Califonia Bountiful

The bare facts

Jan./Feb. 2009 California Country magazine

January is the perfect month to imagine a lush harvest of summer fruits--because it's time to start planting bare root fruit trees. Act now for the best price and selection.

January signals more than just the start of a new year. It also signals the time to begin planting bare root fruit trees. These trees are grown in the ground (not containers) and are shipped while they're dormant--leafless and sleeping--in large bundles without heavy soil or containers.

Quick shopping tip: Visit your local nursery now for the best selection and best prices!

What kind of trees should you select? Deciduous fruit trees--the ones that lose their leaves in the winter--can be grown nearly anywhere from coast to coast, border to border. Some California favorites include peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, apples, pears and pomegranates.

Before you make your selection, do a little research into chill hours. These are the hours when temperatures drop below 45 degrees, primarily in late fall and winter. All fruit trees need a certain number of chill hours to trigger them to bloom and produce fruit.

The mildest coastal areas of Southern California typically receive between 100 and 400 hours of winter chill, while mountainous areas of the state can get up to 800 to 1,000 hours. There's a great selection of fruit trees for you no matter how many chill hours you get each winter. Check with the folks at your local nursery to help you choose which trees are best suited to your own microclimate.

Most fruit trees do best when planted in full sun in soils that drain well and don't require too much water once established.

New bare root trees should be soaked well when planted, then occasionally--once a week or two--if the weather requires it (hot, dry weather). Pomegranates and persimmons should be soaked upon planting, then left alone until they begin to sprout. If they are kept wet, they are likely to rot and die.

Fruit trees planted this winter will begin producing a decent amount of fruit in two to four years, depending on the types you select. Remember, fruit trees require proper pruning if you want to enjoy fruit, but that's a topic for another day.

David Ross is a horticulturalist and manager for Walter Andersen Nursery in San Diego and Poway.

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