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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Selection of Fruit Trees

Arrival of 20 bare root fruit trees from Dave Wilson Nursery
in 2009.
You can purchase fruit trees growing in containers as well as bare root (no soils surrounding the roots). In southern Nevada, bare root fruit trees are not available through retail outlets. However, bareroot trees can be purchased mail-order or online and we do purchase bareroot trees for sale and distribution at the orchard. Orders are normally taken in September for a January delivery. Containerized fruit trees usually survive better for inexperienced gardeners but bareroot trees have many more advantages. These advantages include faster establishment after planting and fewer problems with developing roots among other advantages.

Containerized fruit trees. A major problem with containerized fruit trees are with its roots. Frequently containerized plants are overgrown in their containers leading to roots that are circling and deformed in the container. There is very little you can do to these plants to reestablish a well developed root system and should be avoided.

Fruit trees growing in smaller containers will always establish faster in the landscape after planting than plants in larger containers. For most fruit trees, container size has little to do with when they come into production.
Containerized fruit tree
It is best to select containerized plants that are in proportion, or even somewhat undersized, for the container but still exhibit strong, healthy growth. Some nurseries in southern Nevadawill allow you to inspect the root system before purchasing. If this is the case, gently turn over the container and remove the tree upside down and quickly examine the roots. The small feeder roots should be creamy white and prolific with little evidence of circling roots on the edge of the root ball.
 Container fruit trees should not be transported unprotected in the back of a vehicle. Wind damage due to a moving vehicle can be severe. As soon as the tree is brought home, water it and put it on the shady side of the building, out of direct sunlight on the container, until ready to plant. Plant as soon as possible. It is highly recommended that you dig the planting hole, amend the soil and have everything ready to finish the planting (stakes, rabbit protection, whitewash, mulch) before you bring the tree home!

Bare root fruit trees. Bare root fruit trees can easily be located on the Internet by searching with the name of the type and variety of the fruit tree and the words “online”, “nursery” and the state where you would like to purchase from. As an example, if I were looking for a Pink Lady apple from an online nursery, I would search the internet with the words, “apple” “Pink Lady” “online” “nursery” and either Nevadaor a neighboring state where fruit tree selection is available online. Check with The Orchard and see if we have any leftover fruit trees from our fall order/spring delivery. They do go fast. 

Bare root fruit trees are usually a better choice than those growing in containers. Planting holes should be prepared well in advance of the arrival of bare root fruit trees. When bare root fruit trees arrive, they should be unpackaged immediately and placed into clean, fresh, cool water and allowed to soak for several hours prior to planting. The container holding the water should be sanitized and triple rinsed with freshwater prior to filling it. Tree roots should be totally submerged. If the trees are to be kept overnight, place them and the bucket in a cool, shady location. Bare root fruit trees should not be kept in standing water for more than 24 hours. Keep fruit tree roots wet until ready to plant.

Tree selection. Important things to look for when selecting a fruit tree include a variety known to do well in our climate, appropriate amount of chilling hours, and a suitable rootstock.

 Varieties of fruit trees are evaluated at the UNCE research and demonstration Orchard in North Las Vegas and located at UNLV’s Center for Urban Horticulture and Water Conservation. You can also contact me at Extremehort@aol.com for suggestions or search for our recommended varieties here on my blog. Many fruit trees do quite well in southern Nevada. Fruit tree selection is limited more by elevation and winter minimum temperatures.

Bare root fruit tree
with dogleg at the
union of the rootstock
and the desired variety
Chilling hours refers to the number of hours below a threshold temperature which accumulate during the winter season. Fruit trees that originate from temperate climates use winter chilling hours to judge when spring has arrived. In the Las Vegas Valley we would consider 300 to 400 hours to be are chilling requirement for fruit trees. Although some fruit trees which require more hours than this will grow and often times produce fruit, there are risks involved when selecting fruit trees that require more hours than that. However, we do grow fruit trees at the orchard with a much higher number of chilling hours than we receive with no obvious concerns for the homeowner or small scale grower that we have been able to note so far.

Many fruit trees are growing on root systems that are not their own. This is done through techniques such as grafting and budding. Rootstocks can be important for controlling diseases, insects and the growth habit of a tree. For example, rootstocks for apple's are usually selected for controlling its mature height and are referred to as dwarfing rootstocks. If plant size is a consideration for an apple, then a dwarfing rootstock is a necessity. Dwarfing rootstocks are usually not a consideration for stone fruits. Rootstocks are usually selected for disease control. Most commercial rootstocks for stone fruits have performed well in southern Nevada.

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