A favorite time of year for me at our small nursery was bareroot season. My father built wooden open-top boxes that would hold the sawdust and sand mixture used to “heal in” barerooted roses, fruit trees and a few deciduous shade trees. The new purple rose, Lavender Girl, along with Peace, Dainty Bess, Carousel and others, two types of figs, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherry, apple, pecans, mulberries, and ash were all carefully spaced in the boxes to allow for removal with the least amount of disturbance to plants on either side of a customer’s selection.
We made trips to Bisbee (25 miles south) to get a ’54, long bed Chevy pickup truck. Then we hauled loads of sawdust from the underground copper mine-site, where timbers were sawed to varying lengths for support of the mine tunnels. Next, we made trips to just outside town, backing into dry sand washes to fill the pickup with sand. You would get into a rhythm using square-point shovels powered by “Armstrong” motors, and keeping an eye on the truck bed springs to make sure the truck wouldn’t be overloaded. Finally, all was ready for the bareroot’s arrival.
The “healing in” mixture was five to one, sawdust to sand. The mixture helped maintain moisture around the root system and made it easier to remove the plants, when sold, without further damaging root structure. We always hoped to sell out every plant/tree.
But there were always a few left to be put in five gallon, ex-paint cans (used to “pyramid” the cans and burn them clean). This was before plastic containers. The orphaned trees were can-planted in a mixture of sand and sawdust, and picked and shoveled by hand.
Ah, the good old days.
The home gardener can reduce loss of barerooted plants by keeping the roots moist up to the point of planting, as well as trimming away any damaged or broken roots.
Points of interest for bareroot aficionados are as follows:
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