Thursday, February 21, 2019

What is a bare root fruit tree?

A bare root fruit tree is one that has been dug up while it is still dormant and the soil has been washed away, exposing the roots. Planting bare root fruit trees is an inexpensive way to start your backyard orchard.  There are several benefits to bare root fruit trees over potted fruit trees.

What is a bare root fruit tree?

Bare root fruit trees are grafted and then planted in a field. When these trees have grown to their desired height and girth, they are lifted from the soil and washed to expose the roots. This process would be harmful to most trees, but digging bare root trees is only done while the tree is dormant. In order to keep the tree alive, they must be kept dormant until they are ready to plant. Bare root trees that are dug up can be stored in a cool, humid place for several months and are shipped all around the country.

Graft Union of a Bare Root Fruit Tree

Bare root fruit trees are an inexpensive option

If you have time, and a limited budget, bare root fruit trees are the best way to start your backyard orchard. They typically cost half the price of a potted tree of similar size. Most bare root fruit trees are small, but grow rapidly once planted. In two to three years, your young tree could start producing fruit.

Pros and cons to bare root fruit trees

Bare root fruit trees are superior to potted fruit trees for many reasons. There are some limitations though.

First, let's discuss the benefits to planting bare root trees over potted trees. Because bare root trees have no soil around their roots, they are easy to transport, manuver, and plant. They are light weight and quite durable. Having their roots exposed will allow you to make sure that the roots are buried at the correct depth at planting. Also, the exposed roots will allow you to spread the roots out in every direction at planting, preventing them from circling or girdling your tree as it matures. Potted trees will often have roots that grow in circles. This is not a significant problem when the tree is small, but as it matures the circling roots will cut other roots off and could cause your tree to fail prematurely. Another benefit to bare root trees is that your tree will be allowed to grow in your native soil rather than allowing it to become dependant on the growing medium found in a pot.

Spread out Root to Prevent Circling Root

Now let's discuss some of the limitations to bare root fruit trees. Bare root fruit trees are dug and shipped when they are dormant. To minimize stress on the tree it is imperative that they be planted in the early spring while they are still dormant. This will allow the tree to slowly transition from dormancy to active growth. Planting bare root trees too late, or in dry weather or high temperatures will dry out roots and branches and could cause more stress on the tree, decreasing your success. Because of these limitations, it is important to plan well in advance so you can order and receive your tree within the proper planting window for your growing climate.