Jump starting new bare root trees

Hello everyone. I recently joined the forum and am amazed at the knowledge some of you possess. Growing fruit definitely takes a unique skill set and I am super excited to be part of your community. I just got done planting the following bare roots from Dave Wilson nursery on my 3/4 acre Atlanta, GA property:

1 multi grafted apple
1 multi grafted disease resistant pear
1 pineapple quince
1 multi grafted pluot
3 parfianka pomagrantes

What steps do folks take to jumpstart your bare roots? I planted a bare root persimmon from Dave Wilson last year and it saw very little growth. It has good soil, mulched with 3" of wood chips, gets watered weekly and I provided it with the recommended dose of fruit trees alive in the spring:

While searching through the forums I noticed that others have gotten much better growth from their bare roots. Hoping to get some feedback here so I can get my new fruit trees off to a healthy start!

Persimmons suffer a lot from transplant and tend to establish quite slowly in my experience. Almost as sluggish as paw paws. Non-fibrous root system is part of the problem.

I don’t know what the fertilizer is, but new trees generally only respond to available nitrogen (when they get enough oxygen and water), although you obviously don’t want to over do it. Sounds like you covered your bases, otherwise, although watering should be based more on soil moisture level and not done at same rate throughout the season. Lots of people just do it once a week successfully, however. As long as soil has right balance of moisture to oxygen.

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Thanks for the reply Alan. Is there anything I could do to help the persimmon establish quicker? As far as watering I should have gone into more detail. I typically use my moisture meter and finger tests a couple of times a week and add water when the ground starts to feel dry. In the hot months I have to water more frequently. How do you test your soil for ideal moisture to oxygen levels?

You are doing the right steps with your persimmon tree. Persimmon doesn’t grow much the first year after planting. You can give it some Nitrogen this coming Spring to get a jump start. Just remember that persimmon has 2 growing periods, one in the Spring and the other around July. You will see some good growing this year. Just remember to give one application of fertilizer in the Spring only because too much fertilizer will cause fruits to drop.


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Hi Mickster, welcome! Patience is the ‘jumpstarter’! The information you will get from private growers on this forum is excellent. Reading, asking questions, both are important to the success of your orchard and fruit growing practices. You’ll love and appreciate the answers. Good luck!

I’ll third the others on the persimmon, I planted a potted persimmon tree last year and it grew a whopping 3". I expect it to take off this year.

Any suggestions on nitrogen sources or fertilizer brands? I was thinking about using this stuff this year since I’ve had AWESOME results w/ their tomato and vegetable fertilizers:

Our paste tomatoes went nuts last year with weekly applications of this. Even with the evil tree rats stealing tomatoes we had our biggest harvest ever. Defintely planning to use it again on the annual vegetables.

That will work just fine at 20-20-20. I used the top gun Urea Nitrogen 46-0-0. Just got to be careful not to burn the roots. This will give you the greenish leaves on persimmon, pawpaw, and pretty much any plants.


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You are already probably getting more than enough potassium from the mulch (wood chips spill lots of K and also make what’s there more available) and trees seldom actually respond to phosphorus (they get what they need in most soils via cooperation with certain fungus).

Plenty of people routinely apply 10-10-10 to fruit trees without a problem but if you really want to start to understand what your soil natively contains you might consider a basic soil test. As important as anything is to know the pH of your soil. That will strongly affect what is available to your trees.

Urea is the cheapest way to push fruit trees and usually works as well as any fertilizer. Cheap lawn fertilizers contain mostly urea. For a tiny tree I wouldn’t use more than a quarter cup of urea or maybe a half of most lawn fertilizers (those around 25%N). Apply just before or when trees start to bud out.

For peach trees I use a 90-day slow release urea fertilizer but to get a good deal on that you need an agricultural supplier. The big box stores tend to have a high mark up on fertilizers but for your needs that probably doesn’t matter.

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What persimmon!!!

Things I think increase chances for dormancy break and thriving from a bareroot:

  1. Get it into the ground ASAP. Heal in otherwise, if delayed.

I think this is the most important IMHO. So much can go wrong with the
roots drying otherwise leading to death or runting. Pre-dig holes
before the trees show up—downside is more soil life dies off but saves
time if a lot of trees arrive.

  1. Possibly pre-bare root treatment.

I don’t know how much of this is really needed. Soak the tree in
dechlorinated or rainwater for at least two hours. Can soak for days as
trees absorb oxygen from water like fish, and being dormant they don’t
consume as much oxygen so don’t worry about too long a soak, but I would
not exceed 24 hours.

I add 1/4 cup of Superthrive to the water. I use a 42 gallon plastic
garbage can filled up to or over the root flare (uppermost root) of all
trees. The trees go from box to soak as soon as I pull them from the
box. Truthfully the Superthrive may work more (if at all) by
interacting with any residual chlorine than stimulating dormancy break.

The poms will be in sleeves.

  1. Proper planting.

Site selection: Sun, microclimate (chill hours), wind protection.

Right tree, right place: good rootstock for area, no overhead lines or underground pipes, not too close to structures.

Hole soil broken up 3-5X root diameter.

Hole 10" deep pre-dug (fortuitously a shovel blade length).
Square hole to lessen circling chances. Rough up the sides of the hole.

Test for drainage by filling twice with water and timing drainage time on second fill.

<45 min. too fast drainage-evaluate & adjust (usually a gopher hole blowout).

24 hours not good. >48 hours must plant on a mound or raised bed.

In between 45 min and 24 hours perfect.

When planting adjust depth to set tree in so it is at its root
flare in depth. Use shovel handle across hole to determine. Can use a
smaller water containing garbage can next to hole to hold a single tree
for measurements and manipulations before final planting.

Plant tree with face of the graft union pointing towards North to
East to prevent sunburn on face. Different areas will recommend
different based on local experience for either sun or wind resistance.

Prune any broken roots to above a root node if visible, otherwise about a half inch up from the break or rot.

I do not supplement the soil unless I do not have as much soil to
refill the hole (I have a dense 6-8"deep Bermuda grass cap that often
forces me to discard it). I supplement missing soil with a finished
compost mixed absolutely thoroughly so water infiltration won’t be an
issue. The soil will have all of a tree needs already, or the tree is
in trouble when it grows out of the hole. The tree should grow out past
the hole after a year so whatever you toss into the hole should have no
positive effect on the tree. Potential negative effects: roots don’t
want to leave paradise, mycorrhiza establishment rejected because tree
doesn’t need it in a rich hole.

When refilling hole I do not tamp down the soil as heavily as most
seem to do. I spent time loosening soil, why would I compress it
again? So I let water collapse any air pockets when I water the hole
and add more soil to make up for collapses. I keep an eye on the soil
the next couple of days for settling.

  1. Proper
    post-plant care.

Water the next two days. About 5 gallons per hole. Then don’t water again until dormancy breaks
unless it is a really dry long winter (don’t let soil moisture dry out
ever!-likely not an issue in Atlanta) or very sandy soil. Mounds or
raised beds will also dry quicker.

Water as soon as you see bud swell.

Then go on a young tree or first year tree watering schedule for your area.

Don’t fertilize first year.

Paint the trunks on single trunk trees.

Choice: Prune branches to form (open, central leader, mod.
central leader), top off at knee height to reset branch formation, or
combination of the two depending on trunk caliper 6" above graft union.

I never stake. I don’t want wimpy trunks. My area gets 50-70mph
microbursts…don’t want to hear about how “you have to stake” unless
you have really sandy soil present. Staking makes sense for helping
form an espalier.

Mulch deep with landscaper wood chips. Keep them a few inches
away from the trunk (to prevent rots) out to 4 feet. At least 4" deep
to as deep as you want. Do not let grass grow within 18" of the trunk;
grass inhibits tree growth badly that close.

Note: Plant multi-grafted trees with less vigorous limb oriented
towards South or West, most vigorous towards North or East (latter most
important). Vigorous = largest caliper Be very careful pruning the
branches—a lot of people prune off the scions (cultivars).
Essentially you don’t prune multigrafts out of the box.







FN, that is quite a thorough list of guidelines which does a good job of trying to cover all the bases in spite of all the potential variables, but for the sake of discussion I’d like to make a couple of comments from my own perspective.

First, not a comment but a question- from whence comes your fear of chlorine levels in normal municipal water? Never heard of that before, so I’m curious.

Second, square holes to prevent girdling roots- last I read the gurus were suggesting a saucer shape becoming gradually shallow to prevent girdling roots as the best way to steer roots from the trunk (as well as avoiding planting the trees too deep- supposedly the most common cause of girdling roots. Actually the planting depth is one thing usually emphasized foremost- to actually plant a bit shallower than trees were last).

For the record, in my entire life, I’ve never seen a fruit tree suffer from the affliction of girdling roots and I’ve seen plenty of old apple trees with some doozers wrapping halfway around the base. I assume the tissue usually joins and no girdling occurs with the fruit species I manage. Here in the northeast I still believe in planting shallow on somewhat raised soil (mounds) just to facilitate drainage and soil looseness.

In my experience, trees can be kept in the box they arrive in if they are packed well for even weeks if the weather is refrigerator cool. Once it becomes warm, well wrapped trees may begin to rot because nurseries often completely wrap them in plastic.

The most important single issue is getting them into the ground before they start to bud out so the first burst of root growth is put to use and that energy isn’t wasted. Healing in does nothing to prevent this. Even if they are refrigerated and don’t bud out, late planting prevents a real nice spring flush of growth and you can lose a year because of this. This said, I have still had trees shipped from the west leafing out upon arrival and still establishing well when planted in early spring here.

Excessive mulch may not harm the trees directly but it will prevent the soil from warming up as quickly which may delay active root growth. IMO, more than 4" is excessive for this reason and I would use newspaper of landscape fabric if that is insufficient to keep weeds down.

I agree that excessive tamping down can be counter-productive- particularly in fine soils and especially if the soil is soaking wet. With sandy soils it may have some benefit.

I disagree with the commonly stated fear of leaving air pockets that might dry out roots during transplant. As long as the soil is moist I don’t believe that air pockets in the soil cause roots to dry out because the humidity is so high in moist soil. I’ve seen plenty of roots grow right through air pockets. As far as watering after transplant (either immediately of later on), I deem it necessary only so far as keeping the soil optimally moist.

I realize that with landscape trees staking has been shown to produce weaker trees with poor “taper” (weaker trunks) but with some rootstocks fruit trees can benefit from staking and probably aren’t hurt. The manner in which they are trained may completely alter the dynamics. I’ve seen commercial orchards that routinely stake every apple tree planted without any apparent problems.

Nursery trees shipped sight unseen by the buyer often arrive crooked and a stake may be just the ticket if you prefer a tree with a straight trunk.

Below is a download of current transplant guidelines.



I can’t speak about Quince, but I can the others and you aren’t
that far from me. After my new trees fully leaf out, I give each tree 1
gallon of diluted urine on a 1 to 5 ratio each week and stop in September.
That’s all I feed them. A 30 inch whip will be 7-8 tall and fully branched
by the end of the first growing season. And furthermore, the urine is free.

I use my urine on my establishing trees as well- to great positive affect. My clients don’t get this luxury treatment, however, and have to settle for urea or some organic equivalent if they prefer. Dried blood is pretty quick and hot enough to kill if used carelessly.

My trees have never lacked growth. Now days in high density plantings they get little to no fertilizer. Outdoors at normal density all that’s needed is a little soluable nitrogen.

Here’s how I roll:
This video covers a lot of ground, so hang in there. :smile:

Says it all.:kissing_heart:

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