Step 3: Purchasing the Fruit Trees (Part II)

Hi everyone! Hope your day was productive.  I checked the National Weather Service website today and for Southern Nevada it’s forecasted to be a hot one this week with an Excessive Heat Warning.  The high temperature today on the North end of town was 108°F.  It’s expected to maintain this temperature throughout the week bumping up a bit to 109°F later in the week. Time to make a new batch of refreshing mint iced tea.

It’s almost time to pre-order your bare root fruit trees by mail order and on-line sources!  If you’re not certain about whether to purchase your fruit trees bare root or in containers, read the information below – it may help you decide.

As promised, below is my compiled list of “advantages” and “disadvantages” for bare root fruit trees (I’ll  post my “advantages” and “disadvantages” list for fruit trees sold in containers tomorrow). I pulled together my list based on my experience and research in gardening over the past 20 or so years and information I’ve obtained by chatting with local experts.  Keep in mind my list is in no way an exhaustive list filled with scientific reasoning (or accurate scientific terms, for that matter).   I gave it my best shot.  Hope you find the information helpful when you make your next fruit tree purchase. 🙂

With that said, here’s my list of advantages and disadvantages…

Bare Root Fruit Trees – Advantages and Disadvantages

  1. Younger Trees:  bare root fruit trees are typically young trees (about 1-3 years old) and little has been done to them in terms of structure. What does this mean for you? Flexibility.  Prune and train your trees to suit YOUR needs right from the get go.  Young trees are also easier to espalier (high density planting!).
  2. Easier to transport – bare root fruit trees are much lighter than fruit trees in containers and as such, they are easier to transport.   There’s no bulky containers to contend with while loading and unloading your vehicle. Dirt won’t be spilling out inside your car or trunk. Bare root fruit trees can be easily stacked lying down for their trip home to your garden.  This = more fruit trees for you.  No heavy lifting is required to move the trees, etc. You get the idea.
    For growers and nurseries, lighter means ship more trees per truckload, easier to offload, less manpower, etc., which takes us to our next advantage…
  3. Costs Less – bare root fruit trees are less expensive to produce, more trees per truckload means less fuel/shipping costs, easier handling also equates to reduced overhead costs, and guess what, consumers benefit from the savings through lower fruit tree prices.
  4. Pick Your Rootstock– Mail order and on-line sources offer a wider variety of rootstock for bare root fruit trees (and rootstock information) allowing you to select rootstock specific to your area.  Local nurseries are usually limited in their offerings. Note: bare root fruit trees usually have (I think by law), 1-2 identifier tags attached.  A white tag displays information and characteristics about the fruit tree variety and a second (color) tag displays the rootstock and its specific details.  I’ve also seen 1 identifier tag that contains both the tree variety specific info on one side and the rootstock name (no details) on the other.
  5. WYSIWYG – Must I? What you see is what you get.  With bare root fruit trees, everything is “on display” (unless your local nursery  “bagged” their bare root fruit trees with dirt in opaque or clear plastic bags).  Mail-order and on-line resources ship their bare root fruit trees with the roots wrapped in moist packing material (sphagnum moss, newspaper, etc.).  When you receive your trees, you can easily remove the wrap to see your tree’s roots.   If you are fortunate to be able to pick out your tree at a local nursery and actually view the root system, you can easily pass over suspect or damaged trees.  Reputable and reliable mail-order/on-line resources typically do a great job of selecting “a good one” for you.  To get the best tree you possibly can, be sure to order early in the season.
  6. Easier to Plant – again, a bare root fruit tree is a young tree, which means lightweight.  This saves in time and labor (and your back). Bare root fruit trees are easy to lift, put into place, and held into position while the roots are covered-over with soil.  So, what are you going to do with all that leftover energy? Of course, plant more fruit trees.
  7. More Roots – because bare root fruit trees are grown directly in the soil and are allowed to develop naturally, these trees typically have more extensive and intact roots than other options. This enables the trees to recover faster after planting and grow quicker.  More roots = more water and nutrients absorbed up through the soil.
  8. Bigger Selection – mail order and on-line sources usually offer a greater selection of bare root fruit trees as well as an assortment of unique varieties not readily available at local nurseries.
  9. Sustainable – bare root fruit tree harvesting, packaging and shipping process can be considered a “sustainable” process because less time and resources are used (i.e., significant reduction in the use of plastic containers, fewer trucks on the road, etc.)
  10. Higher Survival Rate – When the trees are handled well and the root system is left intact, the trees will have a better chance of rooting well and surviving when planted.

This is one of the bare root fruit trees we planted this past February. Even though the weather was nice and cold, we misted down the roots frequently during the planting process to prevent them from drying out.

Now, the disadvantages.

Bare Root Fruit Trees (Disadvantages)

  1. Short Planting Season – As mentioned earlier, bare root fruit trees ship to nurseries when the trees are dormant and the least vulnerable to damage. The trees must be sold and planted before they come out of dormancy leaving a short period of time in which they can be planted (January – early March).
  2. Plant in Cooler Weather – If you’re not a big fan of working outdoors in cold and possibly wet conditions, then this might be a disadvantage for you.
  3. Vulnerable to the Elements – the exposed roots of a bare root fruit tree makes the tree more susceptible to pre/post-purchase damage.  Exposed roots, especially the fine “hair-like” roots, can dry out quickly if left uncovered for any length of time.  If allowed to dry out repeatedly or completely, the tree will die or fail to thrive once planted.  The roots must be kept moist!
  4. Restricted availability at local nurseries – For those of you who want to “see it and touch it” before you buy, your options for buying bare root fruit trees may be limited. A small handful of local nurseries may stock a limited number and variety of bare root fruit trees.  Most sell only containerized fruit trees for convenience and to extend the time in which they can sell their fruit trees.
  5. Advanced Planning –If you’re a “last minute” or “shoot from the hip” kinda gal or guy, this could be a real disadvantage for you.  Once you bring your bare root fruit tree home, you will need to move quickly to get your new tree planted.  It would be very challenging to expect to dig and prepare your hole the same day or a couple of days after your tree’s arrival, especially if the soil is wet and muddy.  Wet and muddy may be heaven to your fruit tree when planted, digging a 2-3 foot hole in wet gooey soil is a whole other ball game (and not advised).
    If you buy your bare root fruit trees via mail order or on-line source, the best approach is to start the preparation process in the fall or a week or two before your tree’s arrival date (especially if the weather is good).  Buying your trees directly from a local nursery may not afford you the time for early preparation (oops, another disadvantage).
  6. Longer Wait for Fruit –bare root fruit trees are young trees and because of this and their growth process, you will have to wait 2-3 years (longer for some varieties) before they are ready to begin bearing fruit.

Well that’s it for the bare root fruit tree list.  I’m certain you can come up with more “advantages” and “disadvantages” on your own.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more good stuff!  Step 3: Purchasing the Fruit Trees (Part III)

Many Blessings,




Filed under Fruit Trees/Orchard, Step 3: Purchase

2 responses to “Step 3: Purchasing the Fruit Trees (Part II)

  1. Lois Zablockis

    Is there something you can give your tree to prevent it from going into shock when you plant them?

    • Hi Lois,
      No. Transplant shock is going to occur. It’s more a matter of how to minimize its effect. One way is to use the proper planting technique and protect the tree’s roots during the planting process, especially the fine hair-like roots. Never let them dry out! This is extremely important if your tree has flowers and leaves – your tree is at its most vulnerable state.

      Another important thing to do is to feed your soil with beneficial soil organisms, like Mycorrhizal Fungi. This fungi is highly beneficial to a tree’s root system and aids in nutrient and water uptake, disease resistance and growth which helps your tree to survive transplant shock. So, prep and feed your soil before you plant your tree and continue to feed your soil throughout the year after planting.

      Sea kelp, a natural growth stimulate, is another great product to use to encourage root growth, which, of course, enables the tree to take up more water and nutrients = quicker recovery. Kelp has been proven to play a key role in stress recovery, frost protection, drought resistance and increased crop yield. It’s very effective as a foliar spray on leaves, especially if you notice your tree is struggling. In the desert, be sure to spray after sun down or early in the morning. You never want water on your leaves in full sun – cooks em (obviously not a technical term).

      Some folks swear by a B1 solution or a solution that combines B1 with other trace nutrients that you can find at your local nursery. Its effectiveness has not been proven – it just sounds good.

      Hope that answers your question.

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