Step 3: Purchasing the Fruit Trees (Part III)

Hello! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to stop by and check things out.

For those of you who have been following my blog this past week, today I’m finishing up my “advantages” and “disadvantages” list for bare root and container fruit trees. Again, my hope is that you’ll find the information helpful when you decide to purchase a fruit tree for your garden. Yesterday, I listed the bare root fruit tree list.  Today I’ll wrap it up with the fruit tree in containers list.

Containerized (Advantages)

  1. Available Most of the Year – Though the selection may be limited, fruit trees in containers are available from most local nurseries for a good portion of the year.  Keep in mind that fruit tree stock may be low certain times of the year, but your local nursery may take special orders.
  2. Convenience – Available stock most of the year may afford you the luxury to plan your fruit tree purchase when the time is more convenient for you.
  3. Earlier Harvest – containerized fruit trees can be 1 or more years older than bare root fruit trees.  How does this benefit you? Your fruit tree may bear fruit sooner.
  4. Planting Options – If you want convenience but not the waste, some nurseries may offer a different choice beyond plastic containers.  Fiber pots made from biodegradable wood fiber. These types of containers offer convenience and can be planted into the ground along with your fruit tree without having to remove the tree and soil from the container (which can be a tricky deal).  This means less waste and less potential for injury to your tree’s roots during the planting process.
  5. Roots are Protected – In cold temperatures, containers can provide some level of protection from the elements that you do not get with bare root fruit trees.
  6. More Time to Plant – Fruit trees in containers allow you more time before you have to plant them as long as they are watered properly and protected from the hot sun.   With the proper care, your fruit tree can hang out in the container for a few days while you prepare for planting.  A word of caution: folks may get a little too comfortable in the fact that they have a few more days to plant a container fruit tree.  Just be sure not to let days turn into weeks or weeks into months.  The worst is to see a poor neglected fruit tree sitting in a corner all dried up and dead as a result of good intentions.

    When we received our bare root fruit trees this past February, a couple of our trees came in these small pots with soil. One was the ‘Wonderful’ Pomegranate and the other our ‘Black Mission’ Fig. Most nurseries only offer these trees in containers. Notice the teeny tiny leaves – this tree had already begun to leaf out in late February.

Container Trees (Disadvantages)

  1. Are Heavy and Awkward – there is a good chance that containerized fruit trees will be planted in either 5-gallon or 15-gallon plastic pots.  5-gallon pots, filled with soil and a fruit tree can weigh about 25-30 lbs.  A 15-gallon pot, filled with soil and a fruit tree can weigh about 90 lbs or more.  This weight will have to be dealt with at the time of purchase, when loading and off-loading your vehicle, and while planting.   Opting for delivery can increase the overall cost of your purchase and/or delay your planting schedule based on when it’s convenient for the nursery to deliver your tree(s) to you.
  2. Root Bound – fruit trees left growing in their containers for an extended period of time run the risk of becoming root bound (roots that grow in a dense circular pattern along the inside wall of a container) and/or roots begin to grow outside of the container’s drainage holes (increasing exposure to the elements).  This can be detrimental to the fruit tree and could fail to thrive once planted. Also, trimming the roots back could cause the fruit tree to go into severe shock.
  3. Missing Critical Information – for the most part, when I’ve been looking around at fruit trees in containers at local nurseries, the fruit tree name tag is intact and easy to find.  However, the fruit tree’s rootstock information may not be readily available.  Many nurseries “pot up” bare root fruit trees, and as a result, critical fruit tree information can be lost in the process.
  4. More expensive – fruit trees in containers are more expensive to purchase then bare root fruit trees.  Delivery costs only add to the expense.
  5. Limited Selection – most local nurseries stock only a limited number of fruit tree varieties at one time. If special order is not an option at the time of year you want to purchase your container fruit tree, you may have to wait until the next bare root fruit tree season.  Most mail order and on-line sources offer potted fruit trees at various times of the year, but again, their selection of fruit trees and root stocks may be limited and the costs will be more.
  6. Stowaways – soil quality, fruit tree care, and nursery maintenance practices vary from nursery to nursery.  Inconsistent attention to pest control, use and reuse of soil, and allowing dead or diseased trees to remain amongst healthy stock attracting unmentionables, can ultimately pass on a number of unwanted stowaways into your garden after purchasing your fruit tree.
  7. Chemicals – most nursery stock is sprayed with pesticides according to state regulations and chemical fertilizers are standard use in the nursery industry. Sub-optimal for folks who are growing organically or biologically.
  8. Poor Quality Soil – most potted plants and trees use soil that is highly economical for growers and nurseries to use. This includes soil that is full of chemicals, petroleum products and biosolids (which contain a high levels of pharmaceuticals and radiation waste to name a few).
  9. Susceptible to Transplant Shock – Many nurseries like to sell fruit trees in full bloom and/or with leaves… it’s a more attractive sale versus a gangly looking bare tree.  At this point, the tree’s growth is in full gear.  Careless handling of roots could result in transplant shock, which could lead to the tree’s untimely demise.
  10. Roots are Hidden – the roots are hidden below the soil, so it’s next to impossible to tell if the roots are twisted (girdled), how extensive the root system is, quality of the roots, etc.

Finished! Again, I’m sure you can come up with several more advantages and disadvantages.  The most important thing is that you weigh your options and determine what is best for YOU.

Videos on Selecting Bare Root and Container Fruit Trees

Below are a couple of good videos from Dave Wilson Nursery that you might find helpful on selecting bare root and containerized fruit trees.

Start reading the beginning of this three-part blog post here.

Enjoy and God Bless,

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