FAQs

Caring for your trees and shrubs

Should I soak my seedlings and transplants upon receipt?

In general, it is a good idea to soak your plants for up to 6 hours just prior to planting.  This ensures that the plant has taken up full moisture and gives them a good start.  However, if you are storing your trees longer prior to planting, we recommend putting 2-4″ of water in a bucket or tub and placing shredded newspaper or sphagnum moss around the roots. This creates a micro-climate which will hydrate the trees without drowning them.  If you would like more information on planting and care, you can be taken to our planting and care guide by clicking HERE.

What if I can’t plant immediately?

We strongly advise that you plant your stock as soon as possible. If unable to plant upon receipt of trees, try to find a walk-in cooler. Otherwise, store your trees and shrub seedlings in a cool area, away from the sun and wind.  The basement or cellar can be a good place to store them where they are not subject to temperature swings.  If it is cooler outside, a shed, barn or other unheated outbuilding works well too.  Just make sure that if the seedlings are placed in an out building, it does not heat up with the daytime sun.  It is a good idea to open the plastic liner in the box ever so slightly to allow some circulation to occur.  It is even more important to make sure the seedling roots stay slightly damp and covered with moist shredded paper or sphagnum moss.

If you need to care for your seedlings for longer than 3 to 5 days before planting, it is recommended that they are placed in cold storage at a temperature between 34 and 40 degrees.  This will help keep the seedlings dormant.  If no cold storage is available, it is recommended that you use a process of heeling them in.  To do so, dig a trench that allows the seedlings to be placed inside without the roots bending.  Cover the roots of the seedlings with soil to just above the root collar.  Water well and firm the soil with your feet.  Try to minimize the handling and breaking of bundles as much as possible.  The less handling at this time the better.

It is important to note that “Our Guarantee” only covers seedlings that are planted within a couple of days of receipt.  While caring and heeling in can be done with great success, the level of care given during this critical time can vary greatly from customer to customer.  If the seedlings are not intensively cared for before planting, the survival rate will drop greatly.

How should I space my trees and shrubs?

Spacing tips:

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to spacing as it depends on the purpose of your project.  We have compiled a small list of considerations below for you to think about when you plan your planting project.

  • When planting conifers for privacy, consider planting them in two to three staggered rows of trees.  Not only will the privacy screen fill in faster, but staggered rows will give you privacy from every angle with little or no open spaces.  Space the trees every 8 to 10 feet and space the rows the same.  In time you will have a living wall that gives you the privacy you want.
  • For commercial operations remember that someday you will need to run equipment in and around the trees.
  • The number of trees per acre will depend on how far apart you want to plant them.  This accounts for space between trees and space between rows of trees.  Here are a few spacing guidelines listed by the number of feet between seedlings: 5×5 spacing = 1,742 trees per acre, 8×8 spacing = 681 trees per acre, 10×10 spacing = 436 trees per acre, 12×12 spacing = 303 trees per acre, 15×15 spacing = 194 trees per acre.  The purpose of your project will dictate your spacing.  Planting a thicket or a privacy hedge will use much closer spacing than simply mixing trees or shrubs in for a wildlife food source.
  • Think about the tree or shrub as a mature specimen when you are planting.  The seedling you are planting may seem small now, but it is sure to grow into something large and magnificent.  In each description we provide details about the mature height and width of the tree or shrub.  If the mature width says 20 feet and you plant several of those trees with 20 foot spacing, they will eventually touch someday at their widest point.  Most people will plant the trees closer than the mature width for faster and greater coverage.

Do you have any in the field planting tips?

In the field planting tips:

When heading to the field, keeping the roots moist is critical.  Seedlings can be killed in less than 20 minutes if exposed to the drying effects of wind and sun. We have listed a couple of pointers below.

  • It is a good idea have a tub or large bucket available for planting time.  The tub or bucket should be filled with 2 to 4 inches of water mixed with shredded newspaper or sphagnum moss placed around the roots.  As long as the seedlings will not be allowed to sit for hours, it is sufficient to place the roots directly into water.  Just make sure the roots are fully submerged so they cannot dry out while in the field.
  • It is not recommended to take plastic bags containing seedlings out into the field on sunny days.  The bags can act as mini greenhouses and expose the trees to undesirable temperatures, especially in black bags which particularly absorb the sun.
  • Only take as many seedlings as you will plant in a couple of hours.  Leave the rest in a protected area out of the wind and direct sunlight.
  • After the hole is dug, dip the roots of the plant in a root gel such as our Super Gel or Super Spore products.  These products are designed to retain moisture around the root zone and release it when it is most needed.  Super Spore has addition essential fungi that will stay with the plant its entire lifetime.
  • Cover the roots with soil as soon as possible to avoid overexposure to wind and sunlight.
  • Water the trees in thoroughly to help get them off to a good start.  A regular watering routine should be implemented, especially during the first full growing season when the plants are getting established.

If you would like to review our full planting and care guide, you may do so by clicking HERE.

What measures are necessary for weed control?

Some weed control may be necessary, particularly in richer soils. The trees and shrubs you plant will be competing with weeds for soil nutrients, moisture, and fertilizer.  You may want to eliminate this problem with herbicides and/or mowing. Maintaining the area that surrounds your seedlings is an important part of survival rates.  Like anything else, the more work you are willing to put into it, the better results you will get out of it.

Order questions

Do you ship nursery stock in the fall?

While the bulk of our shipping is done each spring, a limited number of orders are taken for delivery each fall.  Orders must be placed by mid-October and two criteria must generally be met:  A minimum order of $500 (before shipping) is required and you must order a minimum of 500 of any species you are interested in.  No fruit tree selections are available for fall shipping.  If you would like more information, please contact us directly at 262-377-5330 or by email at [email protected]

Can I change my order once it is placed?

Order changes:

  • Changes to contact information:  Such as billing or shipping address, contact telephone number or updating your email address can be made by sending an email to [email protected] or calling our local nursery office at 262-377-5330.  We will make those changes and send out an updated order confirmation to you.
  • Additions to your order:  Due to the volume of orders we process, an additional order will typically be placed in the event you need additional nursery stock.  Please email us at [email protected] or call us at our local nursery office at 262-377-5330 and we will happily work with you on this matter.  *While we do our best to link multiple orders together, there is a chance they will ship at different times.
  • Order cancellations:  When an order is placed, your trees and shrubs will be held specifically for your order and will not be sold to anyone else.  When an order is cancelled late in the season, there is a good chance that we have lost our ability to resell them to another customer.  For this reason, we try to minimize order cancellations.  However, we realize that sometimes an order has to be cancelled all together due to circumstances beyond your control.  Orders cancelled prior to February 15th will be refunded at 100% of the order total.  Orders cancelled after February 15th will incur a cancellation charge equal to 25% of the total amount of the order.  (We are happy to push your delivery date to the following year in order to avoid the cancellation charge and lock in current prices.)

Will sales tax be charged on my order?

We are required by law to charge sales tax on all orders delivered to a Wisconsin address with the exception of certain tax exempt situations.  Sales tax will be charged at the local sales tax rate at the delivery address.  Orders shipped out of the state are not currently subject to sales tax.

Tax exempt orders:

In certain circumstances, orders delivered to a Wisconsin address may qualify for tax exempt status.  State and federal agencies, non-profit organizations and companies who resell our products are the three most common reasons an order would qualify as tax exempt.  To see if you may be eligible for tax exempt status, please visit the WI Department of Revenue’s website at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/faqs/pcs/s-exempt.html.

If you are deemed tax exempt, we will need to receive a tax exempt certificate before you place your order.  This will allow us to create an account for you and designate you as tax exempt.  We can then place your order for you or can use the credentials we provide to log in and place the order yourself on our website.  Please call us directly at our local nursery office at 262-377-5330 with any tax exempt questions.

Download Chief River Nursery Tax Exempt Form

This form can be sent to us by:

Other General Questions

Will my seedlings be the size you advertise?

With each tree or shrub seedling listed, you will also see a size range.  For instance, the size range may read 6-12″ or 12-24″, etc.  Please understand that based on a variety of growing and seasonal weather conditions, there will be variations in size from year to year.  Some species flourish in hot sunny weather while others will gain height and fullness in cooler weather or when seasonal precipitation is heavier.

Due to these factors, you could order a tree in the 12-24″ range two years in a row and receive mostly 12-15″ trees one year and 20-24″ trees the next.  Catalogs are printed and website details are completed each year before the growing season is finished.  We do our best to estimate the size range of the trees but give ourselves leeway by using size range.  Sizes are measured from the roots to the tip of the tree or shrub.  If you ever receive trees or shrubs outside of of the size range listed, please Contact Us so we can work with you to resolve the matter.

What are bare root seedlings and transplants?

Bare Root Seedlings

Bare root seedlings are originally planted as seed and nurtured to grow.  At some point, depending on age or height, they are lifted from the ground and sold as seedlings.  Some will be replanted and left to grow longer, transforming into an even larger and better branched tree called a transplant.  Bare root seedlings do not have soil surrounding the roots when you receive them.  This makes for easy planting and seedlings that more easily adapt to your own soil.

Bare Root Transplants

Bare root transplants had originally started as seedlings for the first couple of years.  The seedlings were then lifted from the ground and replanted, hence the name transplant.  When this is done in the correct environment, an amazing natural transformation takes place.  The transplanted seedling branches out and becomes much more dense in form.  Our transplants are well branched, healthy and beautiful.  All of the tree measurements are from the ground up and are very conservative.  Bare root simply means that the tree comes to you free of soil on the roots.  This helps reduce the price of the seedling and makes them more adaptable to the soil that you are planting them in.

What kind of trees should I buy?

Always take into consideration the type of soil on the planting site, sun conditions, and whether there is good air and water drainage. Some trees thrive in loamy, wet soils, like hardwoods; while others like dry, light conditions, like pines.  The purpose of your planting is also important.  Do you want a tree that will give you privacy, bear fruit, grace you with beautiful fall color, attract wildlife or provide shade?  These are all important considerations when planning your planting project.

In the online store portion of our website, each tree and shrub has a description that shows a map of where they are most likely to thrive.  Also described are the moisture requirements, acceptable soil types, sun/shade requirements and mature height and widths of the tree.  If you have additional or specific questions about one of our trees or shrubs, please email us at [email protected] and we will respond promptly.

Can you explain the plant hardiness and zone maps?

Planting zones were established to help us correctly plant the right plants in the right climates. The zone map was created to illustrate plant hardiness based on the weather year round including factors such as average low temperatures and special climate areas like the Great Lakes.  While it is not a hard and fast rule, planting outside of the recommended zone for a specific plant exposes you to a much higher chance of failure. For instance, a plant grown outside of its recommended zone may bud out too early for your area.  If the early bud break is followed by a frost or too low of a temperature, this can damage the plant and even cause it to perish.  For your convenience, each one of our product pages includes a map which shows the area that the plant is most likely to thrive.

Do you offer a warranty or any kind of plant guarantee?

We provide the best nursery stock available and keep our prices as low as possible.  There are many factors outside of our control once the order is delivered to you.  As a result, we have a limited plant guarantee on our nursery stock.  Please refer to the “Our Guarantee” page for full details.  You can access the page by simply clicking HERE.

What’s the difference between Super Gel and Super Spore?

Super Gel

  • Granular formula that is mixed with water to make a root dip for your seedlings.
  • The root dip is used just before placing the seedling in the planting hole.
  • Super Gel sticks to the roots, absorbs moisture when it rains and releases it to the root zone over a period of time.
  • Seedlings receive moisture over a longer period of time and the highs and lows of watering are mitigated.
  • Reduces stress on the seedlings during establishment and increases survival.

Super Spore

  • Granular formula that is mixed with water to make a root dip for your seedlings.
  • Has Super Gel mixed in along with it.
  • Includes beneficial fungi that multiplies and stays with the tree or shrub for its lifetime.
  • Includes Endo & Ectomycorhizal fungi that naturally increases water uptake.
  • Makes trees more drought resistant and more adaptable to those tough planting situations.

Receiving my tree and shrub my seedlings

When will my order ship?

Each year, Chief River Nursery takes orders between the beginning of November and late May.  The seedlings are harvested as soon as the frost is out of the ground, and shipping typically begins in early to mid-April.  All seedling orders will be delivered before Mother’s Day unless they are placed in early May or later.

When we begin shipping, orders are sent out in the order that they were placed.  However, we are mindful of orders placed in warmer and colder climates and typically ship them earlier or later on in our shipping process.  We are also respectful of orders that have requested specific shipping weeks and work those in during the process accordingly.

Customers who place their order through our website have the ability to choose a window of time in which their order is delivered.  This is located in the “Timing of Delivery” section on the checkout page.  There, customers can choose a week in April or May and we will ship the order accordingly.  When possible, we recommend using the default selection and allow us to ship your order at the most appropriate time (based on the harvest schedule and weather in your area).  This should ensure that you do not receive your order too early in the event of a late snow melt.  We do our best to monitor snow cover in all regions as we move into spring, and ship your trees or shrubs so that you do not receive them too early to plant.

If you choose to pre-arrange the date of shipping at the time of the order, this will supersede our discretion and your order will ship.  We must be alerted at least one week prior to your chosen shipping week in order to make changes to your shipping schedule.

Do you ship everywhere?

We ship anywhere in the U.S. except Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington state.  These four states have stringent regulations and require special fumigation which we do not offer.  Please note that our nursery stock begins to ship towards the beginning of April and ends towards the end of May.  We will ship orders to the warmest climates early on in our shipping process and orders in the coldest climates then follow.

Shipments to Canada are not available at this time, but we will happily ship your order to a border city within the United States.  This way you can pick the packages up and clear them through Canadian Customs on your own.  Please contact us if you need help finding a place to receive your trees near the U.S. / Canadian border.

Can I pick up my trees at your nursery?

Yes, you may pick your order up rather than have it shipped to you.  All tree and shrub seedlings are brought via refrigerated semis to our shipping facility in Grafton, Wisconsin.  Plants are typically available for pickup between the early part of April and mid to late May.  Simply select the pick up option during checkout.  In early April, please contact us to coordinate the pick up date at our nursery building.  The telephone number is (262) 377-5330.  On the morning of the date of your pickup, your order will be assembled and placed back into cold storage until you arrive.  Standard pick up hours during shipping season are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  If you need to pick up your plants outside of those times, or we are finished with our main shipping period, we would be happy to accommodate you by appointment.  A flat fee of $9.95 will be charged on each order that is placed for pick up regardless of the order size.  This fee will be charged at checkout and helps cover our costs for packaging your order.

Our shipping facility is located at 976 Ulao Road, Grafton, WI 53024.  If you would like a map or directions on how to get to Chief River Nursery, click HERE.