You know spring is almost here when bare-root plants start to show up in nurseries. Early spring is when bare-root plants are available. Most commonly, roses, fruit trees, vines, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries and even deciduous trees. These plants are sold while dormant and when planted right away have a great ability to establish quickly. Being able to see the entire root system is an added bonus as you can take care of any problems before planting.

Because bare-root plants are sold without soil, they are light and easy to handle. Without soil, it’s important the roots aren’t allowed to dry out. Roses come in prepackaged bags with dampened material around the root system. This retains moisture and helps protect the roots. Bare- root trees, however, need our help. When buying bare- root trees, plan ahead. Take a tarp or damp blankets to put around the root system while traveling home. Plant as soon as possible. If not, heeling-in is a way to keep the roots protected until you can plant. Dig a shallow trench for the roots and cover with moist soil.

Before planting, examine the root system and cut back damaged roots. Soak the roots in water for a couple of hours to rehydrate them. When digging the planting hole, make sure the hole is not too deep but wide enough to accommodate the roots without bending them or circling them around the hole. It’s better to make a clean cut and shorten the root then to circle it. Circling roots will only cause you problems down the road. In the bottom of your planting hole, make a volcano of dirt. Set the plant on top of the volcano and spread the roots down over the mound. If you’re planting a tree, the graft should be above ground and the root flare should be at ground level. The root flare is where the roots start emerging from the trunk. If you’re planting roses in the Treasure Valley the graft should be about 2 inches below ground. Backfill the planting hole with the native soil. If it’s really lousy stuff, amend it about a quarter with compost. Don’t put gravel in the bottom of a planting hole.

Bare-root trees will need to be staked. Put one on either side and do a figure eight loop around the tree with soft material so it won’t damage the bark. Allow room for a little movement. This encourages a stronger root system and trunk. Remove the stake after one year.

I know you’re itching to plant something. Try a bare-root plant and by summer’s end you should have a strong, healthy, great looking plant.

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