A GROWING CONCERN: Dynamic duo of bare-root and transplant

I KNOW I’VE been talking about bare-root items for a while and the value of transplanting, but one more time, I must dedicate yet another article because these two, in tandem, are such a dynamic duo.

Now is the time for planting large-root material, such as trees, shrubs, roses, vines, grass clumps, ground cover and bushes.

Let’s first focus on bare-root plants.

This is an incredible way to get top-grade or large-size (caliper) trees, bushes and shrubs.

Even such items as roses, grapes, blueberries or raspberries can and should be bought this way.

The advantages are numerous.

First, the time is right because March is still an easy yard month.

The grass is growing slowly, as are the weeds, and your flowers are still a ways off.

Planting bare-root now is a job that can be easily scheduled. Current weather is perfect for these plants.

Moisture and temperature are ideally suited for a gradual, even-paced breakout from transplant shock and dormancy.

Larger size plants for the price can always be obtained.

Bare-root plants are far less costly to ship, package, bundle and need less retail space.

Availability also is a factor, being that many horticultural businesses stock certain varieties only in bare-root form.

These varieties are often highly prized.

Which brings us back to time.

Bare-root plants appeared a few weeks ago at outlets and because their window of planting is only a few months long (certain items can be bare rooted in time here) this source is only open to you now.

Next question is, what do I do with this bare-root item?

That’s a good question, since care and planting vary slightly from container-grown or balled items.

Keeping the roots moist is critical. If they are dry at the store you might as well move on.

Sitting in water too long also can be deadly to plants. Well dampened medium is the preferred storage.

Be it wood shavings in a bag or heeled in soil, the condition should be cool and damp.

Transport your plants this way, covering the roots with wet cloth or bags.

Once home, trim off all broken or exceptionally long roots and soak in a slurry of compost, lukewarm water and a couple teaspoons of water-soluble fertilizer.

While soaking, have your holes prepared.

Dig them deep and wide enough to have plenty of room for the roots to spread out.

If the soil is hard, loosen up the bottom dirt.

Add a good compost mixture and work into the bottom soil.

Next, place the plants so as not to be below the old soil line.

Slightly deeper is preferred, and you will notice the soil line on the stem as an off-coloration.

Gently fill around the roots with well-mixed topsoil.

Make sure to work the soil around the roots with your hands to eliminate air gaps.

When ¾ of the hole is filled, thoroughly soak the hole with water.

Then tap in lightly the remainder of soil and water at least four times that day and twice the next day. After a few days, form a dish with soil to keep a moisture basin for the first few months.

Finally, remember to shape, prune and clean out your plants before you stake them. This should be done immediately after planting.

Next, we’re in the time of transplant.

Right now would be good for moving perennials, grasses, shrubs, flowers, trees and ferns that you want in your yard from someplace else.

For too many of us, our plants have grown crowded together. Transplant them now.

Others of us have plants we desire in a different or more prominent place. Transplant them now.

Please keep in mind that transplanting invariably involves injury to the plant. Work hard to avoid damage.

Above all, dig entirely around the plant a shovel dig or two, because whipping back on the shovel rips and tears roots. It can break your shovel also.

Again, trim damaged or diseased roots and limbs away.

Compensate for root loss with an overall prune, but do not prune away the central leader unless the resulting effect is desired.

Remember evergreens that are being dug up really want a good intact soil ball to be successfully transplanted. Ball soil with cloth or burlap and secure tightly — you won’t be wasting your time moving an unhealthy tree.

Promise me you are all thinking about your hanging baskets and flower boxes. Then go out and get yourself a spring blooming ornamental.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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