Q: Are there advantages to planting bare-root trees?
David, Paso Robles
A: Soon local nurseries will have bare-root trees available for winter or early spring planting. One advantage of bare-root trees is they cost much less than container trees. They also weigh less, they’re not in a container that needs removal, and often they grow faster than container trees.
The roots of bare-root plants should be kept moist until planted. Nurseries keep the roots damp by wrapping them in moist wood shavings. When you bring the tree home, soak the roots in a container of water for a few hours before planting. When you purchase a bare-root tree, also purchase a tree stake, tree ties and a bag of mulch.
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When ready to plant, examine the roots and cut off any broken roots. Dig a hole larger than the root mass to allow ample room for the roots to spread. If you’re planting the tree in a lawn, remove a circle of lawn, roughly three feet in circumference, to minimize competition for water and nutrients.
Keep the graft union two to three inches above ground and don’t add any fertilizer to the planting hole to avoid root burn. Back fill with the same soil you dug from the planting hole. Tamp down the soil to minimize air pockets. The soil around the newly planted bare root should be firm, but not compacted.
If planting a fruit or nut tree, cut off unwanted branches and trim the trunk to the height that you want the head of the tree to be. If planting a grape vine, cut off all canes, and trim the trunk to about 18 inches above ground level and leave two to three buds below the cut.
Pound in the tree stake. Attach it to the tree using tree ties and leave some wiggle room to avoid girdling. The trunk will get stronger faster if it has room for movement.
Create a basin around the tree and fill with mulch, but keep the mulch away from the trunk. Provide a deep watering for your new tree and make sure it continues to receive adequate irrigation, whether it’s from rain or from you.
Leonard Cicerello is a UCCE Master Gardener.
Got a gardening question?
In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.