Apple Trees/Planting Bare Root

Apple Trees/Planting Bare Root

Part of Ep. 401 Waiting for the Snow to Melt

Join Horticulturist Teryl Roper as he explains the basics of bare root planting and shows a variety of dwarf apple trees.

Premiere date: Feb 29, 1996

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
It used to be you'd have to have a great big yard to plant a big apple tree, but that's no longer the case. I'm with horticulturist, Teyrl Roper. And now, there are small-size apple trees for small yards. But this one is this a full-size tree, here?

Teyrl:
This is a semi-dwarf tree, but it's still a big tree. It's taller than I am. You'd have to have a big yard in order to plant a tree this size. But there are also little trees. This is a macintosh tree like the first tree we looked at. They were both planted in 1981.

Shelley:
These are the same age?

Teyrl:
Right, and the same variety. But the difference between the two is the root stock.

Shelley:
The root stock determines the height of the tree?

Teyrl:
Right, the root stock determines how big the tree will become. It also determines how early in the life of the tree it will produce fruit.

Shelley:
Explain that; the smaller the tree....

Teyrl:
Well, this tree has a lot smaller branches than the other tree does, so it has a much smaller investment in wood and it can put its resources into producing fruit.

Shelley:
So, we'll get fruit sooner on a dwarf-- this is a super dwarf?

Teyrl:
Right. The other reason to have a dwarfing root stock, is we propagate the trees asexually by budding or grafting, because they won't come true from seed.

Shelley:
It's like people, then? I don't resemble my parents identically, I'm a blend. And the same with apples.

Teyrl:
Exactly. If we propagated them by seed the seed, that we'd get off those trees wouldn't be macintosh.

Shelley:
It'd be a mix of something else.

Teyrl:
That's right.

Shelley:
So, we have to graft to get identical trees. And if we want a small one, we graft on dwarf or super dwarf root stock.

Teyrl:
That's right.

Shelley:
I've heard that bare root is a very economical way to plant an apple tree like this.

Teyrl:
Bare root is a good way to plant fruit trees, or other trees. They're simple and there are just a few things to remember.
Let's go look at planting one.

Shelley:
Okay. Besides being cheap, another benefit of planting bare root is it's a lot easier to carry than a heavy container.

Teyrl:
These are really light weight.

Shelley:
What do I need to know when purchasing something like this?

Teyrl:
Well, we want to look for a root mass that has a lot of fine roots, that the roots are still moist and that they're a nice, cream color, like this root and not dark brown.

Shelley:
They should be moist when we pick it out at the nursery?

Teyrl:
That's right.

Shelley:
Okay.

Teyrl:
And you also need to pay attention to the graft union that it's very sound. This is where the root stock and the top portion of the tree are joined.

Shelley:
That's what this is, then, this swollen area?

Teyrl:
Exactly.

Shelley:
I've read that I'm supposed to soak the roots 24 hours. Is that right?

Teyrl:
They could be soaked for a few hours. I don't know that I would do it 24 hours. We want the roots to be moist when we put them in.

Shelley:
This isn't something I could buy today and plan on planting two weeks from now?

Teyrl:
Right; buy it today and plant it today. Or, at the latest, tomorrow.

Shelley:
And during that time, don't leave the roots exposed to air?

Teyrl:
Right, leave it in the packing. Keep something around it that'll keep them moist.

Shelley:
We're ready to plant. What's important?

Teyrl:
The most important thing is to have an appropriate hole. A hole that's bigger around than it is deep, and that's big enough around so that the roots fit nicely. We want the roots to be spread out evenly. We don't want them circling in the hole.

Shelley:
We don't want it crowded at all?

Teyrl:
Exactly.

Shelley:
Why not deeper?

Teyrl:
Well, they don't need to be deeper, because we want this grafting above the soil line. So, the final soil line will be about here. We want two to three inches between the grafting and the soil. If we allow soil to get up on the upper part of the tree, we'll get roots growing here. Then, we'll get a great big tree even though we have a dwarfing root stock.

Shelley:
It'll be macintosh but the roots will come from here and we want them there.

Teyrl:
Only from down there!

Shelley:
Now, it's really too cold today and too wet to be putting the soil back in but do we add anything to the soil?

Teyrl:
No, we take the same soil and put it back into the hole.

Shelley:
What do we do when we're done?

Teyrl:
The first thing to do is to water it, immediately.

Shelley:
Always!

Teyrl:
Keep those roots wet. And the next thing, is to add a stake.

Shelley:
Now, I have read somewhere recently that I don't need stakes for most ornamental trees. Is that not the same for fruit trees?

Teyrl:
It's not absolutely essential to stake a fruit tree, but the stake keeps the tree from whipping in the wind and developing caliper. Then, the tree can use it's resources to develop fruit rather than just more thickness in the trunk.

Shelley:
So, I don't have to stake it, but it's going to take longer to get the fruit.

Teyrl:
That's right. The stake also helps in training the tree to keep it growing straight up and down.

Shelley:
Great idea, thanks, Teyrl! Don't forget, it's not just apple trees that you can buy bare root. A lot of ornamental trees and shrubs come bare root. It's a great choice for spring planting. As the snow melts, Gardeners get antsy. We want to work in our gardens and lawns, but there are some things we shouldn't be doing in the early spring.

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