Raintree Nursery get canceled because of a crop failure. The apple I understood because I bought it when there was just one but the 5 in 1 from Raintree I was one of the first ones to put in and there was nearly 200 so I wonder if they started shipping out to the warmer areas and got shorted. These bare root crop failures always happen under a month before shipping out. I would say 2 weeks even so everywhere else will be sold out.

I think you dissected my meaning. Because different locations, the trees are still dormant in my area, but already very hot in TX, and FL. Before the roots start their function, you’d better shade them. Otherwise, sun will burn them.
That’s my experience. I help many people grow fruit trees.

Bare root trees require care as we all know. One thing I learned to do years ago was to pre-dig the holes and refill them in October for spring planting. That way the soil was not compact and was easy to deal with. The other thing is to mix organic content with your soil (for me it is right heavy clay). If I am just planting 20 trees or less I mix the stuff in the bucket of my orchard tractor with a square shovel as I go. (The bucket is made of heavy steel and that helps the mixing.) The other thing is you have to wet the bottom and the top of the hole and make sure your top is at least 18" round and deep and fill so you do not cover the graft union. I find the most reputable nurseries - Cummins, Adams County, Virginia Vintage Apples, for example, provide useful directions, that if followed lead to good results. In the past several years I have lost only one tree that I know of after planting - snapped off right at the soil line - horticultural experts at the extension service blamed it on a bad graft union. Oh - stay away from herbicides for 3 or so years for new trees - you want the cracks to fill in so the herbicides - e.g., Centrus, do not hit the roots. Good luck!

If trees are painted white with a latex paint the cambiums should be fine. Roots start growing first and if you are where it’s hot, trees should be in the ground as early as possible. By the time the real heat arrives, leaves will likely already have emerged and will draw sap through the trees… that’s what will prevent cambium scorch, IMO. I’m a nurseryman and orchard keeper, in NY. so I realize my conditions are different, although I began my work with fruit trees in S. CA about 55 years ago.

I don’t doubt that setting up some shade could be helpful, but if the white paint works as well, it seems less time consuming. In my business, it’s all about bang for the buck when it comes to time expenditure.

The majority of the trees from my nursery I plant and tend for my customers, so I do know something about establishing fruit trees, but you are right to suggest my weather is different than yours. I’ve just not seen the shade thing suggested in any literature I’ve read, beyond what I said about paw-paws.

I bought paint for trees last year and it was over 100 dollars for a gallon of paint. I think the directions were to reapply every year. My trees have survived a year or more without paint even. I kind of regret buying the paint because I honestly think my trees can survive without it.

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I see a wide range of prices on latex white paint, but it seems readily available for under $20 a gallon from the standard big box sources. Maybe when you made your purchase it was during the Covid based shortages of building supplies.

This thread is about planting bare root trees and my response was specifically to that. I have seen plum trees from southern commercial orchards where painting of trunks was continued- the point being to protect trees from southwest injury.

I suppose boards could be used, braced to trunks on the south-side instead of painting them, but I’ve never heard of this method being used.

Sophia never described how she provides shade for the trees she protects.

One of my self-proclaimed jobs here is to try to sort out suggestions and separate individual anecdotes from established and proven practices. Both can be useful, but it’s important that people realize the difference or everything can get murky in a hurry. As I’ve often stated on this forum, I have come up with many astute anecdotal observations, and quite a few that proved mistaken over time. If a method is widely used in the commercial realm, it is often the most practical.

My bare root trees have done phenomenal. Usually double growth in the first year and triple the second.

I dig a hole and toss in some charcoal. Usually the charcoal has sat in water with its own ashes and some finished compost for a few days. Sometimes it’s dry charcoal right from the fireplace.

Then I throw some mycos (endo and ecto mycorrhizae) and put the tree back in with only native soil.

Then I cover the area with woodchips that have been decomposing for 2-3 years, about 5x the length of the tree in radius. But it’s about 8” thick. Then water with 4-5 gallons and walk away. Nothing else.

I also mix charcoal into the woodchips, because that mulch will become topsoil.

I used to add azomite, worm castings and compost into the planting hole. Even top dressing with eggshells and ashes. All of it was not only unnecessary, but also detrimental.

I got tired of listening to YouTubers try to parrot science without knowing plant physiology. I cringe every time I hear “nitrogen fixing” when those people don’t even know what nitrogen really is. So I’m just basing my science off of experience and the books I am reading.

I love charcoal lol. I just hate having to burn wood to make it. Then I use IV organic trunk paint for the first couple years. Graft union weak spot facing away from sun

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That’s what my grandfather used to do when planting olive trees back in the old country more than 40 years ago. He used charcoal and ashes. Obviously I don’t think mycos was known to him back then. There are a lot of mixed messages regarding this practice online, but I wouldn’t doubt my grandfather when it came to farming… EVER.

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I just read a book published in 2022 called “finding the mother tree”. She used hemlock and fir trees and monitored how the roots would actually connect to fungal roots. They would pass on carbon from tree to tree that had dye in it to be traced. Maybe not dye. But some trace element.

The fungal roots are able to take advantage of the permeable roots while still allowing protection and blocking pests.

Trees can communicate. And the fungus helps.

But this book started facing criticism two months ago saying the science needs more study.

Putting the inoculant on the roots is supposed to speed up the symbiosis of root and fungus. That’s why I use it

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Moderation was requested on this topic. The flags are being reviewed.

Once again, I don’t think throwing charcoal in a planting hole is always a good idea, unless you are aware or your soils pH and how it will be affected… but I think better to spread it around and mix it into the soil 3’ beyond the trunk of the new trees or so if the soil is excessively acidic. Work it into the soil 6-12" deep unless the soil is crazy acidic, in which case you might want to work it in deeper. Generally the idea of treating planting holes differently than nearby soil has been argued against by the science.

Those aged wood chips are probably pretty close to compost— I dress the trees I plant with about 6 cubic feet of compost made from lawn clippings and wood chips. However, it’s interesting to me that you put down the mulch 8" thick… I assume you pull that back from the trunk. I plant my trees a bit high so I don’t bury the tree too deep, especially it the tree is on size reducing rootstock. Then I mulch with 2-3" relatively fresh wood mulch to help control weeds which more composted chips may not do as well (maybe they do as well when spread 8" thick). Here I’m talking about the trees I plant for my customers out of my nursery, where I want to be assured of rapid growth in the face of possible neglect. They are often bare root but are good sized, well branched trees between 2 and 2.5" in diameter at the base. They are bearing age so need all the help they can get to sustain vigorous growth.

Understand that the wood chips contain mostly the same nutrients as the charcoal. Plants mulched with them pretty much never suffer from K deficiency. If charcoal has special power to help trees, I’m interested in any verifying research on the subject. Even careful comparisons of growth by members here done in a manner that is controlled enough to provide trustworthy information.

Some species, like peaches, seem to always respond favorably to added nitrogen. I use a 90-day sulfur coated urea in my nursery and also in orchards I manage and it works noticeably better for me than depending on the compost for naturally occurring N. For me, greater vigor means more survivors and quicker returns in my nursery, and happier customers outside it. I don’t have deer fencing and use repellents which are hard to adequately keep up with so the quicker the trees grow the sooner they are out of harms way. My nursery has no irrigation. .