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Planting your bareroot trees

Wherever fruit trees are to be planted, it is critical to evaluate the soil beforehand. The most important thing to know is ‘how does your soil drain’? The tree will not live in soil that does not drain or drains too slowly. Therefore it is most important to test to see how long it takes to drain.

Here's how:  

  • Dig a hole about 1 foot deep and fill it with water. Let it drain, and then fill it again!

  • If it takes longer than 3 or 4 hours to drain on the 1st or 2nd filling, you have problems!

  • Your choices at this point are: don't plant there, or try raising the tree up above the soil level, planting it on a slight mound.

Since the most important issue in planting a fruit tree is drainage, it is essential to also know whether the soil is fast-draining or slow-draining. Fast-draining soils can dry out quickly in hot weather. Slow-draining soils can become saturated by rainfall or landscape watering, starving tree roots of oxygen. Poor drainage is particularly troublesome to cherries and apricots, but can be a challenge for almost any kind of fruit tree. Understanding drainage helps in selecting the right rootstocks or helps the nurseryperson determine what rootstock to recommend. Further, understanding and managing soil drainage is the number one means of ensuring that a fruit tree starts well and has a long healthy life.

Realize that all bareroot stock, though dormant, is also in a state of shock. They have been dug up from the field with an inevitable loss of roots, and need special care even before planting. The most important thing to remember is KEEP THE ROOTS MOIST. Even for brief periods, i.e. while transporting them to the planting site. Prior to planting, SOAK TREES IN WATER FOR UP TO 4 HOURS. This will afford them a good long drink to compensate for any moisture loss in storage and shipping.

Dig a hole slightly larger than the diameter and depth of the tree.

  • Check to be sure there are no large weed roots in the hole you have dug. If these are left there, they will compete with the new tree and might restrict its growth.

  • Plant the tree with the top of the graft is even with the soil. This is known as the "root collar" and it should be level with the ground. Placing dirt around the tree trunk above the root ball will cause the tree to grow in a way that will make it likely to fall over prematurely.

  • Shovel the dirt . Add more if necessary into the hole, taking care to pack the soil firmly around the tree.

  • Build a water basin around the outside of the tree. Give the tree plenty of water.

  • Add a mulch area of a 1 yard wide and 2" deep around the tree base. Be sure not to let the mulch touch the tree itself.

  • Water the tree again and again. Water it every four to five days, throughout its first summer/fall.

 How much water does a new tree need?

 Most experts agree that new tree watering should occur 4 to 6 times per month, simulating frequent, natural rainfall. Five gallons of water will saturate about five cubic foot of the average soil type, which is about the size of the tree well of most newly planted trees. Five gallons once per week is adequate, but 10 will not hurt if water conservation is not a factor. A slow steady soak is more beneficial to the tree than a large amount at once.

How often should I water a new tree?

Unless adequate rainfall occurs, new trees should be watered from early Spring until the leaves drop off in the Fall. During normal dry times, once a week is adequate. If the afternoon temperatures are extreme, try twice a week. Be careful not to over-water, tree roots need some breathing time. Using the right tools, tree watering can be an easy, enjoyable chore.

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