Nursery Stock

To get off to a good start, buy high-quality plants from a reliable nursery. The most commonly sold stock are half-inch-diameter, bare-root, one-year-old "whips," usually just a single stem. Nurseries sometimes sell two-year-old trees that may have several branches (sometimes called "feathers"). These two types of stock usually perform better than larger and older trees because small trees are easier to transplant and train to a desired shape. When ordering, request that plants arrive before growth has started, to prevent damage from shipping.

Improper care after plants arrive from the nursery can cause serious injury. The ground should be prepared and ready to plant before plants arrive. If the ground hasn't yet been prepared, unpack the plants immediately and "heel in" the trees in a well-drained, shady, cool location. Dig a temporary trench about 1 foot deep, and set the trees close together in the trench. Pack soil firmly over all the roots, mounding it so excess water will drain away. Make every effort to set the plants in their permanent location before growth starts, and never let the roots dry out or expose them to prolonged direct sunlight.

You also can store plants in a walk-in cooler for a short time before planting or heeling-in. But do not store them in coolers with ripening fruits, which give off ethylene gas that can damage the nursery stock.

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