By Produce Gardens
"Bare rooted season is over" I can hear you saying, but have no fear, I'm writing this for the people who bought bare rooted trees this season and are maybe now thinking, "what happens now?" and also for the people who may have seen those barren sticks in their local nursery but were too reluctant to give them a go.
Bare rooted means just that, while the trees are in their dormant winter state they are up rooted and distributed to nurseries and sold to us public for a fraction of their potted price. The choices are unlimited ranging from fruit trees to maples, crepe myrtles, lilacs and even mop top robinias. If you are after a certain tree and you would like it during bare rooted season then orders are best placed a few months before hand, say mid autumn. Nurseries will happily accommodate the order and call you when the tree has come in. I must admit that a good 80% of my trees were originally bare rooted and practically all the fruit trees in my small orchard were as well.
Most trees that come in during bare rooted are about two years old and you shouldn't expect much from them for the first two years after that. What I really wanted to do here was give an order of play. You've bought your tree, you've got it home...now what?
First thing to remember is that we don't want the root system to dry out, this will spell a likely end for it. The day before you're due to pick up the tree decide where it's going to be planted and dig the hole. Depending on the height of the tree you need to dig the hole twice the size of the root system so the new roots have an easy access for that spring growth. If where you're digging is particularly dry then give it a good hose so the water is soaked up over night and gives the tree a good surrounding moisture.
If you can't plant your tree straight away from the nursery, leave it with the roots in a bucket of water for the night but try not to leave it like that any longer than one night. Before the tree goes in the hole, hammer the stake in first if it needs one, this will eliminate the risk of hammering through the root system once it has been buried.
Ok, put the tree in the ground taking care to fill in all gaps around the roots so as not to leave any air pockets, as you fill in the hole compact it in lightly but firmly and leave a good two to three inches exposed from the graft. I always use a plant starter when I first water in my bare rooted trees as this promotes the new root system and reduces the shock of transplantation on the tree. You only need a couple of capfuls in a nine-litre watering can, do this for the first watering and again in a weeks time. Not forgetting to water it in between mind you.
You may notice (especially with fruit trees) that your tree is quite long and rather formless. It's bolted in growth for the last year or two and hasn't been pruned. This is always the hardest thing to do but you'll have to prune it to force out the lower branches. This means cutting off at least a third of the main crown and totally cutting off any stragglers that have shot out. Get the nursery staff to show you how to do this for future reference and ask them to explain as they go. Try to prune to an outward facing bud and always on a slight angle. Our lovely long and full of hope tree is now a shadow of its former self but this is for both of your best interests. Pruning the tree back forces it to branch out, ie: more branches=more foliage=more fruit, and because the size of the tree has diminished this leaves the tree with more energy to put back into establishing its root system.
Fruit trees are (in my eyes) going to be the most rewarding for all of this initial harshness. The extra branches will in turn bring extra fruit, which also brings me to my next tip. For the first two seasons of your fruit tree, pick off any fruit that is starting to form. This is especially important for the first season as we really want the tree to put its energy into growth rather than fruit production. In the long run a bigger tree with a better shape is going to yield more fruit. This isn't too hard the first year as it may not produce much but it may the second and you may find it hard to pick off forming fruit. After all you have been taking care of it for the past couple of years and wouldn't mind a kick back or two. If you are struggling to take off the fruit this second season then just pick off half and let half ripen so you can at least get something for your efforts. The final and most golden rule when buying bare rooted or for that matter potted fruit trees, is to check its pollination requirements. Does it require a cross pollinator? Some trees, for example, Morello cherries are self-pollinating, so a solo tree will bare its own fruit. But most require another of the same variety, ie: a Williams pear will pollinate and produce if paired with a Beurre Bosc pear. ALWAYS ask the nursery staff this before you buy. If space is limited in your garden you might consider buying a multi-graft, which is one tree with two or more varieties grafted on, thus pollinating itself. Or you may even consider a dwarfing variety, which can be successfully grown in pots. Dwarf varieties available are usually peach, nectarine and apple.
After all those years of hard graft you should be away, the tree will be well and truly established and in the case of fruit trees you should by now be saving your pennies for the bird netting you'll need to protect the next years produce. I feed my trees with a pelleted organic food three times a year, a good handful at the base of the tree early spring, early summer and autumn, which seems to work well for me. In my "orchard" my bare rooted trees consist of apricots, almonds, pomegranates, cherries, figs, plums, pears and quinces. As far as the rest of the garden goes I've had great bare rooted success with maples, silver birches, robinias, different kinds of prunus and a nice little lilac or two.
Bare rooted season can leave a few people apprehensive but it need not, if you follow the guidelines you'll be fine. But, ever so occasionally a bare rooted tree just won't take and you'll lose it despite your best efforts. Don't despair, it wasn't meant to be, there's always next season. If you have any questions feel free to contact.
Copyright © 2008-2010 Urban Sustainable living. All rights reserved.