Planting bare-root fruit trees

TOM G. ASKS: I AM GOING TO PURCHASE A COUPLE OF BAREROOT FRUIT TREES. What directions can you share so I plant them correctly?

After you’ve purchased the trees, soak the roots in a bucket of water for an hour or so, until you’re ready to plant. Do not leave them in the water for more than 24 hours.

Dig a planting hole large enough to accommodate the tree’s root system. Spread the roots outwards to encourage the roots to grow outwards. You might have someone hold the tree upright in the planting hole. Position the graft union - the noticeable connection between the trunk and the root stock - so the weaker looking part is facing north. This will protect it from the sun for most of the day.

Refill the hole with the soil you dug out mixed with a shovelful or two of compost. Gently tamp out any air pockets as you’re filling in the hole. Be sure not to bury the trunk. Only the roots should be underground. Make a little berm a foot or so from the trunk, a few inches wide. Fill it with water a few times to give the root system a good soaking. Cover the soil around the tree with mulch. Thoroughly water the newly planted tree.

If you’re having to plant on a slight incline, be sure to pull the remaining soil around to the lower side of the tree to form a little retaining wall, or berm. It will act as a retainer and the water will soak down into the soil, to the roots, instead of just running down the hill.

If you can’t plant your tree because of rainy weather, or you just can’t get to it, dig a hole in the garden somewhere, lay the tree on the ground, and cover the roots with the soil. This will bide you some time until you can plant it.


Lori C. asks: Some of my peaches have started to grow a grayish fuzz while the fruit is still immature. Then they didn’t develop. What is this fuzz? I lost a lot of fruit because of it.

Brown rot is a fungal disease that affects stone-fruit trees like cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots and plumcots. It’s usually a problem after a consistently wet and humid spring. Brown rot affects the tree’s flowers and fruit. Healthy trees will survive if they get brown rot, but if you don’t do something about it, and the tree gets infected year after year, it will eventually begin to decline. It would be a good idea to control this disease as soon as possible. Fortunately, brown rot is easy to recognize, prevent, and treat, once you know what to look for and how to keep it from infecting your trees.

Look for brown, wilted blossoms (common site of infection), dark, sunken spots on new shoots and brown, hanging leaves on infected limbs. Affected fruit develops small spots of rot that enlarge quickly. Rotted fruit develops fuzzy tan/grey spores that cover the fruit surface. If left on the tree, fruit shrivels, darkens, and hardens into “mummies”. If mummies are left on the tree or on the ground around the tree, the fungal cycle is able to continue, and recontamination occurs.

Plant new trees in a well-draining soil with full sun (6-8 hours). Prune to keep the trees open to light and air circulation. Pick up the pruned branches, fallen and mummified fruits, and any debris under the trees where the fungi could thrive. Thin the fruit out, because if one fruit touches another, it can spread the disease.

Prune out all signs of disease in limbs and infected fruit as soon as they appear. Clean the pruners between cuts. Dispose of the prunings and other debris to avoid spreading the disease. Do not add it to your compost pile or into your yard waste bin.

Spray with a copper-based product, reading the directions for how and when to use. Be sure the fungicide spray is recommended for use on the trees being sprayed.

Ask your nursery person for help in selecting and planting resistant varieties whenever possible. Maintain a clean growing site and keep your fruit trees well-watered and mulched to prevent problems or spot any before they get out of hand.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

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