Temporarily planting fruit trees in containers

booberry85(5)April 24, 2014

I ordered some fruit trees in February which should be coming today. Hurray! They are apple (5), pear (2), cherry (3), peach (1 self pollinating) and a black current bush. The trees are all dwarf or semi-dwarf. The Dh and I are going to have some drainage work done in our yard later on this summer. I wanted to wait to plant the trees until the drainage work is done. So I probably won't be able to give them their permanent home until this fall.

Can I temporarily plant them in containers until the fall or would they be better temporarily planted in the ground and then moved? How big of a container will I need for a temporary home (I imagine the trees will be 3' to 5' high)? Any other helpful advice?

This post was edited by booberry85 on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 8:51

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Bradybb WA-Zone8

They can be done either way.I use a basic mix of Conifer bark,Peat moss and Perlite,about 60/20/20 in a container.Maybe10 gallon pots for the trees and 3 for the shrub.Just get something big enough for the roots to fit in comfortably,if using containers. Brady

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:28AM
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Look for the topic "air pruning". If you can do that you would have a better root structure when you plant.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:34AM
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alan haigh

Trees that small may be handled either way- I'd plant them in the ground in a well drained spot then move them to the permanent location bare root in a year or even two in early spring or when first dormant in the fall.

Just make sure whatever you do that trees are well cared for in the mean time. In containers you have to be much more mindful of water.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:03AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

While I've grown many trees successfully in containers I'm inclined to agree with harvestman. Because I've also moved many successfully ground to ground after a year or two. You'll end up with a better root system if properly moved ground to ground. Most I've moved I tried to move a rootball. But bareroot during dormant season works very well.

Maybe harvestman can fill us in on how much top pruning is needed bareroot ground to ground.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:21AM
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alan haigh

I probably gave you bad advice by not fully considering the range of fruit you are talking about. Pears would do significantly better if you pot them- they have difficulty developing fine roots and don't transplant well. Apples would also do better in 10 gallon pots if you use a good mix and don't let them dry out. Stone fruit will generally do better if you plant them temporarily in real soil based on my experience managing them in my nursery.

You can also plant the pots half way into the soil and let the roots escape as the trees grow then carefully dig them up to keep the roots when you transplant them by cutting away the pots from the roots. This would allow stone fruit to do much better then if confined to pots- particularly peaches..

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:26AM
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I started getting shipments this week but am waiting on a berta rotary plow to help me build long raised mounds to deal with drainage issues. I should get that next week, so I have to keep the trees somewhere for another week to 10 days. I've put them in containers with either peat moss or potting soil. I also got a few shipments yesterday that are still in the box and two more coming in a few days. (peach,plum,cherry,gooseberry,grapes,currants and raspberries). I figure even in the garage they won't stay dormant now. Many are budding out. Should I keep them in the garage or put them in part sun once they start to show some green?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:47PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Keep as cool as possible but don't worry about light. Just get them planted asap.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:07PM
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alan haigh

Fruitnut, generally I don't think balancing top to root is necessary if you are talking about vegetative wood, but with peaches I want to keep energy in the interior, so I would prune them back to make sure I wasn't encouraging die back in the interior just for the sake of starting with a wider spread.

No fruit on moving year! Pick off the flowers.

If the apples are starting to spur up by the time they are moved I would prune for vigor and remove all pendulous growth and most of the spur wood, cutting back to small uprights where possible.

Japanese plums laugh at root damage from transplant so I would simply prune them as I would anyway.

My second statement went out before yours appeared- I hadn't even considered BandBing but that is especially useful for pears, from what I've seen, and if someone wants to go to that trouble they could put pears directly in the ground instead of pots.

I never ball and burlap anything, and I don't even have experience doing it. If I was anywhere near the craftsman you are I'd probably do it more. It is too tedious for my disposition.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:50PM
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some good advice above...it is difficult to predict the size of container needed because different growers dig their trees differently. Larger caliper trees can have smaller root systems than smaller trees from other growers. It is beneficial to keep all the healthy roots intact, and not prune or crowd them (even for a season). Replanting to ground in the Fall will be easier from pots...but may sacrifice a bit of root growth/size (as stated above).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 5:02PM
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We impulsively bought six small apple trees last spring not knowing that circumstances would not allow,us to,start our orchard this year. I plan to plant them in one of my garden beds until next Spring. Should I rootball them?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 7:52AM
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