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Tips for planting a bare root tree

There are advantages and disadvantages to planting various bare root trees. Understanding limitations associated with each type will increase the potential for success.
There are advantages and disadvantages to planting various bare root trees. Understanding limitations associated with each type will increase the potential for success.

In the fall and early spring, many nurseries have bare root trees for sale. Besides trees, they may also have roses, grapes, berries, and asparagus. Purchasing bare root trees and shrubs is more economical than purchasing container plants, but bare root plants are only available when they are naturally dormant.

Before you plant a bare root tree, consider buying a stake for the tree to give it some stability while it’s getting started. Also, purchase tree ties or plant ties to secure the stake to the tree. Avoid tying the stake to the tree too tightly. Leave some wiggle room to help strengthen the tree and discourage girdling.

Soak your tree in water for an hour or two before planting. Dig your planting hole, leaving a small mound in the center of the hole and mix the soil amendment with the soil from the hole. Examine the roots of your plant before planting. Remove excess paper that may be wrapped around the roots to keep them moist during shipping. Remove broken roots. Spread the roots evenly in the hole. Keep the graft union two to three inches above the ground. If you bury the graft union, the tree could die from crown rot.

Backfill the hole and gently tamp the soil to eliminate air pockets. Create a berm with the leftover amended soil for deep soaking right after planting and leave it in place until the tree is established.

If it is not convenient to plant immediately after purchase, there are a couple of ways to store your tree until you do plant. The first is to leave the tree in the plastic wrapping or plastic bag that it came in and store in a cool, dark place. Keep the roots moist.

The second method of storing is to heal it in. This method can be used if the tree won’t be planted in as many as 10 days after purchase. For the heal method, dig a small hole just big enough to accommodate the roots. Lay the tree down with the roots in the hole, then backfill to cover the roots.

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 anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. 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.

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