guide to the bare-root season

Planting a tree seems very simple. If you don’t plant it upside down, what could be wrong? Simply dig a pit, place the roots in the hole, fill it with earth, pour abundantly, and Bob is your uncle. Right? Not quite. As the bustling nude-rooted season kicks off this month, here’s a helpful little guide.

Container-grown, bare-rooted or root ball

Container-grown trees can be purchased year-round in nurseries and horticultural centers, while bare-rooted and root-balled specimens are only available during the so-called bare-root season, which usually runs from early November to late March. when deciduous species fell off their leaves and came to winter dormancy. The advantage of container-grown trees is that they can be planted at any time of the year as long as they are watered during dry periods. The disadvantage of gardeners is that they are significantly more expensive than their bare-rooted counterparts and are much more difficult and bulky to transport, which also makes them more expensive to consider when ordering online. Because the shape and size of their root system is determined by the pots they grow in, they are often more labor and time consuming to plant.

Water the tree immediately after planting. Photo: iStock

By comparison, bare-rooted specimens are significantly cheaper, easier to transport, more environmentally friendly (no need to worry about plastic pots or compost), and are less time-consuming to plant because of their smaller root ball. The disadvantage is that their bare root system makes them much more vulnerable to damage and dehydration, which means that special care must be taken during transport, storage and planting. For this reason, they can only be planted in the bare root season, when the plants are at rest.

The root-ball trees available during the dormancy period are located somewhere in between, their (often pruned) root system is not enclosed in pots but enclosed in soil and wrapped in a protective layer or plastic. Like bare-rooted specimens, they should be handled with care, stored in a cool, dark place, their root system kept moist, and planted as soon as possible after purchase.

Trees grown in containers should be inspected to make sure they are not in pots.  Photo: iStock

Trees grown in containers should be inspected to make sure they are not in pots. Photo: iStock

Choose a healthy plant

Avoid container-grown trees with a potted root system that have been deficient in nutrients and forced for too long. Carefully pull the wood out of the tile to check. If the base of the root ball was a very dense mat of fibrous and woody roots with little compost, it was almost certainly in its tank for too long. Also avoid trees with broken branches (especially if this is the main vertical shoot that affects its possible size and shape) or trees with an uneven silhouette. For bare-rooted and root-ball-bearing trees, choose healthy specimens whose root system shows no signs of being allowed to dry out or are exposed to bright sunlight, warm temperatures, or drying winds.

The right plant, in the right place

A much-quoted mantra that some gardeners moan about is a cliché for a reason. If you provide a particular tree species / variety with the growth conditions it needs, you are already doing a lot to benefit the cubes.

Take the time to think carefully about making the right choice. Unless shaded by nearby buildings and / or installed trees and hedges, the south or west location is considered full of sunshine, while the north and east are cool and shady. Also consider the soil type of your garden (fertility, structure, pH and free flow) and the local climate. Not sure? Get inspired by local gardens that have similar growing conditions to yours and add the trees that bloom to them to the shortlist.

Planted with a tree root ball.  Photo: iStock

Planted with a tree root ball. Photo: iStock

Ideally, these are species that have been shown to be resistant to pests and diseases that are of interest in several seasons and that can be conveniently located in the garden as well as in the larger landscape. Last but not least, consider the possible size and distribution of the selected species / variety and its growth rate. Is there a good chance that it will outgrow the location of your choice, possibly cast too many unwanted shadows, or that your spreading root system will extend too close to the foundations, walls, cladding, or underground drains of nearby buildings? All good gardening centers and nurseries have experienced, knowledgeable staff who will guide you in this regard.

Venue preparation

No tree likes to be planted in a soil full of weed-infested, compact, buried debris. Therefore, take the time to properly prepare the planting site, using a garden spade, fork and / or strong garden pick to remove the stubborn, greedy roots of perennial weeds and the invading roots of nearby plants, as well as large stones and construction debris. .

If possible, break up large nuggets and lumps; the goal is to create something nicely crumbly, crumbly, and well-ventilated. If the soil is very poor and stony, repair it by processing a little well-rotted organic matter (manure, home garden compost or products such as enrich.ie). If you are very poorly drained, work with a lot of coarse gardening ground. Avoid the easy mistake, however, of kindly killing the tree and putting enough compost and / or well-rotted manure into the soil for the planting pit to act as a winder that fills up quickly with rainwater in the winter. Similarly, excessive soil modification can deter a tree’s evolving root system from spreading outward during fresh nutrient and water hunting. The result is a narrowed, less resilient, less stable root system that has implications for the long-term health and viability of the tree.

The most common mistake is planting too deep.  Photo: iStock

The most common mistake is planting too deep. Photo: iStock

Round or square planting hole

The traditional advice has always been to dig a round, deep hole, but recent research has shown that a wide, square, shallower hole is best for promoting rapid, healthy root development. For bare-rooted specimens, carefully extend their roots in the planting pit before filling them and aim for a planting hole approximately 150 cm x 20 cm wide and deep.

Plant preparation

For container-grown or bare-rooted trees, be sure to water the roots thoroughly 30 to 60 minutes before planting. If they still appear dry, do this a few times or gently soak the root ball in a wheelbarrow full of clean water enriched with a little liquid seaweed to promote good rooting. If the roots show early signs of potting, loosen them gently. The roots of bare-rooted specimens should be completely immersed in water for about 30 minutes before planting.

The right planting depth

The most common mistake is planting too deep. Instead, the newly planted tree should be in a very slightly raised ground with the “trunk breakout” – at the point where its roots begin to extend from the bottom of the tree – just above ground level (2-3 cm). If in doubt, look for the so-called nursery line on the trunk and plant it to match the finished ground level. When filling, always carefully secure the ground with your feet to get rid of airbags that could later lower the ground. For the same reason (as well as to hydrate the roots) immediately after planting, water the tree carefully but abundantly and then do so with shallow organic mulch, keeping away from the trunk.

Stake or no stake

The once-usual advice to put all newly planted trees in the stakes has been surpassed by research that suggests it can do more harm than good if it deters the development of strong, resilient root systems that can cope with local conditions. Instead, it is now only recommended for larger specimens that are likely to suffer from root rocks or that are in extremely exposed locations.

If / ha pruning is required, use a wooden peg or double pile with a crossbar (the latter for larger trees) up to a height of 50 cm and place it on the side of the tree facing the wind to avoid damage from accidental winds. the trunk. In order to avoid permanent damage to the tree trunk, disfigurement, and jamming (a kind of slow strangulation), the pruned trees should be inspected regularly and, if necessary, their rubber band should be loosened loosely, and the stalks removed completely a few years after planting.

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