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Vermont Garden Journal: Getting to the Roots

04/22/11 5:55PM By Charlie Nardozzi

Bare root trees ready to be planted.

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I like to get to the root of an issue. In the garden that means the bare root. Bare rooted trees, shrubs, and roses are plants dug in winter or early spring from a nursery with the soil removed from their roots. While most are packed and shipped through the mail this time of year while the plants are still dormant, roses are found in bare root packaging in garden centers.

The plants young and small, so they are light weight and easy to plant. And they're a lot  cheaper than buying larger, potted, plants.

But you have to plant them properly. As soon as they arrive, unwrap the bare rooted plant and soak the roots in warm water for 3 to 6 hours. Mix some water absorbing polymers into the bucket of water. These polymers expand into a jelly-like mass and cling to the plant's roots helping them stay moist when planting.

Dig a 3-foot diameter hole that's deep enough so the soil is just above the root crown (the area above the roots). For roses plant so the graft union (the bulging area between the stem and roots) is a few inches below the soil. Pack the native soil around them, and water well to remove air pockets. Don't amend the soil with compost unless it's really poor. However, consider adding mycorrhizae powder to the hole. Mycorrhizae is a naturally-occurring symbiotic fungus that helps roots retain water and take up nutrients better. Create a mote to hold water around the edge of the hole and mulch with a 2- to 4 inch thick layer of bark mulch, keeping the bark mulch away from the trunk.

Now for this week's tip, prune back any cracked and snow damaged limbs on your shrubs to the trunk or a main branch. Consider even removing non-damaged limbs to balance the structure.  You may lose some flowers, but you'll have a healthier shrub. Next week on  the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about dandelions. For now, I'll be seeing you in the garden!


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trees roots shrubs gardening graft planting vermont_garden_journal charlie_nardozzi environment education
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