Can bare root trees wait a month in cold weather?

oldryderFebruary 19, 2014

I have 'too big to ship" trees to pick up this year at a nursery 225 miles away. I may be making a trip to the same area in a few weeks. planting time here is typically early April.

So ... assuming I can get the trees is it possible to keep the dormant bare root trees for 4-6 weeks before planting. Trees would be stored in my unheated garage.

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

As long as the ground is workable, you can plant them. I would do that if possible. Freezing temps don't really matter unless extremely cold. I planted about 50 days before last frost last year. The trees are doing great!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 4:30PM
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alan haigh

The thing you need to be aware of is dehydration and the fact that roots are not nearly as cold hardy as upper trees. Winter air is dry, even if there is no heat but if trees are well wrapped and temps stay between about 10 and 50 degrees F. trees should be fine until snow and ground thaws. Check them if you have any warm spells. If they start to sprout prematurely you will have to wait until end of hard frost (say, 25 F.) to plant them.

If the ground isn't frozen below the snow, I think Drew is probably right, although I've never tried planting in dead of winter. That may not be the same as fall planting and I'd be reluctant to risk it unless I had more complete info than that fall planting works.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 5:48PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I've had much better luck planting in early spring rather than late fall. If the trees are fully dormant It would be better than holding them. However I have also held trees for a month in my garage and as long as the roots remain moist and the temp does not drop below freezing it should be fine. The temp needs to be constant and they should be kept in the dark. Don't let the sun from a window hit them or even warm up the garage. Cover any windows.

If the trees you get are starting to come out of dormancy then it would be much better to garage them, especially if they're coming from a warmer climate.

I learned my lesson last year by planting persimmon and jujube trees that were from Kentucky in the fall. They were not far enough into their dormancy and they couldn't take the sudden weather change. I keep learning but it does get expensive.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:30PM
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Search the web for "heeling in trees". Lots of good info readily available.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 12:06AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"If the ground isn't frozen below the snow, I think Drew is probably right,"

I had to quote that! :)

You mention the dead of winter, and I agree, but spring is 4 weeks away, and the gentlemen mentions picking them up in 3 weeks. So it will be one week away from spring.
I planted mine in zone 6A on March 7th 2013, last frost was April 29th, and it was a very hard frost, my tropicals got caught outside and I had to remove all the foliage, none of it survived. My cacti though were fine! Trees were coming out of dormancy on March 7th, they had flower buds on them. All the buds fell off, they went back into dormancy, They were coming from California btw (and not 200 miles away, 3000 miles away). They all grew like crazy last summer. They came back out of dormancy fine. If Oldryder is in zone 6 or higher, he would be planting them March 13th, a week after I planted mine last year. Not the dead of winter but the start of spring.
Plant them. Call you extention office and ask, they will tell you to plant them, but call anyway.

Just to give you an idea how well mine did, I cut them to knee height. One only threw a low bud just above the rootstock. I had to re-train it as a new central leader. By the end of the first year that new central leader was over 4 feet tall. It's not even one year in the ground yet. Oh I summer pruned the new leader twice and formed scaffolds, that yes, reach 4 feet tall.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 12:29AM
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alan haigh

Drew, I really don't see why you are so gung ho to plant them. When I look outside here it is the last thing I want to do. It may thaw enough this weekend to consider it but if ground is frozen underneath like it is here (we had sub-zero weather with no snow cover and then it snowed) you'd need a jack-hammer.

Maybe you know what zone Dryolder is in- I do not. His cooperative extension will likely say proper planting time is early spring. They will have no legitimate advice, I expect, on planting in winter. I've never seen it recommended and they usually work from research (which likely doesn't exist). The nurseries outside of the west tend to dig in fall, store in refrigeration and ship in spring. I do plenty of fall planting with my own trees, but once winter sets in I await spring thaw- if nothing else, it makes planting easier.

Dryolder, where are you and how much snow is on the ground?

I agree with Drew that it is best to get plants in the ground early, but as long as they have time to come out of dormancy at their normal time, and roots are in soil at first growth, there would be no advantage in earlier planting at this point that I understand. This I've seen research on, and the advice here I've read is to get plants in by mid-April- I prefer late March.

We are having the first "normal" winter in years and the forecast here is for more nights ahead as low as single digits..

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:14AM
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Everyone; thx for replies. Ground is quite frozen now and will be for a while as we have the deepest frost here in the last 20 years. At best I suspect it'll be April 1st or later before the ground is thawed enough to plant.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:19AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

In MN this winter there could easily be 6ft of frozen soil. It would only be less if there was heavy snow cover. Kinda hard to plant into that. Our test winters in northern IL were 5ft of frost. MN is colder by about 10F on average and this winter was brutal.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:24AM
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alan haigh

Fruitnut, you were from up there?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 4:47PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Ya, and I still remember how cold it was. In NY is there talk of the January thaw? That was the one day in January when the snow melted a little.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 5:04PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Here in MI the ground is frozen, but not deep, we have had so much snow it stayed warm. Well you should heel them in then if bare root. We got to -14 here, but now that the snow is melting I can see the ground is not bad at all. I could plant near the house right now. Yes, a cold summer is expected around here. But they really have no clue!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 5:12PM
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alan haigh

FN, we are having some thaw now- today and through the weekend. Southern NY has not born the brunt of this winter, although you wouldn't know it hearing people complain around here. They forgot what winter is or was like.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 5:29PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

We have no idea where you are, so that makes it hard to give advice, but if the ground is not going to be ready then i would not pick them up yet. Especially as you describe bigger trees. Bigger trees take longer to establish, no point starting off with trouble.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:56PM
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alan haigh

I should have mentioned that you can moderate temps for fruit trees in your garage by throwing a couple of blankets or other insulating material over them. If you set up a thermostat and heater that turns the heater on if temps go below 10 you would be pretty well covered. If you get a thaw that could throw the trees out of dormancy you can heal them in or plant them then, before they start throwing out buds.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 5:24AM
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