Bare Rooted Fruit Trees by Wanda Loras, Master Gardener.
There is nothing better than a firm, juicy peach or a crisp apple plucked from your very own tree. If this sounds good to you, start now and in a couple of years it can happen.
Bare rooted fruit trees are available in the garden centers now. They come packed with damp moss or sawdust covered with material to keep the roots moist. They are less expensive and if planted properly are just as successful as container plants. Plant when the trees are dormant from December to February. Three to four foot trees are a good size. It is important to pick one with a good root system. Whatever variety you choose, the planting method is the same.
Remove the wrapping, tags, and strings from the root ball. Remove any broken roots and soak in water for one hour. Dig the hole in a sunny location. Measure the depth of the root system by finding the ring that shows color separation on the trunk. This was the depth of the tree in its originally setting. Dig the hole at the same depth and wide enough to let the roots spread out in their natural position. Back fill the hole insuring that all the roots are firmly covered with loose soil. Hand tamp the soil around the roots as you fill. When the hole is half full, water lightly to purge any air pockets. Finish filling with the same method. Finally, soak the hole with water. When the loose soil sinks below ground level, add enough soil to make it ground level again. Do not fertilize when you plant. A root stimulator may be applied according to the package directions. When the tree begins to leaf out in the spring, fertilizer may be added.
After the tree is in the ground it should be pruned. Remove all side shoots and cut the center trunk back by ½. It will look like a stick in the ground. This will insure proper growth and successful fruit bearing. When the new growth comes out in the spring, prune so the center of the tree is open and has a V shape. Peaches, plums, apricots, and almonds are often pruned to leave an open center. This allows the sun to penetrate through the opening, therefore more fruit at harvest time. Keep the open center for the life of the tree by pruning away new growth that invades the open space. Keep crowded branches and any shoots that are overly aggressive pruned away. This will reduce the height and will be easier to harvest.
Pears, pecans, and apple trees are left with a main trunk in the center. Trim away the branches with a sharp V shape to the trunk leaving only the limbs with wide angle crotches. If the lateral branches are too close to each other, trim to maintain sufficient distance between them. More information on pruning can be found at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/fruitgarden/managing-html.
It does indeed take a little patience for your first fruit to bear from your new tree. It is truly worth the wait for that scrumptious peach cobbler, apple pie, or pear preserves. It just doesn’t get any better than that.