Harvest Windows & Dig Times

Harvest Windows

Throughout the spring season, we hear from a lot of panicked people who think that their trees have to be in the ground by June. So not true! And although this video pertains to harvesting field-grown plants in the spring, the theme is the same for harvesting plants in the fall.

johnson's nursery harvest windows dig times taking plants out of the ground

Generally speaking, plants are grown in two ways:

  • Container-grown plants are born in plastic containers and typically refer to smaller plants like perennials, young shrubs, and young trees.
  • Field-grown plants, like we're discussing here, refers to older, more mature plants, which are typically born on our farm in fields. We care for them (sometimes for up to 10+ years) before they're ready to get installed in your yard.
Read understanding nursery stock sizes to dig deeper on that topic. But first, we need to harvest them from our fields before they can make their way to your landscape.

Field grown trees, shrubs, and evergreens have certain times of the year that they'll tolerate having their roots cut for harvesting. After all, they've been sitting comfortably, getting acclimated to the field for years. Not all plants are the same, and harvest dates are often plant-specific. Once we wrap the roots in burlap and a wire cage, plant them any time the ground is completely frozen. Or, they can sit above ground under our care until they transfer to your yard.

Why does this matter to you? This affects the availability of larger (more mature) trees. If a certain plant (i.e. Birch) only tolerates harvesting in April, then our inventory can only include what was dug during that window. If we sell out of that tree, ask about pre-ordering that plant for next season’s harvest, or ask about container-grown trees.

Harvest & Dig Times

The Dig List & Times is color-coded as to which deciduous trees can be dug at which time of year. A "green" month means that's an ideal time for us to harvest. Yellow means we don’t recommend it. Red means that we typically will not harvest in that month. Weather patterns can shorten or widen the harvest windows.

Spring Only Dig Times

Some plants only tolerate a spring harvest. A good example is Oaks, which only tolerate harvest during the spring. We'll stock as many as we can in our holding yards, but once they are gone, that’s it until next year. Fortunately, we also grow Oaks in containers, allowing Oak inventory to last through the entire season. Other trees that are only dug in spring are Musclewood, Ironwood, Hawthorn, Eastern Redbud, and Magnolia. Shrub examples include Hazelnuts, Hydrangeas, and Bladdernut.

spring tree harvest windows and dig times at johnson's nursery

Spring & Fall Dig Times

Some plants can tolerate a spring AND fall harvest. Some popular examples are Maples, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Crabapples. Shrub examples include Burning Bush, Witchhazel, Lilacs, and Viburnums

From the time the frost leaves the ground in spring, our harvesting crews work tirelessly and efficiently to dig field grown plants for pre-orders and for stocking our holding and sales yards. This continues all growing season in summer and fall.

fall and spring tree harvest windows and dig times at johnson's nursery