Once the first frost arrives and leaves fall from the trees, bare-rooted trees can be lifted from the nursery fields. Reduced light levels and cooler temperatures mean deciduous plants begin to shut down and become dormant. This is a perfect time to transfer plants in a bare-rooted state and take advantage of the fact that they are less expensive to purchase than pot grown plants.
Tips for planting bare-rooted fruit trees.
- Never let roots dry out – if you are not ready to plant, dig a hole or a trench anywhere in the garden, insert the roots to keep them moist and use the heel of your boot to firm them in.
- Plant them in position as soon as possible – improve the soil by adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure and add slow release fertiliser or bone-meal.
- Dig a hole wide enough and deep enough to accomodate the roots easily, keeping the soil mark from the nursery field at ground level.
- Fork the bottom and sides of the hole, add Mycorrhizal fungi (Rootgrow) around the roots of the tree, stand the roots of the tree in the hole.
- Use a stake – You may need an extra pair of hands to help you as this is the time to insert a stake carefully between the roots, 4-5cm (2”-3”) next to the trunk of the tree on the windward side where the wind will blow the tree away from the stake. Hammer the stake in approximately 30cm (1ft) into the ground, fasten a tree tie about 30-45cms (1-11\2ft) from the top of the stake into a figure of eight so the centre of the tie acts as a buffer between the tie and the trunk.
- Back fill the hole with the soil mixed with well-rotted manure or compost and slow release fertilizer a bit at a time. Firm soil between the roots and around trunk with the heel of your boot as you go to ensure there are no gaps or air pockets left behind as these could fill up with water and freeze which could damage or kill the roots of the plant.
- If a dry spell follows after planting keep the roots watered and continue for the first couple of years particularly through the summer months.
- Prevent rabbits eating and stripping the bark by fitting rabbit guards around the base of the trees.
- Keep the base of the tree free from weeds as they will take water and nutrients from the tree while it’s trying to grow.
- Check trees regularly after planting to ensure correct watering and the wear and loosening of tree ties, stakes and rabbit guards. Tree stakes need to be kept in place for the first 2-3 years after planting until the roots have anchored.