Planting: How to plant a bareroot tree
Bareroot planting can be scary. Trees don't look how they should, and often the instructions seem drastic for something that already looks like it's not going to grow! But trust us, we know trees, and Jake is here to guide you through the best way to prepare, plant, and care for your bareroot tree to ensure it gives you its best for years to come.
Welcome to Fleming's “How-to” series, I'm Jake Fleming and today we're gonna be learning how to prune and plant a bare root tree. Planting a bareroot tree is easy, with only a few key steps to remember to maximize success of your new tree.
Pruning has to be number one and the first one we'll cover today because it's the thing that most people don't understand that well. What people don't understand about bareroot trees is that most of the roots are actually still here in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, at our farm, in our paddock. This happens in the digging process because we slice a big blade underneath them and shake the dirt off so we can ship them to nurseries around the country. Because of that, the tree is slightly out of balance: there's probably 50% of the roots missing but 100% of the top. So, what we do in the pruning process is reduce the volume of the top to try and match the bottom to give the tree the best chance of success.
Be confident in your prune - know that you can't do a bad job. Most people squeal in horror when they see me prune a fruit tree like this. This is an Okee Dokee® Peach one of Fleming's flat-peach varieties, and what we're gonna do is prune it. Really simple, let's keep the label on that one.
What we've done here is reduce probably 30% of the buds on the top. Well you can neaten up your prunes if you're really, really careful in your garden, but what you have to understand is you can't prune it bad at this stage - just prune it. Another thing I'll do is just take off a couple of little branches down here just to take off a little bit more of that bud volume and get a nice tree growing in spring.
The next most important thing in planning a bare root tree is the hole size and soil depth. It's really important that we maintain the same soil depth the tree had while growing in the nursery, so you don't accidentally expose the trunk to the soil, or the roots to the hot air in spring time. Both of those can lead to failure in your bare root tree, and there's a really easy way to find where soil level is. A little scratch test that, trust me, doesn't harm the trees at all - I've been doing it for years, around where you think soil level is and you can see just here where the tree goes from green - which is trunk, to white - which is roots. So when you're planting the tree you want to make sure that soil level is approximately at the change of color.
After you finish pruning the top of the tree now it's time to start talking about the hole. One thing to remember is you don't want to prune the roots, because enough of the roots have already been left in Monbulk and you don't want to further stress the tree any more. In saying that, the only time you might ever prune the roots is if you see one of these guys, which has been broken at some stage during the trees life, just to minimize the surface area and the chance of some sort of infection. Then we plant the tree in the hole.
And once you finish covering the roots in soil, stomp gently around the base of the tree, just to secure the tree in the ground, so it doesn't move around too much post-planting.
And once your tree is planted it's time to start talking about water.
Now it's very important to water your plant in once it's planted. This is just to help the soil settle around the roots to make sure there aren't any air pockets that are going to dry the roots out. Little-known fact though about trees, is that overwatering kills just as many trees as under-watering. One thing we're going to understand with things like this; the peaches, the cherries, the plums, the Acers, is that they're not water plants. They don't want to be sitting in a bog all their lives. So what we do, or what I do, is just dig a little bit around the soil - around the base of the tree - before you do give it its next water. If it's still wet don't water it, come back tomorrow and have another go. But we've just planted this guy so I'm gonna give them a little bit of water, not as much as I probably would in the middle of summer, but that's because the ground is very wet - if you'd see me digging you'd know just how wet! Now pour it in slowly, just into the dam. You want to just fill the dam up so the water doesn't wash away the dam.
Now we've successfully planted a bare root tree. The next thing we get a lot of calls about is what to do once spring starts and the tree starts flowering and growing. We recommend a good all-purpose fertilizer for your garden. Speak to your local garden centre though for the one that's right for you because depending on the kind of trees you've got in your garden, a different one will do better things for you. Follow up pruning on this isn't that necessary - what we might do is hollow out the middle a bit just so we can maximize airflow in the middle of the fruit tree, to stop the fruit rotting come summertime. The other thing I'd recommend, and something that we get a lot of questions about, if it's a flowering tree don't prune it until after it flowers, otherwise all you've done is cut off those beautiful flower buds that you're there to look at in springtime.
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We look forward to a busy winter with you and happy gardening.