UNITED STATES—Spring is overrated. It is obviously the best season for planting warm season vegetables and bedding plants. It is the most colorful season with more flowers in bloom. There is so much more to gardening though. Most plants prefer autumn planting. Some prefer winter planting. That is why this present bare-root season will be so relevant all through winter.
Dormancy is an advantage to stressful procedures such as planting. Spring bulbs prefer autumn or early winter planting while they are most dormant. For the same reason and to avoid late frost, summer bulbs prefer later winter planting. It should be no surprise that so many deciduous woody plants likewise prefer dormant planting during bare-root season.
Bare-root season is simply when bare-root stock becomes available for planting through winter. Unlike more familiar canned (potted) stock, bare-root stock lacks the medium that it grew in. Their roots are literally bare. Most bare-root stock awaits purchase at nurseries with its roots resting within damp sand. Roots of some are bagged within damp sawdust.
There are several major advantages to bare root stock.
Bare-root stock is innately more practical than typical canned stock. It is significantly less expensive. It is much less cumbersome, and therefore easier to transport from nurseries. Planting is easier within much smaller planting holes. Formerly bare roots disperse new roots into their garden soils more efficiently than crowded formerly canned root systems.
Deciduous fruit trees and roses are the most popular of bare-root stock. Most of such fruit trees are stone fruits and pomme fruits. Stone fruits include almond, apricot, cherry, plum, prune, peach and nectarine, as well as their unusual hybrids. All stone fruits are species of the genus, Prunus. Pomme fruits include apple, pear, Asian pear and perhaps quince.
Fig, pomegranate and persimmon trees should also be available. So should grapevines, currants, gooseberries, blueberries and various cane berries. Strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus are perennials that are available bare-root. Except for almond, most nut trees, including English walnut, pecan, filbert or chestnut, may be available only by mail order. Most mail order catalogs are online now.
Highlight: English Walnut
It has been in cultivation for several thousands of years. Throughout that time, it escaped cultivation to naturalize in many regions between the Balkans and the Himalayas. It most likely originated from a much smaller natural range within Persia. An interesting certainty of its dubious original range is that English walnut, Juglans regia, is not actually English.
English walnut likely arrived at Spanish Missions of California prior to 1800. It became a major agricultural commodity of both the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley. A few old trees survive within urban areas that were formerly orchards of the Santa Clara Valley. Newer trees are unfortunately rare within home gardens because they get messy.
English walnut trees rarely grow more than 40 feet high and wide here. Their abundant foliar, floral and fruit debris is toxic to young plants though, and stains hardscapes. Each type of debris sheds during a different season. Squirrels might claim most or all nuts but drop shredded hulls. The deciduous and pinnately compound leaves can be a foot long.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.