In a bare root nursery trees are grown in the open ground rather than in containers. They are lifted for transplanting during the winter when the plants are dormant.
Buying bare rooted trees during our winter (June – August) is best because being dormant they are very hardy. Successful establishment rates are high provided the trees are handled properly during transplanting and their subsequent growth is usually superior to that of plant bought in a container. Starting out life in the ground develops a structured root system that is closer to natural than the tangled mass of fine roots that are often found in pots.
Carefully unpacking the bare root tree from the container or material it came in check for any broken roots. Snip these off with a pair of sterilized secateurs and dust with hormone growth powder. Trees need to be planted within 24 hours of arrival, otherwise be sure they are stored covered in a cool damp place.
Temporarily burying their roots in loose damp soil is called ‘heeled-in’. When you are ready to plant and are preparing the planting hole, soak the tree roots in a bucket of water with a weak solution of seaweed concentrate or fish emulsion to encourage growth of new roots.
Dig a generous hole so the roots can spread as widely as possible. The hole should be deep enough to allow the roots to fit comfortably. Create a mound of soil in the centre to drape the roots over. Avoid bending long roots around in a curve as this can lead to stunted growth, it is better to shorten them. Examine the roots of your tree and cleanly prune off any damaged ends.
Give support by placing a tree stake into the base of the hole, slightly off centre. If the tree is large, using two stakes (one on either side of the hole) will offer more support. If your fruit tree will be in an exposed position planting wind breaks prior to purchasing is a wise investment.
Place your tree onto the mound of soil you have prepared in the hole, spreading the roots out widely to minimize the risk of root girdling (when roots wrap around each other). The roots should all be below soil level. Where the roots meet the base of the tree is known as the ‘root collar’ and it should be level with the soil level. Canes to support and straighten
For dwarf fruit trees make your garden bed just deep enough to allow it to be planted with the graft union around 7 centimetres (3 inches) above ground.
If the tree is planted too deep and the graft union is below the soil line the scion (grafted fruit tree variety) will form roots and the tree will become a standard-sized tree.
Water deeply to settle the soil and add more soil if needed.
Depending on rainfall conditions take the time to water your young trees in the winter about every 2 weeks. Trees can get very stressed under dry weather conditions and need additional deep watering to help them survive and thrive.