Bare root apple trees are apple trees that are grown in the ground and then uprooted for sale and transfer. Unlike balled and burlapped apple trees, the roots of bare root apple trees are not protected or wrapped prior to transfer. These trees are easily selected since the roots are clearly visible and can be readily inspected for damage, breakage and wilting.
Select a planting location for your bare root apple tree prior to purchasing the tree. Choose a warm, sunny location that receives a full day’s sunlight. Ensure that the location has good air circulation to promote healthy cell development.
Till the planting location to loosen any compacted soils. Take a soil sample from approximately six to eight feet below the soil’s surface. Purchase a soil test kit to determine the soil’s pH levels. Use the selected soil sample to complete the test. Follow the instructions of the soil test closely to ensure an accurate reading.
Adjust the soil levels to bring the soil’s pH levels as close to 6.5 as possible. Complete the adjustment process at least six months prior to planting your tree.
Prepare to plant your bare root apple tree in the early spring, just after the final frost. Inspect the bare roots of your selected apple tree for damage and wilt. Use sharp, sterile pruning shears to trim away any damaged or deadened root. Do not remove more than one third of the root system to avoid growth stunt and die back.
Soak your bare root apple tree in tepid water for 12 to 24 hours prior to planting, as recommended by the Sandy Bar Ranch & Nursery. Complete the soaking process immediately after you have trimmed the root system.
Dig a hole for your bare root apple tree. Create a hole that is as deep and as wide as the root system. Place your apple tree in the center of the hole and backfill the hole halfway with soil. Fill the hole with tepid water to remove any potential air pockets. Allow the water to settle and repeat the process to complete the process.
Apply a two to three inch layer of mulch around the apple tree, as recommended by the Ohio State University Extension. Keep the mulch at least one foot from the trunk to prevent root rot.
Begin training your apple tree immediately after planting. Head the tree back so that it stands about 28 inches in height. Remove any dead or damaged branches using sterile pruning shears. Prune your apple tree annually, in the early spring, to develop a good framework.
Feed your apple tree in the early spring. Use a well-balanced, slow release fertilize such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 combination. Distribute the feed evenly under the tree’s canopy and out to the drip line. Keep the fertilizer at least 12 inches away from the trunk to avoid root burn. Irrigate the feed thoroughly into the soil.
Irrigate your apple tree thoroughly about every two to three weeks, as explained by the Ohio State University Extension. Provide the tree with about two to three gallons of water at each irrigation. Adjust the irrigation levels during periods of drought and heavy rainfall to prevent over and under-watering of your tree.