Mid-winter is when bare root fruit shrubs and trees arrive at garden stores. Often looking like not much more than a stick sitting in a pile of sawdust, you might find it difficult to imagine the bounty of edible fruit that will spring from them. But if you look closely you’ll see the buds swelling, and in fact, bare root plants will establish more quickly and often perform better than their later-arriving cousins who have been bound in a pot and delivered in foreign soil. Buying bare root is also economical as you are not paying for the pot or the dirt.
When you pick out your bare root plants make sure the roots are neither mushy nor dried out. Dig a hole twice as wide as it is deep and spread the roots out. You’ll need to mound the dirt below the stalk of the plant to help it stay upright. Clip the ends of the roots just before planting, then water in. Be careful not to plant it too low. As it grows, it may sink in a little and you want to keep the flare of the trunk just above the soil line.
City People’s Garden Store has bare root blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, as well as some rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, and asparagus. Bare root fruit trees include apple, pear, nectarine, peach, plum and cherries.
These days you can find fruit trees with a combination of varieties in an espaliered form, so you can plant one apple tree and get 6 varieties of apples!! There are also smaller varieties these days, perfect for container gardening.
And if you do end up looking at the bare root fruit selection at City People’s Garden Store, a portion of all sales will be going to the nonprofit City Fruit. The 5-year old organization collects fruit from residential trees throughout Seattle and distributes it to food banks, senior centers, and shelters — last year they collected 50,000 pounds of fruit. City Fruit also teaches fruit tree owners how to grow healthy fruit and organizes volunteers to care for the heritage orchards in Seattle parks. The nonprofit organization depends on grassroots support from the community and its business partners to do this work. Learn more about them at cityfruit.org.