Plant a bare root fruit tree

Plant a Naked Root Sapling

Ok, I used the word naked. Did I get your attention? It is December, and it is a good time to plant a naked root sapling. Many people have a lemon tree or a similar citrus tree in their backyard. Maybe it is in the corner of the yard and neglected until it needs pruning or harvesting. Or maybe it is a prominent evergreen tree taking center stage. Once a year, the fruit falls on the ground, and it becomes a nuisance. Because, after all, you only use a few lemons. Even lemon meringue pie only uses a few lemons.

Did you know it is possible to grow a variety of fruit trees in your backyard? Yes, you can do it. You can grow many types of fruit trees. You can get fruit trees on semi-dwarf or dwarf root stock. That means the trees will not get too large and can fit in your backyard. Furthermore, you can prune them to size, keeping them a controlled seven or eight feet tall, or even smaller, if you would like.

The Basics of Planting Fruit Trees

The great thing about fruit trees is that they give you fruit year after year, potentially for decades. If they do not produce fruit to your satisfaction, you can pull them out and put a different variety in the location. I have already mentioned that fruit trees provide nice beauty to your yard. As borders, screens, and landscape plants.

Your orchard does not have to be like a traditional orchard with rows and rows of trees. For example, I have 28 fruit trees in my yard. There are a few patches where there are five or six trees, but for the most part, the trees surround my yard around the edges of the lawn. These trees vary from plum, cherry, pear, apple, apricot, peach, nectarine, and more. There are more than 34 varieties of fruit in my garden.

How is it possible to have more varieties of fruit than fruit trees? Well, that is because I have several multi-grafted fruit trees that have several varieties on one trunk. Yes, it is possible. I will introduce the basics of planting fruit trees in this chapter and address varietal-specific topics later in this book.

Plant a naked root sapling

Basic Fruit Tree Requirements

There are a few requirements to have fruit trees in your backyard. Number one, they do need an adequate amount of sun. At least six to eight hours is preferable. It is also advised to check your garden zone in order to determine the types of fruit trees you can plant in your backyard. There are many varieties, as well as those that are grafted onto a rootstock that favors certain types of conditions. For example, if you have consistently wet areas, you may want to try a rootstock that handles saturated soil well.

Many trees also require what is called chill hours, which is a need to get a certain number of hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 7 °C) for them to appropriately enter dormancy for the winter. If they do not get enough chill hours, they will not become dormant and will not produce fruit. Of course, I am talking about non-tropical fruit trees here, not things like avocados, guavas, etc.

There are more and more varieties of fruit trees that are coming out that have very low chill requirements. This makes it easy to grow them in just about every location. In my location, there are enough chill hours to cultivate just about every type of fruit tree. In fact, less than a mile from my house, there are several successful commercial apple and cherry farms, not to mention almonds and other fruits. On the other hand, it is very difficult to grow tropical fruit trees in my area, such as avocado, banana, and mango, due to the cold winters.

Plant Bare Root Trees!

The bare root planting method is extremely easy. You can get bare root plant saplings just about anywhere they sell trees and can get them at any time of the year in most cases. Furthermore, you can plant them anytime you would plant a normal tree when the soil is somewhat warm. However, many sapling fruit trees become available during the dormant winter season, and this is an ideal time to purchase and plant. I believe it is more beneficial to plant fruit trees during the dormant season. For example, dormant bare root fruit trees are less susceptible to a number of problems that container fruit trees are susceptible to.

Difficulties with container-planted trees include the potential to dry out, concerns with becoming root bound, etc. You can get dormant fruit trees at nurseries around December or January in my area. Sometimes, they are wrapped in a small burlap sack, and sometimes, they are planted in pots. They seem to take really well once you put them in the ground.

I highly recommend Dave Wilson Nursery. They are located in Northern California and grow trees for nurseries and commercial businesses. In fact, Dave Wilson Nursery produces almond trees for almond growers, walnuts—you name it. But they also sell to nurseries and have very distinct genetic lines of fruit trees. Many trees are self fruitful, meaning that they don’t require cross pollination with another fruit tree to produce fruit.

All respectable fruit trees are labeled as self fruitful or not. If your fruit trees are not self fruitful, it is suggested to plant at least two compatible pollen varieties approximately 100 feet (ca. 30 m) apart for pollination purposes. Pollination will occur if the trees are closer and further than this guideline.

It is not necessary to dig a large hole or to fertilize when planting. If your tree is in a pot, dig a hole about as deep as the pot and twice as wide. Plant your tree in your soil, making sure not to bury it too deep. It should be planted at the same depth as it is in the pot.

If planting a bare root tree, dig deep enough to bury the tree just above the roots and well below the graft union. Make sure the hole is plenty wide and spread the roots outward. Bury it with native soil. I staked all my trees for the first year to prevent wind damage. Planting time is a good time to do this.

Fruit Tree Maintenance

Fruit trees do require maintenance. First, they should be pruned every year, at the proper time, to adjust the shape and structure of the tree and to remove damaged or diseased limbs. By pruning properly, you will also improve airflow through your tree and make harvesting easier. In addition to dormant season pruning, you may find it worthwhile to summer prune your fruit trees to control their size. It is wise to invest in a sharp pair of pruners, loppers, and a pruning saw. Research proper pruning techniques in books or online before your first pruning.

Unlike a vegetable garden that can be watered by hand, it is advisable to set up an irrigation system for your fruit trees. To irrigate my trees, I use drip lines that connect to my garden hose. It is also recommended that you mulch under your fruit trees to help with soil structure and retain moisture. You will also have to pick at least two times per season. First, early in the season, it is advisable to thin the fruit on your trees, and of course, you should pick your fruit when it is ready for harvest.

Finally, you will need to invest in a garden sprayer to spray your trees from time to time. In most cases, you can use all organic and spray with neem oil or horticultural oil. In other cases, you may need to apply pesticides or fungicides. I find I can mostly stay organic with my fruit trees, except for my peaches and nectarines, which I must spray copper for leaf curl. There are a variety of sprayer types available, from low-end hand pump sprayers to battery-operated sprayers on wheels and more. If you manage to keep your fruit trees small, you can get by with a hand sprayer like I do.

For tips on growing fruits and vegetables, please check out my book, Backyard Big: Growing Food in Your Backyard.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *