Category Archives: bare root plants

Bare Root for the Santa Cruz mountains – part deux

There are few things in life that are as optimistic as planting a fruit tree. Knowing your new apple tree might survive for 80 years and a pear tree up to 40 years makes your job as steward take on more importance. So it's a good idea to do some planning on where and how you plant your new addition.

First of all, consider how your soil drains. Many fruit trees are forgiving as long as they're not sitting for days at a time in water logged soil. Moist is fine but if you dig your hole, fill it with water and it doesn't drain in a day or less then consider planting on mounds. Cherries especially need good drainage with apricots being close behind.

Choose fruit trees that ripen at different times. You don't want so much fruit in July that you're begging people to take it or leaving it on their doorstep and running like the zucchini people. Some fruit trees need a pollenizer to bear fruit so keep this in mind and ask  when you buy your tee. These are just a few suggestions. Let your taste buds be your guide.  
 
Take a look around your property for spots where there is  enough sun in the growing season to make  your new plant  or tree happy. Don't worry if you don't have much sun in the winter time,  the plants are dormant then anyway. It's the growing season, from approximately April to September, when your site should get 5-6 hours minimum of sun.

How much space do you need? Trees come in different mature sizes. Room is not so much a factor as you can find dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties if need be. Nut trees are the exception and do require more space. There are fruit trees available also that have already been espaliered to grow flat against a fence or wall. Plus a fruit tree can serve double duty as a focal point or shade tree if it is limbed up enough to walk under.  Semi-Dwarf trees are 2/3 the size of a regular tree (15-20ft typically although you can prune a little in the summer to keep them shorter) .  This is the most popular size as pruning and harvesting are within reach of medium size ladders. There are many dwarf varieties of peaches, nectarines, apples, almonds, cherries also available that range in size from 6 ft. – 12 ft.

Selecting a more mature bareroot tree will give you fruit  sooner than one that has a trunk of only 1/2 inch across.  
Trunk caliper of 5/8 inch is a good size. If you are planting a home orchard it may be more economical to buy smaller sizes but you'll have to be patient for your first harvest. Dreaming about that row of flowering cherries or plums bordering the sides of your driveway?  You'll realize that vision sooner by going with the larger trees.
 
So you've chosen your dream tree, it's wrapped in a plastic bag to transport home without drying the roots, you've dug a hole large enough to accommodate the roots, amended the soil if necessary and pruned off any damaged roots. Now what? Find the graft at the tree's base and make sure when you fill in the hole with soil that the graft is above grade. Make a watering ring around the tree and flood it with water settling in the roots and eliminating air pockets. Don't water again until the soil is dry an inch or two down.  Winter rains may take care of this for you for a long time. Cherries and apricots need excellent drainage and may need to plant them on a mound to ensure this. If you can't plant your new tree, shrub, berry  or rose right away be sure to cover the roots with moist soil.

Only stake your new tree if you live in a windy area. A trunk will attain a larger diameter if it's allowed to move slighly in the wind. Usually it's not necessary to prune a young tree much while it is trying to grow new roots. Trimming a long branch or leader by a third is OK if necessary. You can start limbing up after a couple of years if you wish.

Add both edibles and ornamentals to your garden. You'll be investing in the future.  Blueberries offer more than yummy berries to eat.  They make beautiful hedges with gorgeous fall color.  Include two types for better production like a Berkeley, Bluecrop or Blueray.   Other edibles that are available now are asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, grapes, blackberries, boysenberries and raspberries.  

Plant something new while it's available bare root.  You won't be disappointed.
 

Bare Root for the Santa Cruz Mountains

   Every year about this time I get excited about what fruit trees I'm going to recommend for those who want to start a home orchard or add to the edible garden. Will this be the year you get a Cox's Orange Pippin apple or an American Golden Russet? Maybe a oldie but goodie like a Golden Delicious apple will become the treasure of your family but then again there's the Mutsu, that favorite of connoisseurs, that might get the nod.

Here's why these classic apple varieties are my favorites.

Cox's Orange Pippin is an old favorite desert apple: firm but juicy with a sweet, rich flavor that's not tart. This apple has a distinctive aroma that you won't forget. The skin is unusual being orange red to bright red over yellow. Ripening in mid-late August it's a good apple for baking or eating fresh. Cox's Orange Pippin apples are self fruitful.

American Golden Russet apple is one of the great family orchard apples of the 19th century. Crisp, aromatic, slightly acidic with creamy yellow flesh that has great flavor and a legendary sugary juice. Fruit ripens in early October but will hang on the tree until frost. Russets don't need refrigeration after harvest. If kept cool they will keep until March or April. You can also dehydrate them. This tree is vigorous and has good disease resistance. Originating in New York sometime in the 1700's it has remained a favorite ever since.

Everybody is familiar with the Golden Delicious apple. It's popularity is well earned as it's both a good cooking apple as well as a great eating apple. I like them both slightly green and fully ripened. It's a reliable producer and good pollenizer for other apple varieties that are not self fruitful.

Another favorite apple of mine is the Mutsu. Very large, crisp and flavorful they ripen in late September into October. Pick this apple when green or wait until it is partly yellow. This large vigorous tree resists powdery mildew. They require a pollenizer such as Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala or Red Delicious.

No matter what  kind of fruit  you favor, be it apricot, apple, pear, cherry, fig or anything else, now is the time to shop for bare root  fruit trees  while they are still dormant.  Once leaves emerge or flower buds start to swell your tree or shrub's roots have already started growing and they won't settle in as well.  

Bare root plants are carefully dug up at growing grounds with their roots bare, meaning that most of the dirt around the roots has been removed.   One of the largest growers harvests 2 million bare root plants in a 30 day period, usually in December.

One of the primary advantages of bare root plants is that they tend to have an extensive, well developed root system as a result of being allowed to develop normally.  When the trees are handled well, the root system is left intact, and the tree, shrub, vine or berry will have a better chance of rooting well and surviving when planted.   Bare roots don't have to adapt to any differences between container soil and your garden's.

What fruit tree varieties do well here in the mountains? Well, almost everything. We have well over 500 chilling hours per winter. Most of us get 700-900 hours. What does that mean? Many fruit trees, lilacs, and peonies need a certain number of hours during dormancy when the temperature is 45 degrees or less. You can give a plant more cold in the winter and it'll like that just fine.  But fewer hours will hurt your results. Those in Santa Cruz near the coast can grow Fuji apples, for instance, but not Red Delicious. In the mountains, we can grow both.

Next week I'll cover how to plant your new bare root tree, shrub or berry.
 

January To-Do’s for the Santa Cruz Mtns

A new year in the garden. I'm already starting to make journal entries for January. Not much to shout about in the weather department. We've had dry Decembers before but if January turns out to be the start of 6 weeks of Caribbean-like weather like last year we'll never catch up.

The weather affects how things grow as much as the soil that plants grow in. Remember the cool spring and summer we had while you waited for your tomatoes to ripen? I was just looking at the weather forecasts for 2010 that the Farmer's Almanac predicted. Last May when I first wrote about them they were way off for the first half of the year and at best were hit and miss for the latter half. October did bring rain for us as predicted but they hedged their bets for November calling for "bands of showers" off and on during the month. December for us brought lots of frost and a heavy wind storm.  Although the frost was predicted by the Almanac, I didn't see any "light to moderate rainfall" in December. I put my trust in the satellite map, internet weather sites and my own common sense to judge when to start planting, pruning and transplanting for the season.

This year I'm going to start off right by noting on my calendar at the beginning of each month just what I need to do to ensure a happy, healthy garden.

Here are the tasks to do in the garden in January:

  • Plan for spring. Bareroot fruit, nut, berry and ornamental season runs through the end of February. Don't miss this inexpensive way to add to your edible garden or your landscape.
  • Cut back hydrangeas if you haven't already done so. Apply soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or other acidifier if you want to encourage blue flowers. You must do this before they set flower buds or it won't help.
  • Prune fruit, nut and shade trees and spray with horticultural oil, lime sulfur, liquid sulfur or copper dormant spray. You should get one more spraying in about Valentine's Day. This is actually the most important one as it's just before bud break. Don't use lime-sulfer on apricots, though.
  • Cut back summer flowering deciduous shrubs and vines.  Don't prune spring flowering varieties like lilac, flowering cherry, plum and crabapple, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela and spirea until after flowering but you can cut some during flowering to bring in for bouquets.
  • Control overgrown honeysuckle, potato vine, morning glory, trumpet creeper and pink jasmine by thinning now or even cutting back low to the ground if  they are a big tangled mess.
  • Prune roses towards the end of the month. I'll tell you how to do this later but it's not as hard as it sounds.
  • Bait for slugs and snails

And here are the tasks you should not do in January:

  • Don't cut back grasses yet if you get frost in the area where they grow.
  • Wait to prune back perennials that may have their new foliage damaged in a late frost
  • Wait until February to prune frost  damaged shrubs  if you can tell how far down the die back goes otherwise wait until growth starts in the spring.
  • Wait to prune fuchsias and other perennials until February.
  • Don't fertilize houseplants until March. Because they are resting at this time of year, they use little water.  Don't overwater.  Be sure they are dry before watering.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. I'd love to hear from you.

Healthy Edibles to Grow from Bare Root

Make this the year you take advantage of planting blueberries, grapes, strawberries,  peaches, cherries and apples from bare-root stock. These crops are .

Because of all the rains that fell in December, the growers are late getting into their fields to dig up the 2 million bare-root plants they harvest and deliver to your local nursery. The Santa Cruz Mountains stay cooler for a longer period in the winter, allowing dormant trees, shrubs and vines to be available to the home gardener in bare root form throughout February, too. The early bird gets the worm as far as best selection goes so take a look around your property and decide which yummy fruit and berry you’ll be adding to your garden.

I love blueberries. They are low in calories and so good for you. They contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of all fresh fruit. They have lots of vitamins and help boost your immune system. The list or benefits goes on and on. On top of all that, they make beautiful hedges with stunning fall color.

One variety I’m dying to try is a hybrid from Australia called Brigitta.  This Northern highbush variety is sweet yet slightly tart. The grower says they possess an amazing shelf. They’ve stored this blueberry for over a month in the refrigerator and they were still crisp with a great taste. The berry is medium to large and ripens late in the season. The bush is a fast grower to 4-6 feet with deep green foliage and bronze tinted new growth. It is semi-self fertile but produces more  planted alongside Bluecrop. Try planting them each in their own wine barrel where you can control the soil, watering and sun exposure.

Apples-you know the saying "one a day keeps the doctor away". There are lots of apple varieties to choose from.  Honeycrisp is a large, scarlet over yellow apple with a well-balanced sweet tart flavor. The texture is similar to a crisp watermelon or Asian pear and is very juicy. They ripen in late September.

Another crisp apple to grow is the Braeburn apple. The skin is green overlaid with orange-red while the flesh is firm, crisp and juicy. It is mildly sweet tart with an excellent flavor, is a heavy producer and stores well. It ripens October to early November.

Love biting into a juicy peach in the summertime? Try growing Santa Barbara, considered the best tasting peach for homeowners. Flesh is yellow, freestone and red near the pit. It has a melting texture, delightfully sweet, combined with the delicious peach flavor. Peaches are self-fertile. This variety requires only 300 hour of chill below 45 degrees so is good for warmer winter areas as well as the mountains.

Your favorite fruit are cherries but you don’t have much room for a big tree? Then the Compact Stella cherry is the tree for you. The fruit is firm, sweet and dark red with good flavor and texture. It’s excellent for eating, canning and preserves while being self fertile and a good pollinizer for all sweet cherries.

There are other edibles available now, too, like figs, pomegranate, persimmon, apricot, pears, plums, asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, grapes and blackberries. They all sounds delicious.
 

Last chance for Bare Root in Santa Cruz Mtns

It’s not too late to plant bare root. Except plums which emerge from dormancy early, most fruit and shade trees as well as shrubs  are still available bare root. Good choices include Angel pomegranate and Texas scarlet flowering quince. Lavender Lady lilac would bring delicious fragrance to the garden.  How about adding an accent tree like a Echtermeyer weeping crabapple with purple-red blooms? The birds love the wine red fruit that hand on the tree during the winter. Forest Pansy redbud also look terrific in the garden.  Their burgundy heart shaped leaves turn orange in the fall are an added bonus after bright magenta spring flowers.

If you like unusual additions to your flower arrangements, consider planting French Pink pussy willow. Long silvery catkins covered with a showy pink cap are very colorful in winter before the plant leafs out.

Saturn flowering and fruiting peach continues to be one of the most popular peaches. You can’t beat the excellent quality fruit and the massive large, double pink blossoms are breathtaking.

A small cherry that is easily protected from the birds is . You can have large, dark red, sweet cherries when the tree is still quite young and it’s a good pollinizer for all sweet cherries.

So whether it’s something edible or an ornamental tree or shrub you’re interested in, plant one now while they are still bare root and so affordable.
 

Bareroot Season

Bareroot season is here.  This is the time that you can add to your garden inexpensively.   Bare root plants are carefully dug up at growing grounds  with their roots bare, meaning that most of the dirt around the roots has been removed. One of the primary advantages of bare root plants is that they tend to have an extensive, well developed root system as a result of being allowed to develop normally.  When the trees are handled well, the root system is left intact, and the tree, shrub, vine or berry will have a better chance of rooting well and surviving when planted.   Bare roots don’t have to adapt to any differences between container soil and the soil in your garden.  They are also cheaper to ship because the lack of a dirt ball makes them much lighter and this lightness makes them easier to handle and plant, too.   

You might be interested mainly in growing ornamental plants like shade trees or a flowering plum, cherry or crabapple. Maybe you want another fragrant lilac to cut for bouquets or a  purple wisteria vine to cover the arbor. Planting something new while it’s available in bareroot is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do in the garden.

If growing something to eat is your goal, think of the first fruit  that comes to mind. This is the tree you should start with.  Already have a few fruit trees but want to add more? Why not add another variety this year that ripens later so that you extend the harvest season throughout the summer?  It’s no fun when everything ripens at the same time and you become a slave to the garden- picking, canning, drying, cooking, bribing the kids to take extras to the neighbors.

Remember that fruit trees need at least  6-8 hours of full sun during the growing season. Don’t worry if you don’t have much sun in the winter time, the trees are dormant then anyway.  Citrus trees, however, are green year round and never lose their leaves so you won’t find a bareroot lemon tree for this reason. 
 
What fruit tree varieties can you grow here in the mountains?  Well, almost  everything. We have well over 500 per winter. Most of us get 700-900 hours.  What does that mean?  Well, many fruit trees, lilacs, and peonies need a  certain number of hours during dormancy where the temperature is 45 degrees or less.  You can give a plant more cold in the winter and it’ll like that just fine but not less.  Those in Santa Cruz can grow Fuji apples, for instance, but not Red Delicious.  We can grow both.

What else can you add to your garden to eat? Blueberries offer more than yummy berries to eat.  They make beautiful hedges 4-6 ft tall with gorgeous fall color. They are self fertile but it you plant two types like a Berkeley, Bluecrop or Blueray together you get even more fruit.   Other edibles that are available now are asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, grapes, blackberries, boysenberries and raspberries. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to add to your garden’s bounty.