In northern forests, leaves falling to the soil each fall serves a big function. First, all of the carbon from last season’s leaves falls to the ground to both provide nutrients as well as to mulch and insulate the soil temperature. Second, by dropping their leaves, the canopy trees above allow for the winter sun to penetrate into the soil below, spawning the growth and flowering of understory herbs and shrubs.
At the beginning of each year, nurseries around the county offer bare root fruit trees. These berries and trees are still dormant until warmer weather and longer days coax them from their winter rest. For dormant fruit trees, winter is the time to do pruning. While they rest without leaves, they are less fussy about pruning or transplanting.
Now is the best time to get them for ~40% of the price they will be in the spring. An added bonus, as they are “bare”, they are lighter and easier to transport.
Good Varieties for Bare Root Fruit Trees
Apples: “Gala” or other low-chill variety*
Pears: “20th Century Asian” or “D’Anjou”
Plum: “Elephant Heart” or “Santa Rosa”
Pluot: “Flavor Grenade” or “Flavor King”
Persimmon: “Jiro Fuyu”
Good Varieties for Bare Root Berries
Red Raspberry: try “Willamette”or “Autumn Bliss”
Fall Golden Raspberry: “Fall Golden”
Black Raspberry: try “Black Munger” or “Cumberland Black Cap”
Grapes: “Flame”or “Thompsons”
Kiwi: “Vincent Tender”
Planting Guidelines for Bare Root Fruit Trees
Because bare root are without soil, it is important to create a fertile soil blend. One easy way is to utilize an OMRI-listed organic bag planting mix, i.e. Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest.
Step One: Dig an over-sized hole.
Step Two: Create a soil “pyramid” under where plant will go.
Step Three: Measure the height of the bare root from root bottom to root crown.
Step Four: Open the roots to “skirt” on the soil “pyramid”.
Step Five: Fill hole with soil and lightly tamp it to secure tree/shrub at proper height and that it sits straight up and down in its new hole.
Step Six: Mulch with wood chips or straw. This will insulate and protect its roots while it regenerates.
Step Seven: Water in the new plants.
Joshua Burman Thayer is a landscape designer and permaculture consultant with Native Sun Gardens. He is the Urban Agriculture Supervisor for Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation in San Francisco, Calif. Find him at Native Sun Gardens and read his other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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