Hydrating new bare root trees for planting

Michigan fruit growers could benefit from soaking their trees before planting for at least 24 hours, allowing plants to hydrate to twice their weight and providing 30 days of water.

In the summer of 2011, the IFTA summer tour was held in the UK, Belgium, and Holland. While visiting the nurseries and growers they explained their research of methods used to prepare trees for planting. All methods were centered on the importance of hydrating bare root trees prior to planting.

Here in Michigan and other places as well, growers store trees bare root with periodic watering by sprinkling typically from a garden hose. Then prior to planting, the trees are thoroughly wetted again by sprinkling or by a dip in a water tank and taken to the field to be planted. However, the Europeans indicate that trees get a better start by soaking the trees roots in water for 24 to 48 hours prior to planting. This soaking will hydrate plants to twice their weight and will provide 30 days of water in the new planting, thus greatly reducing the stress associated with the drying of soil around the roots shortly after planting.

The Europeans report trees hydrated by a good, pre-plant soaking will also give the trees a 30 day head start over trees handled in the traditional fashion. European growers report that they will take the whole bundle of trees down to a creek and completely submerge the trees in water (although only the roots need to be submerged) for at least 24 hours. This method of a 24-hour soak could be of great benefit to Michigan fruit growers.

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