February is one of the best times to plant bare root fruit trees, but why bare root?  Bare root fruit trees give you the advantage of seeing your root structure and health.  In addition, they are easier to transport because they are lighter and can more easily be lifted into position.

a bare root fruit tree

When planting any bare root fruit tree, be sure to choose an area of the yard that gets full sun and good drainage, especially for cherries and apricots.  The most important thing to remember is to group trees together that have similar root stocks and spraying needs.

a sketch of a bare root fruit tree soaking in a bucket

1. Soak the roots overnight in water before planting.

If the tree is not going to be planted within 24 hours after purchase, "heel" the tree into a pile of soil or a big bucket of soil mix.  Cover the entire root area of the tree so they don't dry out.  Keep the soil moist until the tree is planted.

2.  Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the roots.

It's not necessary to dig a hole any deeper than the length of the root stock, usually about a foot.  However, if drainage is a problem, be sure to break up any layers of hard pan that may exist in the current soil.

3.  Mix native soil and soil amendment.

Al's Slow Release Transplant FertilizerAl's 8-2-4 slow release fertilizer

Us up to 1 part NW Best Soil Builder & Top Dressing or Al's Planting Compost, to 1 part native soil (depending on the clay content of the soil).  Mix Al's Transplant Fertilizer in the hole around the roots.  Refer to the label for amount, usually around 2 cups for a tree of average size.

4.  Place the tree on a slight mound in the middle of the hole and then spread out the roots.

a sketch illustrating the proper way to plant a bare root fruit tree

Don't let them encircle the tree.  Face the bud union of the fruit tree (where the root stock and fruiting section have been grafted; you'll see a bump) to the north east, away from the direction of the sun.  Back fill the hole without compacting the soil.  Instead, drench the soil several times to allow it to settle and eliminate any air pockets.  Add 2-3" of mulch around the tree.  Be sure not to cover the bud union -- this needs to remain above soil or any mulch that has been added.

5.  Don't forget to add an irrigation system for your fruit trees.  

Soaker hoses are really the best way to ensure you get a good, deep root watering.  When trying to establish a tree, consistent watering is key.

6.  Stake the tree.

If you are located in a particularly windy location, use 2 stakes and flexible tape (like stretch tie) to allow the tree to sway gently, but not be blown over by the wind.

So, whether it's cherries or applies you prefer, it's actually quite easy to grow your own fresh fruit.  Choose Bare Root fruit trees from Al's, for the best results.