Questions like “how do I know this will grow?” or “when do I plant outdoors?” come to mind. The good news is that bare plants are in a dormant state and therefore in an optimal state for transplanting. They are dug from the field in late winter and are kept in cold storage until they are sent to garden centers or your home.
Mail-order nurseries will send the plants at the proper time for our zone. By using the right techniques your plants will have less recovery time and be less stressed.
Oftentimes, bare-root plants don’t look like much in the package. Here are some tips to look for when purchasing the plants. Buy fresh, the longer they sit in the store or your home the more they will dry out, break dormancy and begin to sprout. Look for shipments that have been refrigerated.
Always inspect the roots. They should be plump and firm and light in color. If they appear black or mushy or rotten looking, don’t buy them or get a refund if you got them by mail-order. A few small broken roots are ok; I often will trim the roots a bit before planting. Bare root plants are usually packed in peat moss or wood shavings. They should be slightly moist, not dried out.
Don’t delay planting. They can be planted as soon as the ground is workable in spring. Since they are dormant there is no need to worry about frost, as they will sprout after they have established roots. If there is a threat of extreme cold weather after planting, they will need some protection.
It’s important to have your planting bed ready prior to receiving your plants. If you’re like me, the bed isn’t always ready when the plants arrive. In that case, start them in pots. With pots, you get a few weeks headstart on growing and don’t have to worry if the weather gets too cold. A little tender loving care and indoor plant lights can go a long way. You can also temporarily store the plants by lightly misting the packing medium and storing them in bags for two to three days in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready to plant outdoors, place the roots in a bucket of water to soak for an hour or two. Dig the planting hole at least twice as wide and deep as the root ball. Create a mound of soil in the center to rest the root ball on and spread the roots around.
Make sure that you have the plant at the proper planting level. Usually, that means keeping the crown right at ground level unless instructions say otherwise. On plants with woody stems like trees, look for a color change in the bark to indicate where the soil covered it. Don’t plant any deeper than that line.
Water in thoroughly to settle the soil. Be careful that the soil isn’t too soggy as that can be deadly to new plants. Hold off on mulching and fertilizing until new growth is established. And don’t forget to label your new plant.
These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on “Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website, www.extension.umn.edu, or by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners.
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