Nothing makes me more excited than wandering around a plant nursery in mid winter looking at the bare rooted fruit trees. If only I could buy them all.
I am addicted to fruit trees. I now have around 25 fruit trees in my suburban patch in Adelaide and I would plant more if I had the space.
My latest additions are two European plums, a pomegranate and a native finger lime. Some of my trees are dwarf varieties and others are full-sized. All fill me with inexplicable joy. One day I hope to be self-sufficient in fruit with plenty left over for preserving, and what a wonderful day that will be.
As you can imagine, having planted so many fruit trees in the past few years I consider myself a bit of an expert. And my trees appear to be thriving, so I must be doing something right. Here is a step-by-step guide to planting a bare rooted fruit tree in your garden.
When to Plant
Deciduous trees like apples, pears and stone fruit are sold bare rooted in winter when they are dormant. They are called ‘bare rooted’ because they don’t come in pots. Instead, the roots are often wrapped in hessian. Bare rooted trees are usually cheaper than trees sold in pots in the warmer months.
Bare rooted fruit trees should be planted as soon as possible after purchase. If you can’t plant them in their permanent position immediately, you should put them in a pot or plant them in a vacant piece of ground temporarily. But aim to have them in their permanent position before they start to blossom and grow again in early spring.
Check the roots
Before planting, examine the roots and snip off any broken or damage roots, then put your tree in a bucket of water while you dig a hole. I often add a little worm juice from my worm farm to the water.
How to plant your tree
1. Dig a hole that will easily fit your tree and give the roots room to spread out.
2. Check that the tree easily fits into the hole without bending any of the roots. You may need to trim a couple of the longer roots to fit.
3. Position the tree in the hole so that the place the graft is 10-12 centimetres above ground.
4. Get a friend to hold the tree nice and straight while you half fill the hole so that the roots are covered.
5. Sprinkle some blood and bone meal into the hole, then finish filling it with soil.
6. Water the soil around the base of the tree to remove any air pockets.
The next step is to trim your tree to give it a nice, even shape with an open centre. The idea is to have four or five outward growing branches that are about 30-40 centimetres long, each ending in an outward facing bud. Trim off any inward growing or spindly branches and the central leader, if there is one. Finally, if your tree is in a windy, unsheltered position it may need staking.
Deciduous fruit trees are both beautiful and productive, so why not add one (or more) to your garden this winter.