Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Strolling through the Garden Spot this week, you may come across a bin that looks a little strange...
Dig a little deeper... these bins are full of something much more interesting than sawdust. Buried within you will find our selection of bare root crops. Currently in stock are Seascape and Shuksan Strawberries, Crimson Cherry Rhubarb, and Jersey Supreme Asparagus. Bare root refers to plants which have gone dormant for the winter, and have been dug up and cleaned for easy transportation and transplanting. Not every plant can be preserved in this way, but those that can make for a great way to break up your gardening "to do list." This time of year is prime for planting these funny-looking plant starters, but don't delay! When it comes to planting bare root, time is of the essence, and the window of opportunity is closing in on us.
At Garden Spot Nursery, we aim to provide support to our customers in any way possible. Stick with us and we'll get you through bare root season with ease so you can harvest a beautiful and bountiful yield this summer.
Why Plant Bare Root?
Starting from bare root not only allows you to get a jump start on your summer crops, it can also save you a good chunk of change. Bare roots can come anywhere from 20 to 50 percent less expensive than traditional container plants since they cut the costs of soil and containers. This means you can grow more for less, a perk we love to bring to you whenever we can!
These roots weigh virtually nothing, making them incredibly simple to transport. This makes bare root planting a great option for our customers who have trouble with heavy lifting, those of us who want to get the kids involved in the garden, or anyone just looking for an easy transplant process.
Lastly, bare root plants tend to be much more resilient to "transplant shock," as they are dormant until they settle into their new soil. This means less worry, less work, and more reward when your plants start to sprout.
When to Start Your Bare Roots
NOW! It's already starting to warm up here in Bellingham, so you'll want to get these in the ground while they still have time to settle in before growing season. Typical planting season for bare roots is from January to April, but we find the sooner, the better.
Planting now means that your crops will stay well hydrated since soil retains moisture in the winter. You shouldn't need to water them, as they will need time to acclimate and "wake up" from their dormant stage. This happens naturally with the soil during this time. If anything, be sure that your soil is draining properly, to avoid drowning your roots before they even see the sun.
How to Grow from Bare Root
Picking the Right Roots
When picking out your roots, look for plump, healthy-looking tributaries. A good example has many successful offshoots of the main root system. This may be difficult to identify if you are new to bare roots, which is why our staff is always available to help you decide. Overall, avoid any roots that are dried and brittle, or alternatively, slimy and moldy. Don't write off an entire root system if it has some damage, however. These blemishes can be pruned to help with growth.
How to Store Bare Roots
Try to start preparing your roots within 24 hours of bringing them home. We store ours in sawdust to keep them cool and moist while you shop. If you aren't able to prepare them immediately, try to replicate this by moving them to a cool location and surround them with sawdust, soil or mulch to retain moisture until you are ready to plant. Don't let them get saturated, maintain the moisture that your dormant roots bring.
Preparing Your Roots for the Ground
Trim any damaged or unhealthy roots to unveil healthy tips. This could be anything shriveled, broken or blackened. You may also find it beneficial to trim a small amount off of each tip to assist with moisture absorption.
Now, it's time to rehydrate. Soak your roots in water for several hours, being cautious not to over soak. For example, soak them overnight and plant in the morning, or drop them in a bucket when you leave for work, then spend the afternoon getting them in the ground.
Planting Your Roots
You will want to start by digging a hole that is generously wide, but not much deeper than your roots are long. Help them grow their roots outward, expect gravity to handle the rest. Use a loamy soil or compost to fill your hole. As you surround the roots, break up some of the natural soil and mix it in with your additive. Mulch will aid with water retention, but don't crowd the stem.
Keep your soil moist, not soggy. During these rainy months, drainage is key. As the sun starts to come out, you may need to water here and there. That's it! The low maintenance of bare root planting makes up much of its appeal. You should start to see foliage by late May or early June, depending on the plant. As always, our knowledgeable staff should be able to help identify when each crop will grow.
If you are new to bare root planting, we hope you found this helpful. Stop by the shop to share your experiences with bare roots and look out for more content like this on our website, and Facebook page.