Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's Bare-Root Time

Note, I'm not actually planting any bare root trees this year, but i COULD be and so could you. Here are some tips i wrote over at Yard Farm Austin (which is a nifty website and niftier business bringing farms to urban yards all over Austin).
Lemons harvested.
My harvest last year - nice yield, but look how much smaller the tree was! They grow fast if given the room.

Poorly lit, badly composed photo of my Meyer currently. I've already harvested 3 lemons, averaging 8 oz..
Looking to add some citrus trees, stone fruits, or nuts to your garden? It's time to plant bare-root trees, an affordable option for starting your orchard. You can order bare root trees from catalogs and on line, and can find them at The Natural Gardener, The Great Outdoors, and many other local nurseries here in town. The Natural Gardener prides themselves in only picking varieties that are well suited to our climate, so you can make a good bet with any stock you purchase there. If buying somewhere else, feel free to ask the sales people plenty of questions and know just how cold (or hot) the variety can take and if it requires protection during the Winter months. When buying from a plant nursery, be sure the bare root has been sitting in a moist area, often wrapped and sometimes setting in a large tub of sand. Be sure and keep your bare root tree moist until the time of planting and if the bare root stock you purchased hasn't already been cut back to a sad looking whip, do it at planting time.

Winter is the best time to plant trees and perennials because they have a chance to establish some roots before the brutality of Summer hits. Bare root are only available in Winter because they are dormant and can withstand being moved about without any soil.  Bare-roots are the least expensive option when choosing a fruit tree and are easy to plant, just keep those roots moist! Planting bare-roots and other trees are all done in the same method:
  • Dig a big hole, bigger than needed.
  • Mix in some compost and bone meal to the soil removed from the hole and backfill the amended soil into the hole.
  • Mound the soil so that the tree will be level in the ground to the pre-existing soil line on its trunk.
  • Spread out the roots in the hole over the soil mound and fill with just enough soil to cover the roots.
  • Water WELL. Really soak those roots, filling the entire rest of the hole with water. You may include seaweed or a liquid fertilizer to this water.
  • Once the water has soaked in, fill the hole with the remaining soil.
  • Add a stake for support and leave the soil line of the hole slightly lower than the surrounding ground to encourage water to accumulate around the tree.
  • Mulch and water 3 times a week with at least 3 gallons at a time. Water is the number one variable in the success of your tree's life. You can also add organic fertilizer or seaweed, but keep that tree moist and happy for the first year!

It can also be helpful to add a B-1 hormone root stimulator when watering the first 3 or so times in order to get your new tree's roots up and running.And remember, if you want to save money and buy bare-root, you have to do it before the Spring begins the thaw (not that it's actually been cold at all this year, other than today). The stock will begin coming out of dormancy if held bare-root too late, so you have to get 'em while they're cool!

The tree gets no respect
Are you planting any nuts or fruit this year? Will you get yours at a local nursery or order from a catalog?
This post is part of the Simple Lives Thursday blog hop.

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