It feels early to be anticipating the summer harvest, but now is actually the time to start planning and preparing. Planting and care of fruit trees happens in January and February while the trees are still dormant. We received our shipment of bare-root fruit trees and I have my list of what new additions will be welcomed in our garden.
Before the progression of plastic nursery containers, even before nurserymen used metal “cans” to grow their stock, bare-root was the method of planting and transplanting. Often times you primarily bought and planted your trees and shrubs in the dead of winter. Digging up the root stock was a simpler task that would not harm the growth because most were in dormancy. When manufacturing advanced and access to inexpensive goods was readily available this became a ritual of yesteryear. Now virtually any plant is available all year because they are being maintained in moveable containers. Although it is not as prominent to buy ornamental shrubs and trees bare-root, this is still the way fruit trees are predominately propagated in the nursery industry.
Bare-root plant material is only harvested during their dormancy. We get all of our trees from L.E. Cooke, a multigenerational family business here in Visalia. Cared and cultivated in an orchard like setting, over 1,250 acres are filled with varieties of fruit and shade trees ready for the coming year’s harvest. Once the trees are to size they are dug up with machines, bundled and shipped.
There are many reasons to buy bare-root. Price point, variety selection, visibility of root structure, and ease of planting top people’s list. You are not paying for a grower to plant the trees and care for them until they are sized to sell, typically the trees are about 30% cheaper than their planted counterparts. Those who buy bare-root get the first pick of the crop. We can only get the selected trees in one time a year. Whatever is sold before being transplanted into nursery container is gone for the season. Occasionally the exact variety you are seeking can be sourced at a wholesale grower, but it’s not always guaranteed. The true enthusiasts come to our fruit tasting event over the summer and pre-order their desired selection. When picking out your tree you have the opportunity to inspect the entire plant’s structure, from roots to limb, before it goes in the ground. The unassuming stature of the tree pales in comparison to the potted ones found every day at the nursery. Do not let that be the yardstick to judge its potential. Once spring hits they rapidly grow – soon catching up to its mature counterparts. Transporting home and digging a relatively small hole makes this an easy task for many homeowners.
What to look forward to:
We have some fantastic varieties on the horizon that you should consider for your own home orchard.
Plumcots – ‘Dapple Dandy’ and ‘Flavorqueen’ will be coming to The Gardens. This unique hybrid between a plum and an apricot gives a wonderful two toned dappled color profile, unique sweet flavor and fantastic texture. Definitely a must this season. These need a pollinizer, so plant two Plumcots near each other, or select varieties of plums.
Peaches – We had a few contenders at this year’s fruit tasting event. ‘Red Baron’ wins for their showy display of double red flower that last in the landscape for weeks. The bright pop of color is a welcoming sight. By mid-summer the large yellow flesh fruit is ready to enjoy with a wonderful old fashion flavor. ‘Champagne’ is a great choice if you are looking for a white peach. Ripening mid-summer this has a mild sweet honey flavor. If you want unique and early ripening peach tree add a ‘Galaxy’ to your garden. Also called
a donut peach, this flat saucer shaped fruit
is bright and sweet.
Nectarines – ‘Artic Fantasy’ produces tasty white nectarines that are sweet with a slight tang. Yellow varieties, such as ‘Fantasia’ or ‘Red Sunset’ have wonderful color profile, as well as taste and texture.
This winner of the past two year’s fruit tasting event hands down was the Blueberry Grape. The fruit looks and tasted like a perfect merge between a grape and blueberry. A unique variety
you can only find this time of year, be sure to snag a vine or two before they are all gone.
Notes for the home orchard.
Do not let space restrict your desire to grow your own fruit trees. I know many successful gardeners that keep their MATURE trees under five feet tall. Grow it in a decorative pot, or espalier along your fence line for ease of use.
Plant multiple varieties in one hole. Instead of selecting the “three-in-one” or “four-in-one” pick out your favorite trees and plant them together. Each tree will develop their own root system so they are not competing with each other.
Educate yourself. Come to our seminar by L.E. Cooke on Saturday, January 28 at 10am and learn how to prune, care for, and grow bare-root trees from the experts. Only $5 to attend, free if you join The Gardens Community on Facebook.
It’s time to plan your garden!