Plants will arrive packaged as carefully as possible using a mix of new and salvaged packing materials.
One thing you can do before your plants' arrival is to decide where they will be planted and begin to prep the area. Particularly for those of you ordering months before the bareroot planting season begins, that extra time gives you more options for site prep- for example you can spread a tarp or thick 8-12" mulch of woodchips over the planting area to smother the grass.
When your trees arrive, generally, as long as the ground isn’t frozen, its better for the trees to get in the ground even if the weather’s cold. If you don’t know where they’ll go or the ground is still frozen when they arrive, pot them up or plant them in loose rich garden soil to grow out until you know where they’ll live long term. Cuttings can go straight into their long-term home, into water to grow roots, or into garden beds to grow out for a year. The key point will all of these points is to make sure they do not dry out before planting. Try to store them somewhere cool and shady like in a garage if heeled in and awaiting planting. When you take your trees out to the field to plant, allow them 20-60 minutes to soak their roots in a bucket of water. Ensure the soil line of the tree matches ground level when planting. Compaction around the root zone can slow tree growth so use finger tips only to press soil back into place around the tree roots. And be sure to mulch the area of disturbed soil well after planting.
When planting into grassy areas: grass thrives in bacterial dominated soils and grasses can restrict water from reaching roots of trees. Trees tend to thrive in fungal dominated soils so it is important to assist in setting off the conversion to a more suitable habitat for the trees. Inoculating the planting area with a bit of mycelium from the local leaf duff then mulching with wood chips can help with this. The dense planting into deep soil prep of the Miyawaki method is also a way to help with the fungal conversion: plants are able to link up and support each other sooner when planted closely in a fungal dominant soil.
See this short video on planting cuttings. The key is to ensure cuttings do not dry out. Therefore they should be planted deeply: 80-90% of the cutting going below the soil level. You can make a slit in the ground with a spade or by hammering in a stake to the appropriate depth. The top pair of buds should be just about the soil level. Pay attention to which end of the cutting is pointed up: the buds on a branch should point slightly upwards so look for that if unsure. Not all species root from cuttings with the same ease. Elderberry, fig, willow and other riparian species are prolific rooters.
In the eastern temperate forests, the seeds of most woody perennials and wildflowers need to experience “winter” i.e. have a period of damp cold stratification. This can be packed in a fridge using play sand or damp paper towel (check periodically for mold & to replace damp paper towel if looking to avoid mold). Or you can sow outdoors in the fall just below the soil surface under a thick mulch. When working with plants, always plan for losses & this is particularly true If growing from seed (e.g. 6 pawpaw seeds could plant in as little as 12 to 24 square feet). Pawpaw are very late emerging plants so mark the locations well and keep your eyes out in May/June. Black cherry and other seeds tend to emerge between April and May in Virginia.