Spring Planting Instructions (Bare Root)
All of our trees are container-grown, but during the winter months when they are fully dormant, we remove their pots and soil. They are stored in our coolers, keeping their roots slightly moist, in order to ship them throughout the spring shipping season. It is easy to handle and plant bare-root trees by following the instructions below. Please note: If there are ANY problems with your shipment, WE MUST HEAR FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT OF THE TREES by calling 800-669-2067 or email email@example.com. If your package is badly damaged, please discuss this with the UPS driver at delivery, and do not throw away the packaging in case you need to file a claim with UPS.
1. Upon delivery, unpack your trees immediately. Remove the plastic bag around the roots and the twist tie holding your trees together. Carefully separate your trees, there may be more than one tree in your package depending on how many you have ordered. Please note that the roots have been covered with a hydrating gel that keeps them moist during shipment. Check the roots to see if they are still moist.
2. If you’re located in the southern U.S. (zones 7-10), you can plant your trees right away. If you’re located in Zones 5-6 and receive your trees when the weather is still too cold to plant or the ground is frozen, please use one of the following methods to help protect your trees before planting
a. If you plan to plant within one or two weeks, keep the trees in the packaging they arrive in, but do ensure that the roots say slightly moist. If the roots are too moist, the roots can rot. Keep the packaged trees in a cool place like a garage or a cellar. Ensure that the temperature stays between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit wherever you store them.
b. If it will be longer than one to two weeks before you can plant, pot the trees as a bundle using a soil media such as native soil, hay, sawdust, peat, or potting soil (without fertilizer). Store the trees in a cool, dark place like a garage or a cellar (35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep the roots slightly moist, but not too moist to avoid root rot.
If stored correctly, your new trees will stay dormant for several days (up to three weeks), until your ground is warm enough to plant.
3. If you wait until summer or fall to plant, up-pot them to a 3-gallon container. Use well-drained potting soil (not one that contains a moisture-holding agent) and be careful not to overwater the newly potted trees because this can cause the young roots to rot. The pots can be placed in full sun for optimum growth.
4. Your planting site selection should be in full sun, well-drained (non-low lying areas or areas that stay saturated for long periods of time) sandy loam soils with a pH between 5-6.5. Most trees do not grow well in wet soils. Dense clay soils stunt root growth and hold on to too much water, leading to weak, slow-growing trees. Avoid frost pockets (bottom of valleys) because late frosts can hurt nut and fruit production, especially in northern locations. A sheltered north-facing slope protected from drying winds and low sun of winter may be better for cold, windy sites. Prepare the area by removing any weeds prior to planting. This step is often overlooked but is absolutely critical to any successful planting. Weeds and grass steal light, water, and nutrients from your trees. We recommend using weed mats or mulch.
5. Dig a hole 2 times wider than the pot in order for the roots to grow outward without crowding, but not deeper than the root ball.
6. Plant the tree at the same depth it grew in the nursery (at the crown where the bark changed from green to brown). Plant at the depth of this color difference. If the trees are grafted varieties, DO NOT BURY THE GRAFT UNION. Partially fill the planting hole with the native soil. Set the tree in the middle of the hole with plenty of room for the roots. Avoid planting the tree too deep. Using some soil, secure the tree in a straight position, then fill with native soil and firm the soil around the lower roots making sure there are no air pockets. Keep backfilling until the soil is level with the root collar. Do not add soil amendments such as compost, peat, or bark as this can cause root fungus. Do not use fertilizer, potting soil, or chemicals on your new trees.
7. Create a water-holding basin around the hole and water the trees thoroughly at planting, making sure that there are no air pockets around the roots. Water slowly at the drip line. After the water has soaked in, spread a protective layer of mulch 2- 4” deep around the trunk, pulling the mulch a few inches away from the trunk. Leaf litter, hay, shredded or fine bark, or pine needles are good choices for mulch or use weed mats to prevent weed competition and reduce water evaporation. While the trees are dormant, they need to be kept slightly moist. Once the trees break bud and leaf out, they will need to be watered regularly, at least twice per week, throughout the growing season and more often during dry spells. The amount of water needed is dependent on your soil, temperatures, and rainfall. IT IS EXTREMELY CRITICAL THAT NEWLY TRANSPLANTED TREES BE WATERED REGULARlY DURING THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF GROWTH. It is the most important factor to ensure the successful start of your new trees! Visit the Growing and Care section of the Learning Center for more information on watering.
8. Remove any ties, tags, and labels from the trees to prevent girdling branches and trunks.
9. We recommend Grow Tubes for wildlife, food plots, and forest plantings. Our tubes act like mini-greenhouses, recycling moisture from leaf transpiration to nurture the growth of young seedlings until the tree is big enough to survive on its own. Tubes also provide protection against deer, rodents, and rabbits browsing and chewing. Tubes can also provide a barrier against herbicide drift if the herbicide is used to control weeds (which can kill young trees). Do not use black plastic drain pipes or tubing as tree shelters. They will damage your trees. Weeds compete for water and fertilizer, so weed control is important. We also recommend weed mats, available on our website.
10. We recommend keeping the pot stake attached to the tree for 1 season. After 1 season you can remove the pot stake. If the tree appears stable, staking is not needed. If staking is necessary, hold the trunk with one hand to find the height at which the unsupported top can stand up on its own and will spring back to a vertical position if gently flexed. Allow trees a slight amount of flex rather than holding them rigidly in place. Tree straps should be made of material that will not injure the tree. If using Grow Tubes then staking the tree is not necessary. You will need to attach a stake to your grow tubes. Find grow tube installation instructions here.
11. You do not need to prune your trees at this time. After next summer’s growing season, you can do any necessary pruning during the following winter months. For example, chestnuts should naturally grow as a central leader and only need to be pruned to remove lower limbs or crossed branches.
12. DO NOT FERTILIZE BARE ROOT TREES AT PLANTING because it can burn the young roots. Wait until next spring after your tree has leafed out to fertilize, using a timed-release fertilizer with balanced micronutrients, such as Scotts Osmocote Indoor/Outdoor 19-6-12, Espoma Holly Tone, or Tree Tone Organic Fertilizer (available at most Garden Centers). Follow rate instructions on the container. Do not fertilize in the late summer or fall because this can promote late-season growth and potential damage from early fall freezes. In future years, fertilize 1-2 times per year, once in early spring when they start to break dormancy, and again in early summer. Do not expect your trees to grow rapidly from the very start. After transplanting, the trees put a majority of their energy into root production and then are able to make rapid growth in the following years.
13. We recommend removing any small fruit or nuts that begin to form during the first 2 years. This leaves the tree with more energy for root establishment. By years 3-5, your chestnut and fruit trees should start to bear depending on the care they receive and your climate. Trees planted in colder regions such as USDA zone 5, may bear between 5 and 7 years of age.
Please note: Due to availability, you may receive non-dormant, containerized trees during our spring shipping season. If you receive containerized trees, they will be leafed out, actively growing, and will need to be protected from frost. Do not plant until after your average last frost date. One of the resources we use to track late frost risk is the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
If freezing temperatures are predicted, bring the trees undercover to a place that will not freeze. Otherwise, they can stay outside in full sun inside the container, but do ensure you keep the root system lightly moist by watering periodically until planting.
For more information on freeze protection, please visit the Freeze Protection section on our Learning Center or contact our office.