The definition of a bare root plant is one that has been grown in a field, lifted from the field with no dirt left clinging to its roots, and shipped to market in that condition. Hence the name bare root. This process is hard on the plant and is reflected in the extremely high failure rate with this type of planting. Also, bare root plants are 3-5 years behind the development of their fully rooted counterparts. As you might suspect, cost has always been the reason for these naked plants. However, even including shipping from distant farms, I find there isn’t much cost difference between a bare root tree and a fully rooted tree from local farms. Especially considering that the fully rooted tree will produce fruit this year, not years from now!
Just as soon as you can see soil in the landscape it is time to get new fruit trees into the ground. That also is good advice for grapes and most berry producing vines. Following is the proper planting technique for the local area and some of my personal favorites for planting in the landscape now.
A Ranger Peach is this week’s features fruit tree of the week. This big juicy fruit ripens in colors of red to gold. The Ranger blooms later than other with extra vigor and an abundance of dark green foliage. The peach flesh is easy on the eye, easy to get off the seed and even easier to eat fresh off the tree, in pies or jams. A good sized tree will cost under $60 and should produce for a June harvest if planted early.
It’s important to know that a tree grown in mountain clay soil does not send down a typical taproot. Instead it sends out a bent growth that I call a ‘hockey stick root’. This root will send out runners just under the surface of the soil in order to absorb rain and nutrients from our area’s sporadic rainfall. Because we know this is how the root is going to grow it only makes sense to give it a hole that is wide but no deeper than the current root ball. My rule of thumb is a hole that is three times the width of the roots in the container and the same depth.
Remove any rocks and debris that are larger than a golf ball and amend the excavated soil with composted mulch, using one shovel of mulch to three shovels of native earth. At this time it’s good to add a natural fertilizer, too. I suggest my “All Natural Plant Food”; it’s the perfect blend of nutrients to encourage leaf growth which in turn will bring on a hardy root system. To save time, I blend together the soil, mulch, and plant food into a single planting medium.
Using your foot, pack down this nutrient rich soil firmly around your newly planted tree so there are no air pockets remaining around the root ball. Water the tree thoroughly with a mixture of water and “Root & Grow”. This rooting hormone encourages new root hairs to form right away and results in a strong plant well before the stressful effects of summer heat.
The final planting instruction is to stake. Each new tree requires two stakes, one on either side of the root ball. Use one of my specially designed ‘V-straps’ to secure the tree to the stakes. They allow the tree to move and sway with the wind, but never snap in two.
There you have it. For a more detailed list of instructions and visual aids please visit me at the garden center and ask for my special instruction guide on “Planting New Trees”. It is available to anyone and is given with each purchase of a tree.
Most gardeners have their favorite varieties, and I find that some fruit trees, when planted in our alkaline soils and low humidity, produce more prolifically than others or have a better flavor. I confidently can say: “If in doubt start with these varieties and you can’t go wrong.”
Pink Lady Apple - This fruit “explodes” with a breaking crispness, tantalizing your taste buds with mouthwatering flavor and juiciness. I’ve seen kids choose this over candy and sweets! As if taste were not enough, it handling late frost much better than other varieties and fruits better than others.
Prescott Asian Pear - The higher acid content adds a snappy tang like no other fruit tree, and it only takes one tree to produce fruit. Crisp like an apple and makes great jams, jellies, cobblers, or my favorite, right off the tree. Why wait, this tree is large enough to put fruit on this spring.
Free Fruit Tree class offered on February 18ths at 9:30am. The spring garden classes have been posted to the Watters Facebook page. If you need information about planting figs, nuts, grapes, and more, you’ll just have to bring your questions to me and the many other garden experts at the garden center. Bring a cup of coffee and an inquisitive garden mind and learn all about local fruits. Become the teacher's pet when an extra Starbucks Latte is available for the professor that day.
Until next week, I'll see you in the Garden Center.