Tag Archives: bare root plants

Fruit & Flowering trees from Bare Root

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to get a bare root plant off to a good start in your garden.  Over the years I’ve planted Floribunda crabapple, Autumnalis flowering cherry, Eastern redbud, Purple Pony and Blireiana flowering plums and Jacquemonti birch all from bare root.  They’re soooo easy to plant this way.  If I had more roomand sun these are some of my favorite trees that I’d add to my own garden this year. 

If you want a tree that’s both highly ornamental and produces great tasting fruit as well, try Saturn flowering and fruiting peach.  The fruit is large, yellow, freestone and delicious.  As if mouth-watering flavor isn’t enough the tree produces masses of large, double, pink flowers making a spectacular show in the spring that rivals the most ornamental cherry tree.

I love flowering crabapples not only for their spring blossoms but for the small fruits that attract birds in the fall and winter and Prairifire is one of the best.   Red buds open to bright pinkish red single flowers that cover the 20 foot tall tree.  Purple foliage follows which turns bronze green by summer.  Fruit is deep red, only 1/4" in size, and hangs well into winter on the tree.  This crabapple has excellent disease resistance to scab, cedar-apple rust, mildew and fireblight which sometimes plagues some crabapples.  It would make an outstanding ornamental tree in your garden.

I eat a lot of almonds.  One handfull is only 160 calories and is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium and a good source of fiber and phosphorus as well as protein, potassium, calcium and iron.   I’d plant a compact Garden Prince almond if I had just a little more sun.  They grow to 10-12 feet and can be pruned easily to 8 feet.  Soft-shelled, good quality sweet kernels ripen in late September to early October on self-fertile trees that set large clusters at a young age.  Dense, attractive foliage follows showy pink blossoms. 

Looking for a tree to provide shade for the patio table?  How about a drought tolerant Golden honeylocust? Fast growing to 40 feet tall with a 35 foot spread this beautiful tree’s leaves emerge a bright, golden yellow at the tips contrasting with the deep green inner foliage making it look like a flowering tree bursting with bloom.  Seedless and thornless, this tree has spreading arching branches and casts filtered shade, allowing growth of lawn or other plants beneath the tree’s canopy.  It’s tolerant of acid or alkaline soils, drought, cold, heat, and wind.

Another good shade tree to consider is the Golden Rain tree.  Enormous panicles of golden yellow flowers drape from the branches in the summer when you spend more time outdoors.  Fat, papery fruit capsules resembling little Japanese lanterns last well into autumn. Growing about 30 feet tall,  open branching casts light shade underneath,  perfect for a hammock on the lawn but this tree would also be a good patio or street tree.  Very adaptable to different soils as long as drainage is good.

This last suggestion is just plain fun.  If you have the room and enjoy putting together flower arrangements, why not plant a ?  Long silvery catkins covered with pink caps are very showy in the winter when the plant is dormant.  The mature height is 15 feet tall with a 10-15 foot spread but can be kept to shrub size by cutting to the ground every few years.

Remember that while these trees and also the pussy willow need six hours or more of sun during the growing season they are dormant in winter and don’t mind being in shade for that part of the year.  So if you live where winter sun is scarce you can still grow edibles and ornamentals successfully.

Planting Bare Root

At first glance,  bare root trees,  shrubs , vines and berries don’t look very inspiring.  It’s hard to imagine that those dormant branches harbor a bounty of fruits, flowers and vegetables.  It can all be yours, however, by planting from bare root stock now available in nurseries.

What exactly are bare root plants and why do they make a good choice when you want to add to your garden?  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 iSyringa chinensis
n 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.  Bare root trees are also cheaper to ship because the lack of a dirt ball makes them much lighter, and this lightness makes them easier to handle, too.

Shop for your plants in January or February 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 do as well.  With this in mind be wary of spring sale bareroot stock.  Also trees or shrubs in packages may have had their roots pruned to fit inside or the packaging material may have dried out or become soggy.  Better to see the roots for yourself before you bring your new addition home.
   
The age of bare root trees and shrubs varies. Generally they are between a two and three years old.  You will not be able to see much when you purchase a bare root plant, as it will be leafless  since it is in a dormant state, but in the spring, it will come to life and transform the garden.

There are several steps to planting bare root trees.  It’s important to plant your new arrival soon after you bring it home to insure the roots do not dry out.  If you’re unable to plant right away, lay it down and cover with moist soil or compost. When you’re ready to plant,  first trim any roots that are broken with sharp pruners.  Broken roots can rot but cleanly cut ones will heal and grow. Then soak the plant in a tub of water for an hour , while you prepare the soil for planting.  Loosen the soil in a wide radius around the area where you plan to plant.  Then, dig a big hole much larger than the root ball of the plant and as deep as needed to accommodate the roots  so that the roots will have room to stretch out, rather than being compressed in the planting process. 

Next, wrangle an assistant if you are planting a large tree, shrub or vine like a wisteria.  While one of you holds the plant in the hole, making sure that if it has a graft this is above the level or the soil.  The other should gently shovel in dirt, trying not to pack it down too hard. You want the soil to be loose enough to filter down among the roots.  Make sure that the assistant holds the tree straight and in such a way that the roots are suspended in the hole, rather than pressed against the bottom. If your soil is extremely sandy or clayey amend it with 20% compost.

As you shovel in soil, make sure that the roots are spread well apart.  Fill the hole halfway, gently shake the plant up and down to let soil sift down, then tamp lightly and fill the rest of the hole. The soil should fill in the air spaces around the roots and when you water it in the first time, use lots of water to eliminate the air pockets and settle the soil.  Making a watering ring around the plant makes watering easier and you’re assured that the root zone is thoroughly watered.  When the planting is finished, mulch the tree, leaving  a few inches of unmulched soil around the trunk.   Don’t water again until the soil is dry an inch or two down.  Winter rains hopefully will  take care of this for you for a long time.  Dormant plants need much less water than actively growing ones and their roots develop poorly in soggy 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 a shade tree after a couple of years if you wish.

There are many fruiting , flowering and shade trees to choose from.  Also shrubs like roses, lilacs and pussy willows are available bare root.   Wisteria vines are especially easy to plant  bare root as are .  Don’t miss this opportunity to add to your garden’s bounty.    

 

Edibles & Ornamentals – The Bare Root Way

Autumnalis flowering cherry

Itís been a weird winter, weather-wise, but arenít they all one way or another?† My flowering plum is blooming weeks early. I have an Autumnalis flowering cherry tree that blooms several times a year. The last blooming cycle started in late November and itís still blooming now. This tree came into my life 20 years ago as a bare root tree. Weíre old friends. Now is the time to add ornamentals and edibles like fruit, nuts, berries and vegetables while theyíre available in bare root form. They are easy to plant, economical and establish quickly.

Shop for your plants in January or February while they are still dormant. Once leaves emerge or flower buds start to swell, roots have already started growing. You want your tree to start developing new permanent roots in their final home. Stone fruits such as apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are going to start waking up first so they are best put in the ground soon. Fruit trees like pears and apples wake up later so you can wait a bit longer to plant those varieties.

apple ready to eat from a bare root tree

What fruit tree varieties can you grow here in the mountains? Well, almost everything. Most of us get 700-900 chilling hours per winter. 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 the plant more chilling in the winter but not less. Those in coastal Santa Cruz can grow Fuji apples as they require only 300 hours of chilling but not Red Delicious. We can grow both.

What if you donít get full sun where youíd like to grow fruit trees? Apples, pluots and plums are good choices for an area that gets some sun- at least 5 hours a day during the growing season. The ideal is full sun but these trees will still set and ripen some fruit in partially shaded conditions. With peaches, nectarines or apricots itís a different story. These fruits need hot sun to develop sweet, tasty fruit. Too little sun and they will not deliver anything close to what you have in mind.

Bare root fruit trees at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply

Whatís the correct way to plant a bare root tree? According to research amending the soil is no longer recommended. Mountain Feed & Farm Supply in Ben Lomond has a great web site with all the information you need to get your new fruit trees off to a good start including pruning, staking, mulching and care as they mature.

Donít plant in heavy saturated soil with a high clay content, however. If your soil drains poorly itís best to place your bare root tree at an angle in a trench, cover with soil and water in. Wait to plant until the soil is crumbly and friable with plenty of pore space. Digging in waterlogged clay soil is one of the worst things you can do for your soilís health.

With a little planning you can have fresh fruit 7 months of the year. By growing your own fruit you’re not at the mercy of mechanical harvesters and shipping practices. You can grow fruit and harvest it when the time is right. Homegrown fruit is a world apart from agribusiness and much less expensive than the Farmerís Market.

Bare Root Fruit Trees – Part II

Easter_Buerre_pearGrowing fruit in your garden or home orchard may be even more important in the future than ever before. The lack of rainfall last year and this winter will probably raise the price of fruit at the market. If the water farmers rely on is rationed during this years growing season, fruit production will also suffer. You can start growing your own fruit by planting a bare root tree now and this is how to do it. It only takes a few years for a young tree to start producing. By using lots of mulch and perhaps installing a laundry to landscape gray water system, trees require a fraction of the water as other landscaping.† Just imagine eating fruit off your own trees.

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 in the ground. They are dug while dormant. When the trees are handled well the root system is left intact and the tree has 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 garden soil.† Bare root trees are also less expensive to ship because they have no soil on the roots making them much lighter and easier to handle.

Shop for your plants in January or February while they are still dormant.† Once leaves emerge Janice_Seedless_Kadota_figor flower buds start to swell tree roots have already started growing. You want your tree to start developing their new, permanent roots in their permanent home. Stone fruits such as apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are going to start waking up first so they are best put in the ground soon. Fruit trees like pears and apples wake up later so you can wait a bit longer to plant those varieties.

With this in mind be wary of spring sale bare root stock.† Also trees in packages may have had their roots pruned to fit inside or the packaging material may have dried out or become soggy.† Better to see the roots for yourself before you bring your new addition home.

What is the proper way to plant a bare root tree? Select a spot with at least 6 hours or more of summer sun. To test for drainage if you have heavy soil, dig a hole about a foot deep. Keep the organic top soil from the top of the hole separate from the soil you dig out from the bottom of the hole. Fill the hole with water. If the water drains within 3-4 hours, fill the hole again. If it takes longer than 3-4 hours to drain on either filling you will either have to find another spot,† build a raised bed or berm or plant in containers.

If you are happy with your location, dig the planting hole 24″ wide x 24″ deep again keeping the organic matter separate from the sub soil. Ultimately, trees must grow in the surrounding soil. Don’t amend your soil unless it is very sandy. If you amend the slow draining native soil around the tree the hole will just fill with water killing the tree. Adding organic amendment to extremely sandy soils, however, can help retain moisture in the root zone.

Place your tree in the hole and start filling in around the roots with the sub soil first, then the organic top soil. Wiggle your tree as you fill in around it to settle the soil. Tamp down the soil lightly with your foot when the hole is half filled and then top off the hole with the organic top soil.† Stake the tree low and loose for the first couple of years. You want to keep the root zone stable in the wind while it is becoming established but allow the top of the trunk and branches to move with the wind. They will grow much thicker faster. Water in well and again the next day. You should not need to water again until the tree there is new growth of several inches.

Prune the central leader and branches of your new tree 1/3 to 1/2 to a plump bud facing the direction you would like the new growth to grow. Mulching is especially important to bring back the beneficial organisms in the soil. Bioactivity reduces fertilizer requirements. Mulching keeps the ground cooler in the summer and retains moisture. After your tree is established you can fertilize with an organic fertilizer. Keeping the nitrogen low but the phosphorus and potassium higher will help control the size of the tree making it easier to harvest that delicious fruit.

This year I have my eye on an heirloom French butter pear called Easter Beurre that ripens in December with tender, sweet, melting flesh. Also I want to try the Janice Seedless Kadota fig with it’s incredibly sweet flavor. It’s said to have better flavor than Black Mission. I think they should have named this fairly new fig after me spelling it Janis but it’s too late now.

Don’t miss the opportunity to add a fruit tree to your garden this winter.

Bare Root Fruit Trees – Part 1

bare_root_fruit_treesIt’s bare root season again. There’s something magical about a small leafless tree with bare roots that will produce mouth-watering fruit when it grows up. Even ornamental shade trees, flowering shrubs like lilacs and vines like wisteria start out looking like twigs. Buying a new addition for your garden or home orchard in bare root form is economical. They establish quickly and are easy to plant. Every year there are more types available including delicious time honored heirloom varieties as well as modern favorites. It’ll be hard for me to decide which ones I’ll recommend for edible gardens I design this year.

A visit to Mountain Feed & Farm Supply in Ben Lomond has me inspired. They specialize in edible plants and trees as well as all things related to harvesting and preserving them.† Renee was eager to share with me her favorite fruit tree varieties.† Many of these delicious heirlooms are locally grown here in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Tierra Madre Farms who use organic farming practices to keep the trees and the soil healthy. I like the idea that this small farm is dedicated to promoting and preserving our world’s crop diversity.

When May rolls around I’ll be anxiously awaiting the first cherries, apricots and peaches. Then the early nectarines arrive, sweet and juicy followed by the plums that ripen next. Later in the summer apples, figs and pears make their debut as well as late ripening plums and peaches. With a little planning you can have fresh fruit 7 months of the year.

I’d never heard of some of the bare root heirloom varieties I saw buried in tubs of sawdust so I did a little research to find out what all the fuss was about. Why had they passed the test of time and then disappeared off our store shelves? By growing your own fruit you’re not at the mercy of mechanical harvesters and shipping practices. You can grow fruit and harvest it when the time is right. Homegrown fruit is a world apart from agribusiness.

Who doesn’t look forward to the first cherries of the season? Plant an Early Purple Guigne cherry and you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. This heirloom has been grown in this country since the early 1800’s and figured in a court case in San Jose in 1884. Seems a Mr. Bassford† bought 300 of these bare root trees in December of 1897. When they fruited several years later he found that the cherries were quite different from the variety which he had paid for. Court records show that he claimed the cherries were inferior in size and appearance to the Early Purple Guigne that he had wanted and were nearly valueless to him on the market. He sued but lost his case after testimony revealed and Judge Spencer ruled that the name Early Purple Guigne applied to different types of cherries in different localities and the original bare root trees were not fraudulently sold.

Another early ripening cherry to try is the classic Governor Wood which produces beautiful sweet and juicy, golden-yellow fruit with a red blush. Introduced in 1842 this cherry is still prized for its abundant crop of delicious fruit. How about a sour cherry like Montmorency? This heirloom dates back to 300 B.C. but it was the French colonist who first planted cherry pits along the Saint Lawrence River in the 1600’s. Michigan produces over 90,000 tons of this bright red cherry with yellow flesh and clear juice.

Here’s a win-win growing tip for cherry trees.† Birds love cherries as much as we do but if you prune your tree when young so it branches low on the trunk, you can harvest the lower cherries for yourself and let the birds take the fruit from the upper branches.

Apricots also ripen early and heirloom varieties that I recommend are the classic Blenheim and one Oldmixon_Free_peachcalled Hemskirk which is considered one of the very best apricot varieties with bright orange, rich and juicy flesh. An excellent heirloom peach to consider is the Oldmixon Free. in 1807 cuttings of this peach were sent to Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. It’s stunningly beautiful while in bloom and the juice of Oldmixon Free peach is candy sweet.

What fruit tree varieties can you grow here in the mountains? Well, almost everything. Most of us get 700-900 chilling hours per winter.† 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 the plant more cold in the winter and it’ll like that just fine but not less.† Those in coastal Santa Cruz can grow Fuji apples as they require only 300 hours of chilling but not Red Delicious.† We can grow both.

Next week I’ll tell you about more luscious tasting plum, apple, fig and pear varieties you’ll want to grow. I’ll also give you tips on how and where to plant your new tree.

The Best Bareroot Varieties for your Garden

Imagine biting into that first apricot of the season. The juicy, sweet flesh the color of an orange sunset. Maybe a rich dark burgundy plum, sweet but slightly tart, makes you think of those summers when you picked them off the tree in your parents backyard. And then there are cherries, pears ,apples, peaches and nectarines to look forward to. Now is the perfect time to plant some of your favorite fruit trees while they are available in bare root.

plumsGrowing fruit trees in the backyard has come a long way in recent years. Even in season those organic peaches from the farmer's market are expensive when you load up a big bag 'cause you just have to have a couple of each variety after trying the samples. Starting a home orchard or adding to your own edibles during bare root season is the way to go.

With a little planning you can have a prolonged harvest of tree-ripe fruit from a small space. Maximize the length of harvest by choosing varieties with different ripening times. Then train those fruit trees to stay small by pruning them in summer (winter pruning tends to invigorate trees), plant them close together or you can even plant several in the same hole. Small trees yield crops of manageable size and are much easier to spray, thin, prune, net and harvest than large trees.

The hard part is choosing which will be your next fruit tree. I've talked to several experts about their favorites. Here's what they told me.

Orin Martin of UCSC Farm and Garden loves apples. His highest praise goes to Cox's Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious, American Golden Russet and Mutsu. Plant these varieties and you could be eating apples from August through October. Did you know that at one time in American history russet apples were the most desired and wages were actually paid in cider made from russet apples?

Sheila from ProBuild told me she has seen a lot of interest in new introductions such a Pluerry, a hybrid she described as plum meets cherry. Bella Gold Peacotum has also been very popular since being introduced last year by Dave Wilson Nursery. This peach x apricot x plum fruit has slightly fuzzy skin like an apricot but with a mildly sweet flavor all its own.

Flavor Delight aprium has become a favorite because of its resistance to brown rot. It's 3/4 apricot, 1/4 plum with the clean tang of an apricot boosted by the sweetness of a plum. This variety is also recommended by Orin Martin.

Spice Zee Nectaplum is another hybrid that is getting a lot of buzz. I've heard it described as being "just about the tastiest fruit… ever eaten- very sweet, with an indescribably rich taste and aroma".  Being a gorgeous tree with deep red leaves in the spring that gradually become a dark green by mid-summer makes it ornamental in the garden as well.

Chris and Dave from Mountain Feed like many of the heirloom fruit trees. If a variety is older than 50 years it is classified as an heirloom. Does that apply to people, too? In addition to apples, Chris told me about his favorite pear, Belle Lucrative, which he described as an amazing French butter pear. This classic variety of 19th century France has a juicy, syrupy melting texture.

Plums are also high on his list of favorites. Luther Burbank varieties such as Elephant plums_on_the_treeHeart, Beauty, Inca and the ever-popular Santa Rosa are easy to grow and need very little care once established.

Bare root trees need to be planted while they are still dormant. Stone fruits such as apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are going to start waking up first so they are best put into the ground soon. You want your tree to start developing its new permanent roots in its permanent home. Fruit tree like pears and apples will be dormant for a while longer so you can wait a bit longer to plant them.

Take advantage of bare root season to add more edibles to your landscape. A smart design can make your garden look beautiful while feeding your family.
 

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.