Fruit Tree and Berry Season
Foggy mornings, cold nights, soggy ground, and winter storm warnings - that means it’s a perfect time for planting bare root trees and shrubs!
Bare roots, for those unfamiliar with them, are dormant plants (generally fruiting trees and shrubs) that are sold with exposed roots. We hold them here at the nursery in bins filled with soil, to keep the roots from drying out. When you buy them, we dig them out, pop them into a plastic bag, and you’re on your way! And although bare roots look a little…unimpressive…at first glance, there are a lot of great reasons to consider planting a few this winter.
Selection: You’ll find the biggest selection of fruiting trees and shrubs at this time of year - ranging from hard-to-find food plants like quince, jujube, elderberry, currants, and hops; to a larger selection of sizes (from dwarf rootstock to semi-dwarf) and varieties of fruit (five kinds of strawberries, five kinds of grapes, ten kinds of peaches and four persimmons!).
Price: Because these are bare roots, nurseries have a lot fewer costs invested in them: no containers, no soil, no fertilizer - and they haven’t spent months (or years) caring for them as they’re growing out. Those savings are passed along to the buyer, and they can be significant.
Mid-Winter is a great time to plant: It might seem counter-intuitive, but this is a wonderful time for planting trees and shrubs. The ground is moist and plants are dormant, so plants are far less likely to go into transplant shock than they are during warmer and drier times of the year. In addition, because the ground is soft, tree-sized holes are a lot easier to dig!
Getting to the root of it all: Plant roots are amazing structures: they hold plants in place, pull water out of the soil, and store the nutrients plants need to grow and be healthy. And root structures are incredibly variable. Some plants produce lots of thin, fibrous roots; some rely on a long taproot; and others have root structures that branch as widely and intricately as the above-ground part of the plant. And yet, we rarely get to see them! This is probably the only time you’ll have the opportunity to see the whole plant you’re working with. And that can help give you a better understanding of what your trees and shrubs need in order to grow and thrive.
There are just a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when planting bare roots, in order to get your new plants off to the best start possible:
- Try to get your bare roots planted within a few hours of getting them home. Your bare root plants are dormant, but they’re not indestructible. If you can’t get them planted immediately, make sure you keep roots from drying out between the time you bring your plants home and the time you get them planted. You can keep them moist inside the plastic bag for a couple of days. It is best to heel them into some soil or moist bark if you can’t plant them right away.
- Hold off on fertilizing your new plants until all risk of frost has passed. Fertilizing too soon can push leaf growth before their roots have had a chance to get established. In addition, new leaves are thin and tender and can be killed by late frosts.
- It is best to prune back the branches of your bare root tree. You want the top of the tree to be more in line with the root system. This will help give the roots a better chance at supporting what is up top. Have more questions? We can help at the nursery or come to our fruit tree pruning classes on Feb. 17th and 24th!
- Please feel free to ask us questions! The staff here at Shooting Star is happy to help you with suggestions about the best varieties to plant, how much space your plants will need, and what pollinizers (if any) your plants will need in order to produce fruits. We can even give you a few simple pruning suggestions to get you started on the right foot with your new plants.
And if you are interested in planting some bare roots this year, make sure to register for our Planning for Edibles workshop on Saturday, February 10th!