Planting Your Bare Root Tree
You have received your new trees! Congratulations! You may be thinking, “But this tree looks tiny!”
Do not despair! Once the tree grows its new leaves, it will fill out into a larger tree than you might expect.
You may also be thinking, “Is this thing even alive?” Yes, it is alive and well and has gone through our checks and grading system to make sure it will thrive. All you have to do is follow these steps.
Please do not be overwhelmed by all this information, it is here to empower you!
It is a simple process and you can do it!
- Choose a Good Location - Notice, I did not say “perfect” because a “good location” is plenty. A good location receives four hours or more of direct sun. Certain trees, such as apples, need at least six hours or more to produce well and it may not be worth planting it in a shady location.
- Check your Soil Type - The soil type you plant into is important, however trees will tolerate different conditions. Does your land have well drained, sandy soil or heavy, clay soil? You can check your soil by digging a hole and seeing if the water drains out of the hole or sits in the hole, forming a little pond. If you have well drained soil, you can dig your hole and plant right into the ground! If you have clay soil, you can dig a hole to loosen the soil and plant on top of the loosened soil by adding soil and compost to make a mound. This will effectively raise your tree above soil saturated with water and keeping your tree from drowning. Many species will tolerate excess water for two weeks in spring after the snow thaws but then require well drained soil. Certain trees and shrubs will grow great with excess water such as willow.
- Check the Ph - You can estimate the Ph of your soil by observing your local trees and weeds. If there are mainly pines growing, for example, it is an indication that you have acidic soil. Most fruit trees like less acidic soil however many trees will tolerate a wide range. You can also get a soil test or use a small meter with a probe to check. You can sweeten your soil (raise the Ph) by adding lime, or if you add compost or manure on top of the soil and mulch on top of that, your soil will naturally become sweet over time with this addition of organic matter.
- Pick up your trees from the mailbox as soon as they arrive. Open the box and put your trees in a cool, shady spot. It is best to plant your trees within two days however you can store them for longer if you need to (around 35-45 degrees F is best).
- When you are ready to plant, you can remove one tree at a time. Keep the rest of the trees in the wrapping with moist sawdust to keep the roots from drying out. The wind and sun can dry out the roots of the trees within two minutes if they are left exposed! You can also spray the roots with water to help keep them damp.
- For all Soil Types: Dig a hole at least one foot wide and one foot deep. If you have a longer tap root on your tree, dig deeper! Keep the soil from the bottom of the hole separate, so you can put it back in the hole first. Put the top soil on last.
- Our trees are shipped in saw dust, DO NOT plant the tree with the saw dust! The saw dust is for packaging purposes only.
- Put your tree in the hole, keeping the roots spread out and pointing down. DO NOT squish the roots and twist them to point upwards, just dig deeper if needed or build up soil from elsewhere on top. Fill in around your tree with the subsoil layer first, then topsoil. Tamp the soil by stepping on it to make sure the soil fills in the hole completely. You can flip any sod you may have removed sod upside down on top. Aim for the soil to match the soil line mark on the trunk of the tree (where it changes from dark to lighter).
Warning: Do not dig a hole (especially in clay soil) and fill with peat moss or other potting soils. This could act as a sponge and keep water sitting in the hole, killing the tree. It is best to add compost or manure on top of your soil to feed your trees.
For Clay Soil- If you are planting in clay soil or wet ground follow up to Step 5, but do not plant your tree in the hole! Instead, put the clay soil back in the hole (I know it seems weird, but this loosens up the soil for the tree roots). Then bring in soil from elsewhere and plant your tree in a mound on top of your hole. You will need one or two full wheelbarrows of soil to make this mound, completely covering the roots. Tamp the soil and continue to Step 6.
6. Add your compost, manure or organic tree fertilizer on top of your soil.
7. Stake your new tree if you’d like. (We recommend!) I have lost many trees to the weedwacker because I forgot they were there. It is also beneficial to have a stake to help your tree grow up straight and protect it from the wind and ice in winter. Attach your tree with rope or tie to the stake loosely as not to strangle it. It can be removed after one or two years. We use bamboo stakes like the one in your package. You can use plastic, metal, bamboo, or a straight stick from your yard. You can add the stake before you fill soil back in around the tree to help hold the stake in place.
8. Water your tree in with about five gallons of water over the whole area around the tree.
9. To protect your trees against rodents, simply place ⅛” hardware cloth in a circle around the trunk or use tree spiral coverings. Cover the trunk in the fall and remove it in the spring. Bury the covering into the soil about one inch deep so that the voles cannot lift it. (Those sneaky voles….)
10. Mulch your tree! This is a key step to help your tree thrive! It will minimize weeding, keep the soil damp, stabilize the soil temperature, and bring nutrients and microbiology to your tree as it decomposes. Dead leaves or wood chips work perfectly as mulch and a mix of both is chips and guac to your tree. The perfect combination. Make a donut-shaped layer with a 3-4 foot circumference, at least eight inches thick. Keep the center around the trunk clear.
11. Prune your tree in the early spring. Cut off all lower branches, leaving the main trunk so your tree can form a strong central trunk. It will grow branches later on which will be stronger.
I have also planted many trees by digging a small hole, throwing the tree in, and covering it up. And that seems to work alright most of the time. To comply with our warranty, for grafted trees, and for the happiest possible trees, please follow these instructions. However, sometimes in the real world, we need to plant trees with minimal care. Our trees, rootstocks, and seeds are chosen for their resiliency, hardiness, and vigor and can grow well in imperfect conditions.