Willis Orchards

KerenR(7)May 7, 2013

I would like to know if anyone else has experience ordering from them. The first time I ordered, I got 2 apple trees and 2 blueberry bushes. All died but 1 apple. They replaced the ones that died and they are doing well now. I thought it was just because the girl I talked to gave me completely wrong soil prep instructions, and I prepared the soil correctly the second time.

I gave them another chance this spring and got 4 heritage raspberries and 3 anne raspberries. All but 2 heritage died. They barely had any roots. Maybe 1-2 roots 6-8 inches long. Now I have to wait until the fall for replacements.

I am beginning to wonder if the problem is this nursery. 75% of their plants have died... Is this typical of shipped bare root plants (they're only 1 state away from me) or is it this nursery? Anyone have experience with them?

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I would rate Willis as a good provider. Last spring I ordered 7 fruit trees and all lived except 1 apricott, which they gave me store credit for since it did not cost enough for a replacement (in accordance with their guarantee).

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:34PM
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I have ordered from them four times. Each time with good results. Bare root trees do well but require proper care as soon as they arrive.

Soaking the tree roots when the trees first arrive is important. As it planting at the right dept and how you water them as well as when and where you plant them are all important. Once planted the soil should not be allowed to dry out for a couple months until the feeder roots have time to grow into the existing soil outside the planting hole. Not saying to drown them but it should never get dry.

The hole prep is also important. It should not be dug any deeper than the root system and only about 50 percent wider. The hole should be filled with water and allowed to drain. It should take 2-6 hours to drain. After it has drained fill the hole again and let it drain. Again it should take 2-6 hours. If it takes less than two hours itâÂÂs draining to fast. If it takes more than six hours itâÂÂs draining to slow. If itâÂÂs draining to fast you can add up to one third well composted organic material. That does not mean manure. No fertilizers should be used at the time of planting. If the hole drains within the 2-6 hour window backfill with native soil only. If it takes longer than six hours to drain you may need to use a mound or raised bed planting method. Your watering schedule may also need to be altered to keep from over watering your trees. When you plant the tree gently pack down the soil you filled the hole with. This will pack soil tightly around the roots giving them more surface contact with the soil and will aid in establishing the tree. Once planted water the tree in very well. Then water it lightly every 2-4 days depending on what zone you are in and your daily temperatures. The watering schedule will taper off getting less frequent as the root system establishes itself. Keep all other pants and grass two feet away from the main stem and mulch with well composted material. Again I did not say manure as it is a fertilizer which your tree does not need at this point.

The filling of the planting hole with water ahs a threefold purpose. The first allows you to know how fast your soil drains. Secondly it puts a lot of water in the surrounding soil. If you do not do much of the water you water the tree with in the initial stage will drain into the surrounding soil. It also helps because it makes the soil in the hole a little muddy so the backfilled soil will have a better bond from the start with the soil added to the hole which may aid in establishing the tree.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:15PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Given their reputation at the watchdog site we aren't supposed to mention (Gardenweb says they're a spammer), I'd hesitate to do business with them. Of 43 reviews in the last 12 months, 28 have been negative. While some of them might be undeserved/unfair, I can't see chancing it unless they have something that a better rated nursery can't provide. Nonetheless, it's clear that some folks do have good experiences with them, and there might be other reasons for the high percentage of bad reviews (perhaps they attract more inexperienced buyers, etc.).

This post was edited by shazaam on Tue, May 7, 13 at 13:35

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:32PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Well we all have our ways of doing things. I never soak roots. If I followed the directions given by thisisme, my trees would probably die. It is super wet here in the spring, the last thing you want to do is add water, and soak roots. It would be a lake! BTW, I have never had a tree die at planting. Testing drainage here in spring tells you nothing about drainage in the middle of summer. Our springs are wet, but our summers are bone dry. So in spring, the drainage will be too slow, in summer, it will be way fast. The soil is well draining, but when the ground is saturated, their is no place for the water to go.
In my area it is best to add some peat to help keep air around the roots in the damp spring. The first year is critical because the peat can keep things too dry. So you do not want to add a lot. I also use a product that stores water, and releases when dry, this helps. After the first year the peat soon breaks down, and the tree has time to establish. For me success is based on how good a plant I get. If strong, and in good shape it will make it. So these reviews are critical to me. Healthy well taken care of trees to start is critical to my success.
So one must find what works in your area. Most say not to amend soil, but if you plant here in the spring and do not your tree will not get enough oxygen. Or at least you risk this. It may still make it anyway. The muddy clay can drown the plant. The ground is saturated for 2 months. It is at last drying out, but still no need to water yet. Raised beds work well here, I prefer to plant in raised beds. Of course a raised bed totally amends soil. Which so many are against, go figure? Here we have 1 ft of top soil then a 3 ft layer of clay. Under it is sandy loam. I use a post hole digger to remove the clay so once tree is larger, it can push roots into this deep soil which is a lot more consistent. I never thought of doing this till I saw a thread on a guy who grew blackberries, and had similar soil. He had a row planted w/o breaking the clay layer, and row where he did dig into the clay. The latter plants were twice as tall. So now I do this too. The process is called subsoiling. Since the clay is deep here, I think it really only benefits trees, but I do it for all plants anyway.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blackberry subsoiling

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 2:28PM
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