How to Plant Bare Root Trees
Planting in the Ground
- The roots should be fresh and plump. Trim off any bruised or damaged roots. If the roots look dried out, soak the roots in water overnight. If you would like to add a ‘root dip’ or root-stimulator, you can do it at this time following the products directions.
- Dig a hole twice as big and deep as the root system. Rough up the sides and bottom of the hole, creating cracks, ridges, and rough spots for roots to burrow into to minimize root circling. This method is important for heavier clay soils.
- Mix 25% compost into the back fill soil and fill the hole part way, creating a soil cone in the middle. Gently pack the soil.
- Set the tree roots on the soil cone, adjusting the finished root depth to match the old soil line on the trunk of the tree. Soak the hole with water.
- Finish filling hole with the back fill soil (75% original soil / 25% compost). Use your hands to pack the soil into and around the root system filling in large air pockets. Again, soak with water. If settling occurs, readjust the tree depth by grasping at the plant base, and slowly rocking it back and forth while gently pulling up. Once readjusted, add remaining soil as need, and water it again.
- Form a ridge of soil around the hole to create a basin to direct the water to the roots. If planted in hot areas with direct sunlight, paint the trunk of the tree with white latex or whitewash to protect it from sunburn (especially important for small fruit trees).
- Spread a 3”- 6” layer of compost around the tree, making sure it does not touch the bark. This will help retain moisture in the overall planting area. The larger the compost mulched area the better the soil moisture retention between watering.
The watering and more:
- Future watering—don’t over water the tree. Check moisture in the soil well beneath surface, it should feel like a damp sponge, and only water when necessary. You will need to water regularly and deeply for the first several growing seasons, until established.
- Staking should be done outside the root zone area. And only when absolutely necessary, such as windy sites, and for as short as time as possible, as staking weakens the trunk.
The Last Step:
- Enjoy watching your plant leaf out, flower, and grow into its new home.
*note: It is not recommended to add fertilizer at this time. It is too easy to burn or damage new roots. The compost will provide nutrients, act as a sponge, protect the soil surface, and provide soil aeration and structure.
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