It’s time for winter bare-root planting

NOVEMBER heralds the start of the bare-root planting season so now is the ideal time for reviewing all your hedging, soft fruit, top fruit, shrub and other deciduous tree requirements.

Bare-root planting is basically garden jargon for plants that are grown in open ground and then lifted in the dormant season and sold on free of soil, compost and pots enclosing their root systems.

Bare root plants are cheaper to buy than their container-grown counterparts and are certainly easier to transport, faster to transplant and generate less waste with plastic pots. If you intend to move, newly plant or replace woody perennials this winter, November through to March is a good time to take action.

Providing the ground is not frozen or waterlogged, your plants and your pocket will benefit from winter planting. Trees, shrubs and hedging plants grow best when transplanted during the ‘dormant season’ as it allows their root systems to become established before the onset of spring. Early to mid Winter is the ideal time as depending on the year, spring planted stock may not get the chance to establish sufficient roots to supply their needs before the start of a drier season, making them much more susceptible to drying out and increasing the need for constant watering or an irrigation system.

If you are considering planting a larger specimen tree this winter the best option is a root-balled plant. Root-balled plants lie somewhere between container grown and bare-roots and are the most common mode of sale for specimen trees. Root-balled trees are trees that have been lifted from open ground with a large ball of earth around their roots, which is subsequently wrapped in a burlap or hessian-type fabric.

They are generally cheaper than if bought container-grown and more often than not, establish better than bare-root specimens. Larger specimens are ideal to screen an eyesore but other than that, you are in fact better off sticking with a young tree. Clearly, the younger they are, the cheaper they will be and in most cases require less aftercare. If conditions are right, a young tree will soon catch up or even overtake a larger specimen.

If plants purchased are bare root, containerised or root balled, it is essential that roots must not dry out prior to planting and should be covered in soil either by planting or temporarily heeling into prepared ground right away. It is always advisable to soak root balls before planting them into generously proportioned, well-prepared holes.

Always position a plant and check the plant is upright and has its sunny side out before back filling and firming in. Roots should be spread or teased out if container grown plants are used and if staking is required, factor this in at time of planting to avoid damaging roots at a later date. If rabbits or hares are a problem in your area, use a tree guard or chicken wire to protect the lower trunk from strip barking.

Depending on your needs, there are lots of specialist nurseries in Ireland with fabulous print and online catalogues brimming with excellent varieties of soft fruit, top fruit, native hedging and ornamental shrubs and trees to try.

For example Irish Seed Savers in Co Clare ( ) stock an extensive range of high quality heritage Irish Apple trees and not only will you be filling your fruit stores, but you will also be preserving a piece of our Irish biodiversity and heritage whilst supporting a great charity that works relentlessly to preserve our food heritage in Ireland. Allof its stock is grown traditionally and organically and each tree has its own history and story for you to keep for the next generation.

If it is interesting apple, plum, damson and gage varietes you are after, McNamara Rose Nurseries in Midleton, Co Cork is famous for sturdy grown stock (Tel: 087-1415739). When it comes to soft fruit, English’s Fruit Nursery in Co Wexford ( ) have an extensive collection of currants and interesting berries along with other soft and top fruit offerings. And for unusual fruit and nut trees, Woodkerne Nurseries in West Cork are specialists ( ).

As always it is best to shop locally but if you are feeling challenged by what is on offer in your local garden centre it is always comforting to know that there is plenty of choice out there and healthy interesting stock that can be ordered and delivered safely and swiftly to your door within days.


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