If you’ve ever browsed a local nursery, you know that trees can be incredibly expensive. So if you have a large-scale landscape design requiring an enormous number of trees for windbreaks, shelterbelts and wildlife areas, how can you possibly afford enough? The answer is planting bare root trees instead of the potted varieties you’re local nursery carries.
Bare root trees come in a dormant state with no soil on their roots. Luckily, you already have plenty of dirt at home. Just keep the roots moist, dig a hole and follow the planting instructions. I highly recommend a mulch of wood chips to suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil.
There are many sources for ordering bare root trees through the mail, but one of the first places to look is your local county and then your state Department of Natural Resources. Selection and size will vary, as will minimum orders. My county sells trees in bundles of 25 with no minimum order while the state sells them in bundles of 100 with a minimum order of 500 trees.
Now, that’s a lot of trees, no doubt. If you need one specimen for your yard, or a particular grafted variety, this is not the way to go. But if you have larger designs and don’t mind putting in a little labor, you should definitely check them out.
And a word about size… with bare root trees, bigger is not always better. The larger the tree, the more shock it will experience being transplanted. As an example, I planted a 2-3′ maple two years ago right next to a little seedling I pulled out of a garden planter that was around 6″ tall. That seedling has now nearly caught up to the larger tree, which due to it’s size spent the time recovering from the shock of being transplanted instead of actually making new growth. On the other hand, if a deer wanders through and eats a few leaves of the larger one, it should be able to recover. A couple bites of the seedling would kill it.
It’s not too late to get your order in yet this year. If you want to do something concrete to leave the world a better place than you found it, plant a tree. Better yet, plant a hundred.