Soil and water

Ann Wright: Fruit Trees – It’s Bare Root Time

This hot, dry weather has provided some very nice days outdoors, and it’s a great time to add fruit trees to the garden. Local nurseries appear to be well stocked with fruit and nut trees as well as berries. Despite our very dry January, the big storm in December brought good moisture to the ground, and the sunny days allowed the ground to begin to warm up.

If planting fruit trees is part of your gardening plan this year, keep in mind that they need six or more hours of full sun during the growing season. Our buttress soil can be difficult to prepare for trees – fruit trees need well-drained soil. In compacted areas or where the hard crust is a foot or two below the soil surface, time should be taken to break up the hard crust or compacted soil to allow root growth. Planting holes for fruit trees should be at least twice as wide as the tree’s bare root span and about as deep as the root length. Adding fertilizer or amendment to the planting hole is not recommended, as new trees adapt to the original soil conditions. It may be beneficial to dig into well-composted material in the area surrounding the tree hole, rather than adding material inside the hole.

To improve survival rate and ability to establish, choose a bare-rooted tree that ranges in trunk diameter from ½ to 5/8 inch. The roots of the bare root plant should be strong, intact and relatively straight. Avoid plants with bent or twisted roots. Look for trees with sturdy trunks; the branches will be pruned at the time of planting. Be aware of the size of the tree. The average standard tree can reach up to 25 feet in height. Plan a site where the trees will have good air circulation and where they can be reached for pruning, spraying and harvesting.



Once the hole is prepared, check the roots – cut off any broken or bent roots in preparation for planting. Then you are ready to plant the new tree. Gently tease the roots outward and place them on a mound of soil in the center of the hole. To help prevent sunburn damage to the graft site, orient the tree with the graft union (bud) pointing northeast. Fill in the soil, making sure the graft union is at least four inches above soil level. (Bud union, also known as graft union, is the point at which the bud of the desired rootstock is grafted onto the rootstock. It can sometimes look like a “crook” on the trunk of the rootstock. bare-rooted tree.) Continue to fill soil, covering roots, firming gently to remove air pockets. When properly positioned, the soil line at the trunk of the tree should be one to two inches above the level of the surrounding ground, which means that the soil slopes down from the trunk to the base of the well. of the tree, allowing water to drain from the trunk. A shovel handle or other guide can be used through the hole to check the depth.

Once the tree is firmly established in its new home, water it thoroughly to settle the soil. A layer of mulch three to six inches deep will help control weeds and conserve moisture. Keep the mulch several inches from the trunk. Additionally, painting the trunk of the young tree with a 50/50 mixture of interior white paint and water will help prevent sunburn and discourage pests from burrowing into the new bark.



Depending on the type of trees and the goal of the home gardener, newly planted trees can be pruned by cutting them to a height of approximately 18 to 24 inches. This will help trees develop low branches. To learn more about Care Fruit Trees, see the University of California websites available from the “Backyard Orchard” link on our website, http://ncmg.ucanr.org .

The Nevada County Master Gardeners are offering several upcoming workshops this spring. Featured Saturday, Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. (via Zoom), “Nonstop Gardening: Growing Vegetables Year-Round.” On February 12, “Encouraging Beneficial Insects” will be presented and “Native Plants Bring Beauty and Benefits”, which will be presented in two parts, the first on February 19 and the second on February 26. /or Zoom login links are available on our website (listed above).

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener

Planting bare root trees. This hot, dry weather has provided some very nice days outdoors, and it’s a great time to add fruit trees to the garden.
Photo courtesy of UCANR Repository
Scheme of planting a tree with bare roots.
Photo courtesy of UCANR Repository