Winter and Bare-Rooted trees

As we move into the cooler part of the year, you’d be forgiven in thinking that there’s not much to do in the garden, but to admire it through a window with a cup of hot tea in hand.

But, if you can brave the weather, it can be one of the busiest, most productive times of the year, as bare rooted roses, fruit trees and ornamentals are all starting to appear in nurseries right now.

Often buying a tree or shrub, that is no more than a bunch of bare sticks, does make you question its position in your garden. But, with a good imagination and the progression of spring, the sticks that you planted, clad in a beanie and three jackets, will definitely be worthwhile, when admiring them in a T-shirt and thongs, come the warmer months!

Buying trees and shrubs bare-rooted is popular for plants that are normally dormant in winter. Being deciduous, this is a sort of a ‘hibernation’ and, by planting them in this state, they will suffer less stress and shock in establishment.

At Wingham Nursery, we do pot these deciduous beauties on arrival. This ensures that tree health is maintained, and prevents any stresses before they are taken to their new home.  Although potted, each tree should still be treated as ‘bare rooted,’ due to its dormant state in the winter months.

So, whether you’ve just bought a single new tree home, or an orchard’s worth, there are a few simple steps to keep in mind to get things growing!

One of the first is to keep your new specimen moist, and avoid having it dry out, whilst trying to get it into the ground as soon as you can.

When digging the hole, don’t dig into clay. Clay is quite typical in soils around the Manning Valley so, if this is the case (as I expect it will be for most, including myself), build up your soil. This can be done by adding topsoil with a good mix of compost and/or organic matter (rotted manures), working towards increasing the microbial activity, nutrients and drainage.

However, if you don’t have a clay base, and your site is already free draining, simply boosting soil with the addition of compost or manures might be the only step you need to carry out to ensure a great start.

Next, aim on planting your tree at the exact same level as when it was in its pot or, if not applicable, ensure that the graft union (elbow) is exposed.

A wide diameter for the hole is also useful as, when new roots start to develop, they will penetrate nice, new and fluffy soil with ease.

You can then backfill, focusing on making a small depression (or well) around the base. This will guide any rainfall straight to where it’s needed. It will also encourage a deeper root system, aiding in stability and giving you less trouble when watering in the summer months.

A granular fertilizer is great too, when spread according to directions and followed by a good soak. This not only activates the fertilizer, but helps to get   rid of any air pockets which may have developed while backfilling.

Lastly, an often missed step is pruning. Pruning is dependent upon each variety, and advice is usually given on each label. Generally, for any branch that needs removing, always prune to an outward facing bud as a rule. Pruning will help create a well-shaped tree, and is particularly beneficial for fruiting or productive trees. Pruning restores the balance between the top and the root system, providing enough energy needed for ample fruit production. Just make sure you’ve got your harvest basket ready!

Once your bare-rooted tree is planted, and you’ve given it a flying start, the only thing left to do is occasional watering in the lead-up to summer. 1 bucket (9 litres) of water once or twice a week should suffice, making sure that the water penetrates the soil around the root zone.

So, if that all sounds plausible and quite accomplishable, the hardest thing might just be to decide on which fruiting, flowering or ornamental tree is for your yard. Give us a call if you need any help!

Caitlin Sawyer

Wingham Nursery

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