I’m starting to think trees and plants are just one of those things I like to collect. Weird, huh? And honestly, I don’t really have a much of a green thumb. It’s kind of survival of the fittest around our house and yard. I’ll try my hardest to baby it for the first year. After that, these plants need to survive on my limited attention or it’s on to the next plant. Suck it up, buttercup! (I do help them limp along when the ground turns to barren scorched earth, which here in North Texas is around August. Pretty sure that’s where the childhood game of avoiding the hot-lava ground came from.)
We started planting mostly fruit trees when we moved into this house three years ago and I’m a little obsessed with it now. I’m so glad we did, because I’m seeing the first little fruits this year (okay, we did get 1 pear, 5 fig and 3 nectarines last year.) Which is crazy-insane because we didn’t have what you could call a winter here this year. I didn’t imagine we would get any fruit at all. I just didn’t think we got enough chill-hours for anything.
When we first moved in and started looking at different trees to plant, I had a person at a nursery tell me in a moment of pure honesty, a bare root tree was the way to go. This is how they look when you first get them.
That even though what you get looks like a stick, after a couple of years, they actually usually surpass a container grown tree in growth. Well, seeing is believing. All but three of the approximately 40 fruit trees we’ve planted over the last couple of years have been bare root.
Side note: some of our trees fell victim to the “Great Flood” in the spring last year. If you live here in North Texas, you can testify that it felt like it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. I was sure my neighbor was building an ark.
Anyway, the three trees that were actually container trees that we bought three years ago are the tiniest of the whole bunch of them — including the ones we bought last year. Crazy, right?
You can only buy bare root trees in the fall and spring, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. But, bonus for this plant and tree-killing girl, they’re pretty cheap! Some of my favorite places to buy trees right now are:
Arbor Day – If you spend $10 to become a member, not only do you get a discount on your trees, you can get 10 free trees (there are certain types you can select from.) They also usually have a special going on where if you spend $25, they throw in two free forsythias, a free red maple with any member order and free shipping for orders over $50. Sweet!
Here’s the free red maple I got from them three years ago. It was about 18″, if that when we got it. It’s now about 5.5 feet tall!
Legg Creek Farm – This is a family run business located here in Texas. They have very reasonably priced trees and berries. If you’re not here in Texas, just do a little research on the variety you’re thinking about and make sure your planting zone is compatible. They sell some great Texas native fruit trees, like Chickasaw plums (sand plums) and PawPaw trees, so I always seem to end up buying something random that I’m hoping I won’t kill (I paid $5 each for those — that’s crazy talk!) They also run shipping specials from time to time, so be sure to sign up for their emails.
I also bought a couple of things from Stark Bros this year. I bought two Cornealian Cherry trees ($8.99 ea) and two Elderberry bushes ($14.99 for both.)
Here are the Elderberry bushes when I got them this spring.
And here they are just 5 weeks later.
Below is the second one. Note all the boulders surrounding that little bush. All of those came out of that small hole we dug for that little thing. All. of. them. People, that is not a big hole in the ground. It is pure rock-crazy on the north side of our property. Which is also the reason it’s taking us so long to fix that janky fence behind the bushes. Ignore that. And the weeds.
The little spikes are bulbs I randomly planted because I thought they were moldy and no good — but of course I still had to plant them. Surprise!
Enough ranting, back to planting…
So, to plant these little sticks I just received, first I removed them from the package and soaked them for about 6 hours. They’ve traveled for a while. They need some lovin’.
These were my Montmorency cherries I received from Arbor Day. They were $14 each, which is a great deal considering how much these trees sell for now that people think tart cherry juice is some sort of miracle tonic or something.
I just really want some ding-dang sour cherries that don’t come in a can to make a pie. These trees do well in zones 4-7, but I’m in zone 8. It’s a risk I’m taking, people. I live on the edge like that.
Here’s it’s soaked little arthritic claw, ready to be planted. Probably what my hands will look like in ten years.
Dig yourself a nice sized hole to spread the roots out. It doesn’t have to be too deep, but you don’t want the roots to be all smooshed together.
It’s helpful to have free labor.
Fill back in, making sure you don’t leave any air pockets under the roots and water well.
Put some mulch around the bottom, but not touching the tree. (I actually should move some of this back a ways.)
Now you’re going to commit what seems like crimes against horticulture. You’re going to chop off the top of the tree. **Insert horrified gasp!
Yep, you heard me right. (This is why I don’t pay for the extra foot or two when I order.)
I try to take off about the top third. Depending on the tree, I usually walk away with it being somewhere knee to mid-thigh height. Trust me on this. It helps the root system and they will take off.
Here’s a plum I planted in January from Legg Creek Farms. It’s just starting to come out of dormancy (it will take newly planted bare root trees a little longer to shake dormancy than your established trees.)
Be sure to read what the guarantee is for your bare root trees. Most places insure your tree will at least bud out (usually 6mo to a year.)
Keeping it alive is then up to you! Or if you’re like me, waiting to see which trees are needy-momma’s girls and might need to go.