Do you have a pile of dirt or compost around that you can use to heel them in?
I think you can just lay them down, maybe at a 45 degree angle, and cover the roots. Keep them moist, maybe cover the dirt with burlap or woodchips to keep from drying out.
Maybe do this in a shady area too.
Dawn Bowman wrote:Could someone please advise me on the best way to heel in bare root trees and shrubs. My order came a month early and the orchard site is not cleared of the tree roots. I hope to do this before creating the swales and mounds. There will be a mixture of fruit trees, black locust, mulberry , basswood, linden, and goumi shrubs, buckthorn,clover ground cover insectary plants and perennials and herbs. I would also like some input on grouping the trees into guilds and the ratio of nitrogen fixers to fruit trees. Thank you for the advice Miles. The trees and shrubs are temporarily in my shed in some Rubbermaid containers until the weather warms and the orchard site is ready.
My order was supposed to arrive in March and instead they sent it last November.
I did exactly what the above poster said to do.
They were on the North side of the house and always shaded.
Most of the 80 plants came out of the ground the way they went in.
A few grew some more roots while they were covered.
I should know in the next few weeks whether they made it or not.
The only thing I might add is that I tried covering them in both peat moss and soil
I was surprised by how hard it was to dig them out of the peat moss 3 months later.
The soil wasn't all that easy either.
I would probably use a fine mulch next time
Miles' directions above are very solid. I've used a mix of peat moss and aged manure to good success, but not so much with straight dirt. I think I didn't water them enough when I did it with the dirt. The key to keeping your trees alive is to not let the rootlets dry out or get overexposed to air at this point. Damp peat, manure and soil will keep them nicely until you get your planting areas ready. Then just pick up the whole mess when it is time and plant it.