Planting bare-rooted plants

Bare rooted trees

Winter’s the season for planting the vast range of bare-rooted trees, vines, roses and shrubs.

These are the deciduous (lose-their-leaves-in-winter) plants that are produced in the traditional European manner. They are grown in the ground and then, during their winter-dormant period, are dug up before having the soil removed from around their roots. They can then be shipped to plant retailers all over the countryside. This is an economical way to produce good-sized plants that will take off with gusto in spring – if they are well treated at planting time.

Some plant sellers ‘heel’ their bare-rooted stock into holding beds (pictured). The beds are filled with a light, sandy mix that keeps the roots from drying out but allows the plants to be easily removed. Others bag the roots into plastic pouches filled with moisture-holding material. This is most commonly done with roses.

Some retailers pot the stock into containers as soon as it arrives in store. This means fewer worries if the plants don’t sell quickly, but can be a trap for the inexperienced. Because the plants have so recently been placed in the pot, the potting mix will often fall away at planting time. Don’t be too surprised if this happens. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the roots – they just haven’t yet had time to re-grow.

While it’s important to get the plants into the garden bed or pot as quickly as possible, a little preparation beforehand will make a big difference to the plant’s future. Choose the new spot with care. If planting a tree, make sure you allow enough space for it to reach its ultimate size.

Mix some organic matter (compost or manure) into the soil in the planting area and add some gentle Yates Blood & Bone or Dynamic Lifter pellets. Long-lasting Magamp fertiliser is another good suggestion. If the soil is clayey, mix in some Yates Garden Lime at the same time. Dig a hole that’s one-and-a half to two times wider than the roots and create a small mound in the base.

Prune the plant to shorten the shoots and compensate for lost roots. Water well and allow to drain, then place the plant in the hole, spreading the roots over the mound in the base. Make sure that the bud union – the slightly dog-legged bump where the plant was grafted – is well above ground level. Fill the soil back into the hole and water again to firm into place.

Most newly-planted trees will need the support of a stake but it’s important that the stake doesn’t become a crutch. If tied too firmly to the stake, the tree can ultimately end up weaker. Use soft, figure-of-eight ties that allow a little bit of trunk movement.

The first growing season is the most important, as this is the one when the plant has to make up for any lost roots. Regularly add Yates Nature’s Way Seaweed Tonic to the water to promote root growth. Feed a couple of times over the warm months with some Dynamic Lifter pellets. Cover the roots with an organic mulch. Make sure the plant doesn’t lack water, especially during its first summer.


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