Caring for Your PrairieTech Plants

How you care for your plants when you receive them is as important as how we care for them when they are growing. There are some things you can do that will influence how they will establish and grow once you take delivery of them.

Shipping Periods

We have two shipping periods for our plants: spring (from beginning of April to June) and early fall (September). While plants for either shipping date look similar, they differ in how they should be handled.

Spring Plants (Spring Dormant)

Spring plants are dormant when they are shipped and usually have no leaves. They spent the winter in our temperature-controlled freezers and will be ready to grow once they are planted.

Once you receive your plants, plant them as soon as possible. They should be planted before they leaf out but they first need to thaw. To thaw your plants, simply open the box, unwrap the plastic and place the box in a cool location, out of direct sunlight (e.g. in a garage or back porch). If you are unable to plant right away, you can keep the plants frozen in the box if you don’t open the box and keep it in a cold dark place. Keep in mind, however, that they shouldn’t be kept in the box for more than 7-10 days. Do not put the plants in a food freezer as it is much colder (-20 C) than our plant freezers (-2 to -4 C).

Check moisture levels of the root balls frequently. If the roots are dry, you will need to sprinkle water on them but be careful not to overwater them, as this can lead to mold problems.

To plant, cover the root ball by at least 1 inch of your own soil and water-in well. It is critical to water-in after planting – inadequate watering at planting time is the main reason for poor establishment. Soaking the root ball in water prior to planting does not compensate for lack of water after planting. It is important to increase the moisture in the soil around the root ball so roots are encouraged to grow out into the surrounding area.

After planting, make a saucer-shaped well 30 cm around the plant to help hold the water. Apply about 3-4 litres to the plant and surrounding area. Apply gradually so the water has a chance to soak in before you apply more.

Water as required but expect to give 3-4 litres of water per plant every 4 to 5 days. Repeat this 3 or 4 times. After this initial watering-in, water as required. If there is good rainfall, you may not need to apply supplemental water. If soil conditions are dry, you may need to irrigate regularly.

Water quality is also important. Not all well water or slough water is suitable for plants. Water that people can drink can be too saline for plants. If your water leaves a whitish film on the soil after watering, it’s too saline, and you should find another water source.

Fall Plants (Fall Dormant)

These are plants that have spent the summer in the greenhouse and have been actively growing. With shorter daylengths, they may be starting to set bud and getting ready for dormancy. These are shipped in September.

Open the boxes and place outdoors in good light but not direct sunlight – the plants should not get overheated.  If they are minimally dry, apply water to the top of the pot with a watering can.  If the plants are very dry, submerse the root balls in water, but not for more than 30 minutes, to re-hydrate them.  Follow the planting instructions as above for spring plants. For fall plants, however, do not apply fertilizer as this will encourage soft, lush growth that will not overwinter very well.

Water amply until freeze-up. This will help plants survive dry winter conditions. Water thoroughly one last time between October 15-November 1.

Site Selection

The site for fruit trees and shrubs should get at least half a day of sun for best growth.  East or north facing slopes are desirable as they allow for air drainage, prevent winter sun scald (a problem for southern slopes), and delay spring bud break so new blossoms and growth are less likely to be damaged by frost.

Don’t plant in wet areas with standing water.  Most trees and shrubs like well-drained soil.

Plant Spacing

The spacing given below is just a recommendation – you may have to adjust spacing for your own particular situation.  Between-row spacing for homeowners may be different than that for commercial growers.  Homeowners need to provide enough distance between the rows to allow for good air movement, growth to maturity and ease of movement.

Commercial growers will need to choose between-row spacing that accommodates equipment used for cultivation, mowing, spraying and harvesting.


Plant Mature Height (ft) Mature Spread (ft) In-Row Spacing (ft) Between-Row Spacing (ft)
Black Currants 3-4 2 3-4 12-18
Chokecherries 20 6-8 4-6 16-18
Carmine Jewel 6 4 5-7 12-18
Evans Cherry 14-16 6-8 6-8 12-18
U of S Cherries 6-8 3-4 5-7 12-18
Haskaps 3-4 3-4 4-5 12-18
Raspberries 3-6 4 2 12-18
Saskatoons 6-8 4-5 3 12-18
Swedish Aspen 30 4-5 3 12-18