How to Plant a Bare Root Fruit Tree in a Container

In this article I’m going to share with you guys how you can grow some fruit trees in a container, for the cheapest price possible which means buying what’s known as bare-root fruit trees. So that means they basically come in, they’re bare-root. You can buy these at many nurseries. Sometimes they’re in a big bed of sand, you just pull them up and they’re just there. You could also order them online, and sometimes they’re bagged up in little plastic bags with basically sawdust to keep the roots moist.

So the optimal time to plant is in the dormant season—so that’s the other thing when you’re buying the bare-root trees. You want to try to get them when they don’t have any leaves or any buds on them. That’s optimal. They may start clearing them out when they start budding out and start to make some leaves, but you really want to try to buy them when there’s no buds, no leaves, or anything on them and it’s still dormant. I mean, the weather has been nice, so it’s time to get them planted out ASAP. Now the thing when buying bare-root trees, you can buy all different kinds or varieties. You can get full size trees, you can get dwarf trees, and these in particular, if you are going to grow them in a container, I recommend you guys get the ultra-dwarf!
Bare root fruit tree
So this here is actually ultra-dwarf tilton apricot. This is an ultra-dwarf royal apricot. And you want to always check the plant tag. This one says ultra-dwarf tilton apricot, grows five to eight feet tall. So eight feet—or five feet, little bit more than five almost six feet. That’s about as tall as me. These will stay nice and compact. What determines if it’s a dwarf or ultra-dwarf, which is excellent for containers, is the stalk here on the bottom, and the top part determines what variety of apricot it is. And I got the apricots because in this desert climate, the apricots basically put out fruit before it gets super-hot and they’re definitely more dependable in my opinion than other fruit trees can be. And these guys were marked at seventeen ninety-eight, and I of course got them at half-off, so that’s about nine dollars for each of these fruit trees. And the bare-root fruit trees by far are the cheapest way you’re gonna be able to buy fruit trees easily. It’s gonna cost you more if you buy ‘em in a pot, already filled with dirt and all this kind of stuff, but you got to do these at a certain time when they are basically still in hibernation—it’s like bears hibernate for the winter, well so do these fruit trees. And we want to basically… Basically they’re dug up, they’re put in bags with the sawdust, and this is while they’re still sleeping, and then we put them in a pot and they wake up in a new pot in a new place with new soil. Hopefully that’s how that happens. IT’s kind of like that Captain America movie, for those of you guys that saw Captain America. I guess at the end of the first movie, he crashed a plane, he was like frozen in ice and then he wakes up and he’s in some new place…but then he figured out he wasn’t really where he thought he was. That’s a whole other story. So the trees—hopefully you’re gonna treat them right so that they’re not really gonna know too much that they’re in a new place. But hopefully they’ll be in a better place than where they were pulled up from. That’s what I’m gonna concentrate on sharing with you guys in this episode.

So, I’m not really gonna get into the tree selection. I love fruits probably more than I love vegetables, believe it or not, but fruit trees take a whole lot of space and will shade out your vegetables, like I have growing all around. So I’m gonna go ahead and start putting fruit trees in my front yard, and of course these guys are gonna grow in some containers that I can easily move in and out where I do have some extra space to grow, like maybe against the wall that normally nothing would even grow in anyways. In addition, if a point comes where I do decide to use these in my landscaping, I can actually take them out of the pot and transplant them into my yard. So the number one thing to remember when buying the bare-root trees is you gotta get them out of the packing as soon as you possibly can. Now, some people would actually recommend that you take the bare-root trees out of the packing material and then you’re gonna soak them in water like overnight. So everybody has a little bit different technique. I personally might soak my trees, my bare-roots in water if it’s super dry in there, but just like us, we need a proper amount of moisture, we don’t need too much moisture or too much water and we don’t need to be too dry. And the trees are the same way. They want enough moisture. They don’t want to be flooded, they’re not sea creatures, and they’re not seaweeds or anything like that. These are land trees. They know why you could soak the trees in a bucket after you get all this stuff out. I’m actually personally not gonna do that unless these guys are super dry but first I want to kinda take a look at them…if I can get this piece of wire off. Alright! I’m smarter than a fifth grader! I got that thing off. Alright, so here’s how your bare-root tree should come. Basically we’re looking like this and we’re gonna go ahead—guess for all practical purposes, we’re just gonna rip the bag open for you guys, show you guys what it looks like. Probably a bit easier. Anyways, the bare-root tree, if it’s packed in plastic, it’ll basically be in sawdust. So you want to get it out of the sawdust ASAP, and get it into the soil. So basically I’m feeling this root and the sawdust…and the sawdust is moderately dry but it’s still pretty wet and I’m feeling some moisture on the root. And you know, I’m feeling this is fine. If I wanted to, I could soak it in some water for an hour or two, but for me the main thing is as soon as I get this plant, it has to go back in a bucket into some soil so I can get them planted out. What I might do, actually, I might just soak these guys in a bucket while I prepare the soil mix so at least it gets a little moisture, but not leave it sitting in there. I’m not a big fan of that technique. So let me go ahead and undo these other three and we’re gonna come back atcha and just soak these in some water just for a little bit while I’m preparing my soil mix that they’re gonna get planted into.

Alright, so as you guys can see, we’ve got a whole fifteen gallon bucket here of all the woodchips that are gonna end up making it into my compost bins to get composted down to get turned into food for my trees later on. And we got these roots here. So I wanted to show you guys this. Basically it’s the root stalk here which is the root stalk from this point down that controls whether it’ll be an ultra-dwarf tree, and this is the graft point, and this point up determines the variety. Now I want to encourage you guys whenever buying a fruit tree for yourself, don’t just get the one I got, ultra-dwarf royal apricot. It may or may not do well in your area. There are things known as chill hours, for example, this one needs three hundred and fifty to four hundred chill hours in the wintertime to produce reliably. This seems to be more of a big thing if you’re a commercial grower. For backyard gardeners, may not be an issue, and some trees may not needs exactly this many, they may get by with less, and of course they could also do more. What I recommend when looking into buying a tree for your guys is just do a Google search. Google your area “Los Angeles best fruit trees” or “recommended varieties” because there are many varieties. I could have bought some apples…and apples, they don’t do quite as well in this climate than say the apricots, which I see do much better. I’m gonna invest in a fruit tree and I want it to produce fruit that I can eat, and a good quantity of fruit. Not just have a fruit tree maybe produce every couple of years when it feels like it. So the apricot, for this particular climate, does quite well.

Now I wanna show you guys here, when you get this out, you’re gonna have to replant this as soon as possible. And you want to basically bury it up to the point that is was buried before. So if you look at the root here, you can see this is kind of like an orange color,and you can kind of see up on here where basically there’s some dirt residue, and we want to plant it up to that point. On this one, I think it’s probably about right here. You do not want to bury the new wood. You want to make sure that the root stalk stays the root stalk and the new wood stays the new wood, so I’ll probably plant it right up to that point. So that’s one tip, very important. Now I don’t feel the need to soak these guys, just because you’re supposed to soak them because that’s what the instructions say. You can or cannot. If it’s nice and moist, you probably don’t have to. I’m gonna actually soak it for a different reason, that’s very important to me as well as to the health of my trees. So let my go ahead and get a bucket, some water, and share with you guys how I’m gonna soak these guys and, more importantly, why. So now I got a bucket of water, and I’m gonna go ahead and just maybe not soak the roots, but kind of just get them in there for a little bit. And this is purified water. I recommend you guys get a hose attachment for your hose to filter your water that you put on your plants. After all you guys drink filtered water, most of you guys, so why not filter the water to take out the chlorine and other potential contaminants in the water. And this is especially important if you’re gonna do this next step that I highly encourage you guys to do.

What I’m gonna use next is actually this Plant Success Soluble Mycorrhiza and Bacteria. And I know some of this stuff is not really taught to people and it’s so lame, in my opinion. What I’m trying to do is actually model how nature works. Nature doesn’t work by feeding your fruit trees or feeding the pine tree 10-10-10 fertilize ror citrus fertilizer or fruit tree fertilizer. It works by actually having nutritious soil with lots of organic matter and minerals and having more importantly what’s missing in farming of today—the microbes, the fungi, the bacteria, the arthropods, the earthworms. All the different soil creatures that take that organic matter and convert it into plant nutrients. And yeah, you can have tons of compost and “Oh, John I planted in tons of compost and my tree’s not growing!”—well, number one, you might not have good quality compost, number two, you might not have the driving force, the bacteria, and is the mycorrhiza that helps escort nutrients into the plants. So I don’t know how these trees were grown,they might not have been supplemented with the mycorrhiza. There’s probably some occurring in nature, but we want to really ensure our plants have the beneficial mycorrhiza as well as the bacteria, which do a similar function. In addition, plants that have been planted with mycorrhiza and have a good colony in there are also more resilient to stressors, including water stress and can actually get less water and still produce the same amount of crop, given that it has the mycorrhiza versus one that didn’t. So we got the water soluble one here. So what I’m gonna do in this five gallon bucket that I’ve filled up about three gallons, I’m just gonna probably put like…one, two nice scoops. Now don’t worry, when I’m done with this bucket it’s not getting thrown away. It’s gonna get watered into the trees after I plant them to even give them a bigger boost. So I’m just gonna go ahead and take this tree and shove it in there…spin him around, and now they get a little mycorrhiza bath. So this basically, for me, inoculates the roots, I’m not doing this necessarily for the moisture, I’m doing this to basically get all the mycorrhiza incorporate and all the beneficial organisms attached to the roots. Oh another thing that’s kind of important is, you want to be using a dirty nasty bucket that you use for composting that has all kinds of residues… That might not necessarily be too good. So this is a clean bucket that I inoculated with all the mycorrhiza and now it’s just gonna sit here—I dunno—for like fifteen minutes, half an hour while I make the soil mix.

So actually why don’t you go ahead and join me while I make the soil mix and share with you guys what I’m gonna be putting in my containers to grow my fruit trees. Once again, I’m gonna try to model nature and try to make a nice rich mix because think about it. If we don’t like where we’re living, we get to move,we get to get out of that apartment, move into a big house, whatever you want. The trees, they don’t have that luxury. They don’t have legs and they can’t move. So the soil that you’re growing them in should be the best you can provide. I know some gardeners and some horticulture experts say “Just plant them in the regular ground. ” I want to give the tree everything it needs, especially when you grow in a container because the roots can’t reach outside the container. In the container, provide them the richest organic matter and more importantly the trace mineral, plus some fungi. So anyways, let’s go ahead and show you guys what I put in the soil mix. So now I’m gonna share with you guys the soil blend that I’m gonna actually put in the containers that are literally gonna be the lifeblood and provide the nutrition for my trees that’s growing. So number one, because we will be in a pot, I wanted to get a good high quality potting soil and I found no other one better than this stuff right here. It’s Dr. Earth Pot of Gold Premium Soil, and it’s an all-purpose potting soil for container gardening. It says it’s good for potted indoor and outdoor containers and potting mix and all this kind of stuff, but it’s not necessarily designed for fruit trees, so I want to also get something designed for fruit trees and as luck would have it, the Dr. Earth’s company which makes some fine products, I could recommend them all. I—unfortunately, they’re not available at Lowe’s and Home Depot and they should be, like totally, but I believe the True Value Hardware near you can order it from their True Value warehouse throughout the country. So if they don’t stock it at the True Value near you, “Hey you guy could order it, it’s in your computer” and they can get that in for you so you guys can have the same very stuff that I’m using. This is all natural, handcrafted. They got the mycorrhiza, this is the best soil. Really good stuff. But we’re gonna use this stuff right here,this premium soil mix. This is actually for fruit trees, it’s a fruit tree planting mix. This is specifically designed for fruit and nut trees so we’re gonna go ahead and mix this bag with this bag, and that’s gonna give us our base. In addition, I’m gonna use some local native soil, or the soil out of one of my raised beds. It’s actually been growing for a season, some extra stuff that I’ve got laying around, so I’m gonna dump that in there.

In addition, if I had my choice, I would probably use mostly this next stuff. Unfortunately I have like one and a half bags left. I’m gonna dedicate one who back to four trees that I have here. I’m gonna use one whole bag of this stuff called the Boogie Humus. And this is an uber compost. Most of the compost that I’m using that’s in these formulations are basically thermally derived compost. That’s high heat compost that’s rich in bacterial matter, and the boogie humus—which I also like to add to my vegetable garden, but it’s significantly more important when I’m growing trees and fruits trees—is the fungal dominated compost, because this is made out of a rich carbon source such as the wood trimmings and the sawdust and all this kind of stuff. And basically,this has really rich fungal activity and the trees like more fungal activity than the bacterial activity that most people give it in the standard compost that’s made. So if I had as much of this stuff as I want, I’d probably make a sixty-forty mixture, and unfortunately it’s rare to find the fungal dominated compost. There’s very few places that offer it. I know there’s a really good place down in Houston, Texas, that I visited and they make it there, but it’s pretty rare to find, unfortunately. So I’m just gonna put in this whole bag. That’s as much as I have today. This is available at the website boogie brew. net/gyg if you want to get some of the Boogie humus. Now besides the fungal dominated compost, it’s super uber important to me—we’re gonna go ahead and move on to this side over here—of course, another thing that’s very important to me that would also occur naturally in the soil is earthworms. And they make the earthworm castings. Now the earthworm castings are only as good as what the worms are being fed, and the Worm Gold Plus, Worm Gold Castings, out of all the castings I’ve seen, are the best. Simply because they have more chitin degraders and more silase degraders than other worm castings. And these are the driving engines that really break down the silase and make room for your plants. Now other worm castings are probably good but nowhere near the quality of the Worm Gold Plus, so I’m gonna add a good portion of this into my soil blend. And of course, the final ingredient I’m going to add over on this side is the Azomite.
Azomite rock dust
If your fruits aren’t tasting good enough, they just taste like—they just don’t have the flavor punch, like “Oh yeah, that was a good apricot!” Number one, you need to make sure you pick them when they’re optimally ripe. If you’re trying to pick them too early because the birds are gonna get them, the answer is not pick them early because the birds are gonna get them if you leave them on there longer. The birds want them when they’re at their peak ripeness and that’s when we want them. So the answer is put a net over your trees so the birds can’t get in there so they can fully ripen on the tree and even drop off the tree so you can have the sweetest fruit. But even if you get them and you pick them as ripe as possible and they’re not sweet enough…One of the issues I see is the trace minerals. Now you might be thinking “John, there’s trace minerals in the compost and all this kind of stuff we’re using”—right, so there’s macro minerals, micro minerals, and there’s also trace minerals. Many soils are deficient in certain trace minerals. So instead of trying to figure all that stuff out, I just put the Azomite in there, which is something you cannot burn your plants with, I’m just gonna put it in there and let my plants figure it out. If you don’t want to use it, that’s fine, but I’ll tell you from my experience and many of my viewers that have used it, whether it’s your tomatoes, your lettuce, or your fruit trees, they all taste better with Azomite or other kinds of varied rock dust. I’ve used these other brands called Gaia Green and there’s so many kinds of horticultural grade rock dust. If you can’t get a horticultural grade, that’s alright, you can get one at your local rock and stone quarry. Azomite, or rock dust, very important mixture to add in to my soil blend. Now of course, one more thing I’m gonna add in much smaller proportions, probably about ten percent, is right over here…

It’s this stuff right here. It’s called the Soil Reef Pure Biochar. So probably this is gonna make up like ten percent of my mixture. Basically it’s a rich carbon source that’s gonna feed the microbes in the soil, also provide them a home. You don’t want to go too much on the biochar because it’s a charcoal and it can actually act as a filter and pull out in lack of nutrients. So five percent’s enough, five to ten percent is enough. And I just like to put a bunch in there and mix it all up. So I’m gonna go ahead and dump all this stuff in the wheelbarrow, mix is on up, and we’ll be back atcha when we’re filling the pots and ready to plant out my fruit trees. So I got three of those bare-roots already plants out, and I wanted to do the last one for you guys and share with you guys how I’m gonna do it. I mean the first things I really need to let you guys know it if you are gonna grow a tree in a container, rule number one, get the absolute biggest container you can afford, you can fit, you can list and carry if you need to move it. Some people like large homes and they’ll buy the largest home the can afford. Other people like minimalist homes that they pull on a trailer… That being said, I don’t know too many trees that like a minimalist home or a pot with a small amount of space. Maybe if you want to get a bonsai—they don’t necessarily like it but they’ll deal with it. And I’ve seen cute little bonsai pomegranate trees and whatnot. They’re not very productive, but they’re cute. I don’t really see the need, but hey that’s all good. But anyways, get the largest pot you can afford. I happen to have these fifteen gallon ones laying around and in general, I would prefer a pot that actually has a larger circumference and less depth, all else being equal. So I’d rather have this being twelve inches, fifteen inches deep, and maybe like eighteen inches, twenty inches circular. That’d be better,but this is what I got for free, so this is what the7se guys are gonna grow in, plus also this is gonna make transplanting a little bit easier. Minimally, I’d recommend something like a whisky barrel or half a wine barrel, that’d be a good thing to grow on of these container trees in. Or, of course, if they have an amazing array of different smart pots,or the fabric pots that you can grow in. Now if you are gonna do that, I’d recommend ones with the handles on the sides so you can easily move is around because most of them, unfortunately, don’t have the handles. Alright so on these pots, the main thing is they got these large holes on the bottom and if I just fill soil in there, every time I water the soil ends up running out. Then I’ll come back half a year later and the pot with go down a couple inches because the soil’s running off the bottom, also this is making a mess wherever I have these plants stationed.

So what I like to do is I like to take this rough coconut coir, so this is basically just the coconut husk in like nice large chunks. If you don’t have coconut coir chunks which I happen to have today which is my preferred drainage because this also will provide habitat for creatures like the worms. The worms will break it down. You could also use some of the wood chips that came with the trees. But I like the coir more. It doesn’t break down quite as quickly. And so the next thing we’re gonna do is, after you’ve got that soil blend mixed up,we got a nice rich dark soil blend using my amendments behind me, and a really nice texture in there. Now, I do want to give you guys a disclaimer. I know many of you guys are actually arborists or nurserymen and plant bare-roots for a living and have all these things for a living, probably technically know a lot more than planting trees than I do. So that’s my disclaimer. This video’s showing my technique. I’ve been gardening ten plus years now, I have over two dozen different fruit trees that I’ve planted and I’ve seen a lot of people do different things, and these are incorporating my personal techniques into my gardening style. And I know all you guys have styles, all you guys have opinions, some people say you got to soak them. Some people say you don’t have to soak them. Ask a gardener—ask five gardeners a single question, you’re probably gonna get five different answers unless they’re all master gardeners that have been trained a certain way. And that’s the other thing, I haven’t been trained about any of this. I learned by doing and observation, seeing what works. And I’ve planted plenty of fruit trees in this fashion with great results. And that’s what I simply to with you guys there on YouTube, I simply share with you guys literally my journey in life with my garden, whether I’m traveling and going to places or whether I’m just potting up some bare-root trees like I am today.
Coconut coir chunks
Alright so now that we got the pot about halfway filled with the soil, one of the things that we do really need to pay attention to is the level as which to plant the tree here. So I’m gonna go ahead and come up close guys so you guys can see this. So if you guys look closely at this root here—and this is the graft point here—if you look closely, you can really see the root stuff over here is not like brown like the tree trunk coming up there. It’s actually kind of more orange-ish, see right there is orange. What you really want to pay attention to is look to see where the orange stops, and then the brown starts. And that’s the point that you want to be right at the soil level. You don’t want to plant it too high because then you’re covering some of the wood that doesn’t have the protective waxy coating this is supposed to be underground. We want to plant it at the exact right point that it was planted at before. I know sometimes you gotta make an educated guess. So me it looks like probably right around here is where the color changes significantly, so that’s where I’m gonna plant it. If you’re off a little bit, not a big deal, but you don’t want to plant it like—definitely don’t plant it about the graft! That’ll definitely not be too good. So I’m gonna take it and plant it about this height. So what I like to do is kind of have my finger where I’m gonna plant it at the planting depth, right around here, and I like to basically have that point when I’m planting a container…I dunno, about yea much underneath the lip. This way that’s be able to pour some water in and it’ll be able to drain instead of overflow out. Also I don’t want to plant it too deep and have too much pot exposed because then I’m missing out on soil and basically providing more square footage in there for the plant roots to grow so that it can fully thrive. So let’s see here…I think I’m about a little bit high, so I’m just gonna go ahead and dig some of this dirt down…cause it’s a nice loose fill. We’re a little bit low…looks like that’s probably about right. So then what I do is I kind of just hold it up and then I kind of just take the shovel and I top fill. The other thing, you want to try to get the tree as centered as you can in the container.

Alright, so we got this guy almost filled,once I get a lot of soil in there, basically just do an earthquake motion…It’s a five-point-oh earthquake, man! We’re taking out the Golden Gate Bridge! Alright, just kidding. What this does is basically help settle the soil, compact it down and then I’ll do a gentle pressing. We don’t want to like tamp it down or get one of those little tampers, “Oh we can fit more in there!” We want to leave a lot of airspace in there for the tree, but yet if we don’t press it down a little bit, it’s gonna sink down a lot later. And Idon’t want that to happen too much so just pat it down a little bit…looks like I’m right about at the level. We’re just gonna go ahead and add one more light coating to the top. And I think we’re all planted out. So the next thing you might want to do is—oh…I’m a little bit crooked here. Just want to make sure he’s going straight up. I like the straight up orientation myself, if you know what I mean. Alright, so he’s going a bit straight up, and now we’re basically just gonna water in the mycorrhiza water, very important. So just dump this down the street, man, this is a valuable mixture. So just gonna go ahead and…pour a little bit on each of my freshly planted out trees. And maybe I’ll even use it in other area of my garden.

Oh, one final step for many people that have planted bare-roots is pruning. Now this is actually another controversial topic that you ask gardeners if you should prune trees once you put them in a pot or not. A lot of people say yeah. Basically when they pulled his guy out to bare-root it, they basically had to trim back the root system massively to basically ship it to you. But they didn’t really trim out the top growth. So they say clip it back. And based on my experience, clipping it back could help. There’s pros and cons—nothing in life is black and blue…or black and white! And so, for my style, I might try to prune off some of these ones that got damaged and these super small ones that aren’t maybe gonna do much. But in general, what I like to do is I like to leave most of the tree there because basically what happens is this guy will bud out, it’ll leaf out. The more bud-age, the more leafage is makes,the more it could actually send down energy into the root zone to basically grow more. If you cut this back to a little small twig coming out, there’s not a lot of surface area for the plant to grow and do what it needs to do. So that’s kind of my theory on it. I would encourage you guys always to experiment with your fruit growing. If you have multiple trees like I do, trim one back, trim the other—don’t trim the other one back, make videos and share with everybody what happens. My style is, number one, I try to do the least amount of work for the most result, and the least amount of work is not basically pruning these guys because I got plenty of other things to do like plant some summer vegetables, But yeah that’s pretty much it. I’m gonna go ahead and just put these on a drip system to they get regular water. They would prefer to have regular deep watering, than watering every day which doesn’t quite work with my setting for my vegetable garden, so I have to figure out if I gotta put another valve or timer control on this guy or whatnot. And we’re just gonna let these guys grow. And the reason why I like the apricots is because pretty much before the heat, they’re gonna put on fruit, and I’ve have plenty of apricots that do really well in this area. I was not about to buy any apples even if they are half off. Besides, apples are a dime a dozen. And I want to guys, when you guys pick a fruit tree—fruit tree’s an investment. It’s a more longer term investment, it’s kind of like a marriage. You’re married to your fruit tree. Whereas vegetables that’s kind of like having fun at the bar, if you know what I mean. The vegetables are around for a season, the lettuce is only around for sixty, ninety days, so it might be fun to have to fun with the girl for that long. But with the tree you’re kind of getting married, so you want to make sure you get the right one that’s gonna grow well for you in your area. And also one of the criteria that’s important for me is that good quality apricots are far and few between. The stuff you buy in the store are hard, crunchy, and flavorless and the stuff I can grow at home are nice,soft, rich, sweet and delicious. And in addition, apricots sell for a lot of money in the store, whereas apples are super inexpensive and super cheap and available much more longer period of the year—actually all year—whereas apricots are only in for a certain season.

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