Although this note is aimed mainly at planting hedging, all bare rooted plants whether they are seedlings, shrubs, soft fruit, fruit trees or large ornamental trees need the same basic treatment before, during and after planting. Follow these simple instructions and they will establish well.
By the way, this guide is for those who like words. If you prefer pictures, please watch one of our planting videos.
Bare root plants cannot stand their roots drying out. Once dry, they will at best struggle and at worst die. A little bit like finding a man who has died of thirst in the Sahara; all the cool spring water in the world will not bring him back to life. So it is with plant roots; they store nourishment which is used to regenerate themselves when transplanted, fuel growth in spring, survive droughts and fight disease. As the roots dry out, that nourishment is lost and cannot be replaced. Dry roots mean dead trees. At the same time they need to breathe and with very few exceptions, putting them in a bucket of water and leaving them there will kill them about as quickly as their drying out. So:
On receipt open the packaging carefully and put your hand down inside the bag(s). If the roots feel damp you need to do nothing for the time being. Keep them in the bag and check them daily - take the plants out and dunk the roots in a bucket of water for 10-15 seconds if they feel as if they are drying out and then put them back in the bag.
Until planting, store the plants in their bags in a cool place out of the sun and out of the wind.
On planting day have a bucket of water by you as you plant. Keep the plants in the bag and take them out one bundle at a time (or several bundles if you are planting a mixed hedge). Put the bundle(s) into the bucket so the roots are in the water. Cut the string/cable ties holding the bundles together. Then take one plant at a time from the bucket and plant it. Its roots should go into the ground sopping wet.
2. Planting depth in the soil
The single biggest cause of planting failure with bare root stock is that the plants are inserted TOO DEEP into the ground. While tree bark is wonderfully good at resisting animal and insect attack, it can rot quickly when in contact with the soil. When this happens, the flow of sap to the upper parts of the plant is cut off and the tree dies. Quickly. Therefore when planting:
Look for the root collar on each plant. Technically this is identified by a bulge in the trunk just above the roots. Practically the easiest way of seeing it is to look for the "high water mark" left by the ground where the plant was growing before it was lifted. When the planting is finished the surrounding soil should be no higher than the root collar. A good mistake is to plant too shallow. A serious one is to plant too deep.
3. Firming the plant in the ground
Be firm. Roots need to be in contact with the surrounding soil to grow, and plants need support from the surrounding soil to prevent them being rocked by the wind. Take a look at our planting films to see how firmly a professional sets his plants.
This one is simple. Keep the weeds away and make sure the roots have enough water. Watering heavily every few days in a dry spring is much better than watering a little every day. Once the ground is soaked, it stays moist for weeks at a time.