Bare root trees not breaking dormancy

ptlvnv(9a)April 11, 2013

I planted 9 bare root trees that I bought from my local cooperative extension office here in Las Vegas, NV. They are all from Dave Wilson nursery. There are 3 pluots, 1 plum, 1 pear, 1 apricot, 2 peaches and a persimmon, all on their recommended fruit tree list.
I prepared the soil according to their advice by amending the native soil with compost. I dug a 3 foot wide hole about 18 in deep and added a 5 gal bucket of compost to the backfill. So far, none of them have broken dormancy. I visited the coop extension orchard and their newly planted bare root trees have all started leafing out. My yard receives about 2 hours less sun per day as the orchard but it still gets 6+ hours at this time of year. I did a scratch test and they're all green under the bark and I made sure the soil was always moist and has good drainage.
Am I just being too impatient? Any advice on what I can try to wake them up?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'm surprised they recommended amending the soil. And who recommended a hole that size? Three ft wide by 18 inch deep? You could bury someone in a hole that big.

If you did anything wrong that accounts for the slow start I'd suspect the compost. Could it be high in salts? High salt could kill the trees or delay leafing. Did you add fertilizer to the compost or soil?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 11:39PM
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Let me clarify, I broke up the soil to 18 inches down. Here in Las Vegas the ground is full of rocks and caliche which not many (if any) roots can get through. The coop extension recommends some compost because the native soil has no organic matter. I bought the compost in bulk from a local landscape supply store, it works great in my vegetable garden and seems to be good quality. I didn't add any fertilizer to the hole.
Thanks for the quick response.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 12:54AM
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A watched tree never leafs out...

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 1:08AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"I'm surprised they recommended amending the soil. And who recommended a hole that size? Three ft wide by 18 inch deep? You could bury someone in a hole that big".

Actually the advice is impressive as the University of MN has just confirmed that the old way is not good. That one should never miss an opportunity to amend soil. Also suggest one breaks soil up and as far as possible. Rototill the whole area if possible. That not doing so is what keeps roots not growing out, and the planted pot effect. The reason is not the soil, but the hardness of surrounding soil.
I recently heard this advice from a lecture I saw at the Novi Home and Garden show by Don Engebretson.
The idea of digging a big hole is to allow the tree to establish roots in good soil and be stronger and more able to have energy to try and penitrate native soil. Also advised by U of MN.
ptlvnv it sounds like you did everything right according to the latest knowledge. Please keep us updated!

This post was edited by Drew51 on Fri, Apr 12, 13 at 9:02

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:30AM
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Well you didn't cite much to verify other than throwing out the name Don Engebretson and mentioning the the U of MN.

I Googled Don and found his webpage that has a Myth of the Week page. It has some interesting reading. One of the "myths" is about the planting hole and amending. He makes assertions, but unfortunately does not give much to go on to actually read the research he's referring to.

Here's the URL of a page from their extension that does direct digging a wide hole and amending if the soil is poor, but they don't cite any particular research or mention whether this guidance is new or old:

Here's one from the U of MN on planting bare root trees that seems to contradict the Extension link above:


    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 3:51PM
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something you can do is scratch various parts of the tree to peel some of the bark off. Take a look at the color that's underneath the bark, is it green? If its green, your tree is still alive and it just needs some time.

Same thing happened with my peach tree. I planted it in mid May and I was told that it will start becoming active in a week or two. I didn't notice any green leaf growth on it until the end of July, but once it grew, it really took off. I think with the branches, it added about 3 feet in height.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 4:54PM
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Omni There is green under the bark and the branches are flexible. Hopefully, they'll eventually wake up and take off like your peach tree.
Thanks to everyone for the advice and insights into what could be going on. I'm going to look into the possible high salt issue that fruitnut suggested. I'll keep you posted.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 5:15PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

"I'm surprised they recommended amending the soil. And who recommended a hole that size? Three ft wide by 18 inch deep? You could bury someone in a hole that big."

Hah, maybe somebody with experience burying dead bodies??

Seriously, Drew, amending a planting hole IS the "old way". The current line of thinking is NOT to amend the soil. Do NOT till the soil. This can create air pockets which are death to feeder roots. Plus, rototilling damages the fragile soil biosphere, and all the beneficial organisms that are responsible for aiding in nutrient uptake for your tree roots. In fact, recent research has found that tree roots actually do better in compacted soils. The current line of thinking is to follow Mother Nature's advice - Dig a hole large enough to contain the tree root ball, making sure it is not planted any deeper than it was at the growing grounds (if you look at the trunk carefully, you can see where the old soil line was). Back fill with native soil. Water in well and VERY carefully remove any air pockets. Do not stomp down the ground, but carefully make sure it is back filled well. Top with compost, then mulch, making sure the mulch is not up against the trunk (to discourage fungal infections from getting into the bark). ptlvnv, I, too, have caliche soil here and there, between my nearly all DG. Very thin soils here, too, in N. San Diego county, Calif. Less sun plus other variables may cause your trees to break bud a little later. I would not worry about it, stop comparing your area to another area, and continue to water your new trees, and be patient :-) If you've done a gentle scratch test to see if you still have green cambium under the bark, you're fine. Once you have some leafing out, you can apply a little fertilizer mixed into some compost, and top dress your trees. Water in well.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 5:28PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

It could just be that the trees are just coming out of cold storage and haven't had enough heat yet to start growing.

Certain dense soils do benefit from large scale loosening. But I'd chose a backhoe over digging by hand.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 5:39PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I agree roto-tilling is not always wise, and so does Don Engebretson, It also is one of his myths, but I never heard anybody say it was a bad idea not to do it when establishing a new planting till now in this thread.. Don Engebretson also views the not amending as old advice. Maybe he's been around longer than you? You can read it for yourself and decide if the guy is full of it or not. A link is in this thread now.

If not amending is a good idea, then we should only mulch with rubber mulch. As it seems one is slowly amending the hole anyway. Which to me makes no sense. Either it's good to amend or not. I agree with Don Engebretson, amending at planting makes a lot of sense. Keep amending it with mulch and compost makes sense too. Doing one and not the other makes no sense to me. But some still think heading trees is good, they still survive either way. So whatever floats your boat. All I meant to say is that good advice was given, at least according to some gardeners like Don Engebretson.

Murky thanks for doing some digging (no pun intended). I didn't know it was required that one lists references. Taking my word would be foolish anyway, one should do their own research, which I see you're very capable of doing. Also thanks for giving some validation to my statements with references.
I think one universities research is not proof anyway. It needs to be duplicated elsewhere for sure. Again use your own common sense. Either amend or don't, and nobody else has yet to provide references to their opinions.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sat, Apr 13, 13 at 7:29

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 11:21PM
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