Although bare root tree season started in early January, local nurseries are still getting some varieties in. Wyntour Gardens has, by far, the largest selection, Gold Leaf Nursery has just about any fruit tree you can imagine, and Creekside Nursery (under new ownership) has about 30 varieties. Resist trying to save a couple bucks by going to the big box stores (you'll get healthier specimens at local nurseries and you'll help our local economy).
Planting a bare root tree is different from containerized trees. They have no soil around their roots. As soon as you get that beauty home you'll need to plant it. Some people dig the hole before they purchase the tree. I don't recommend this. Until you see the tree, you won't know what its root system will look like. Instead, take it home, place it in a bucket of water and then dig a hole to the proper depth: shallow enough that the root collar is just above soil level. You'll need to make a little mound to sit the tree on. I recommend using as much native soil and the least amount of introduced soil as possible to fill in the hole. Unlike containerized trees, bare root must be staked for about a year.
The final thing you'll need to do is put down a layer of mulch. One to two inches is sufficient. Anything more and you run the risk of suffocating the trees roots. Do not fertilize. Fall is a great time to add compost to the ground in order to introduce nutrients.
With proper planting and follow-up care, bare root trees can become a healthy and elegant part of your landscape. There's just over a month left of bare root season. So what are waiting for? This is the perfect time to get your hands on some wonderful fruit and shade trees that will bring joy for years to come.
Marie Stradther's life in Coachella Valley was void of trees. In 2001, she packed up and headed north. After a drive through the majestic redwoods, she arrived in Redding, where she immersed herself in horticulture as owner of her own landscaping company and as assistant to an arborist. Marie is now the lead gardener for Turtle Bay Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Her love of trees is a way of life and she shares that passion with the community. Send the Tree Goddess your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.