What happens if the ground is frozen before I can plant?

Introduction Bareroot plants in cold weather

The key point is this: Roots break easily if they are disturbed when they are frozen. This is important because:

  • Almost all of a shrub or tree's food reserves are stored in the roots during winter. Breaking roots reduces the ability of the plant to establish.
  • Broken roots lead to poor establishment and subsequent growth in spring and the plant will simply die if the damage is too bad.

Placing your order in freezing weather

Do not let the weather stop you ordering online and selecting your preferred delivery week as soon as possible.

This will:

  • Allow us to reserve your plants before they sell out.
  • Keep you a place in the queue for the delivery week you choose. Cold weather reduces the number of weeks in which we can lift and ship and we would hate to turn you away!

Please remember that no money is taken from your card until right before delivery. Just Contact Us if you need to cancel your order.

Delayed delivery

We lift plants and pack and send them out to you whenever there is a break in the weather.

However, because the carriers we use can face poor road conditions in cold weather, please recognise that delivery delays happen. In cold weather your plants will be fine; normally we say they can stay in their packaging for about 2 weeks but in near zero temperatures, that period is much longer.

  • If the ground here at the nursery is frozen, lifting plants is impossible. We will email you if this happens.
  • If your soil is frozen and you would prefer that we held your order back, please Contact Us. We will change your order to suit. Otherwise, we will send your plants out as soon as we can. We cannot promise delivery on a certain date in these conditions.

Delayed planting

  • You cannot plant when your soil is frozen or when it is snowing, or when air temperatures are below zero.
  • You should store your plants in a cold place (outside is best) but never in direct sunlight. Open the parcel so the tops of the plants are in the open air. You will find the roots are in a black polythene bag and they should stay inside this while the freeze continues.
  • You should not store your plants indoors although a cold outbuilding is fine.
  • All hardy plants can be kept in their packaging for about 14 days without any attention and indefinitely when the temperature is below freezing.
  • You must not move your plants in freezing weather once you have put them somewhere safe and out of the sun. Just leave them alone until the ground is soft enough to dig.

What happens if I am frozen in all winter?

If your plants are stored outside, frozen and out of the sun, they need no attention at all and will be perfectly happy for months.

The winter planting season ends when spring begins, which usually means in early March.

However, long cold periods delay the onset of spring. If we have a hard winter, it will be safe to plant bareroot trees hedging later.

So there is no reason to panic or hurry!

When can I get planting?

Follow the country proverb: "when the ground is soft enough to plant, the plants are soft enough to be in the ground."

When the soil turns easily, and the temperature is above freezing:

  • Unpack your order.
  • Wet its roots really well. Do not drown them, but leaving in a bucket of cold water for 6-8 hours will help them rehydrate.
  • Keep them in a bucket and plant them straight from the bucket so the roots are sopping wet as they go into the ground.
  • Otherwise plant them as normal!

Please do not forget to water newly planted bareroot stock at least from mid March to the end of June. It is the single most important thing you can do to ensure quick establishment and healthy growth.

You can watch our How to Plant videos for more help with this bit:

What if my soil freezes again after planting?

Don't worry, it does not matter. Your plants will be just fine. So:

  • Leave them alone until the ground has completely thawed out.
  • When it is soft again, GENTLY firm the soil back around your plants by using the ball of your foot. No stamping!
  • Always check your plants after a frost for their first couple of winters and firm the soil again when it has thawed.

We want to make it clear that all this fuss about frost only applies to the time you plant your trees. Almost all of the plants we grow are fully hardy and will do just fine once they are in the ground.

All of our native hedging plants and big trees are directly descended from plants (many still alive) that survived the fierce winters of the late 19th century and the 1940s. Some can probably trace their ancestry back to the Ice Age...

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Thank you, The Ashridge Nurseries Team.

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