Bare root planting

What are bare root plants and why should I grow them?

Bare root plants don’t come in pots, they come with roots bare of soil, ready to plant immediately.  Most of them are trees and shrubs, dug up by the nursery grower and delivered straight to you, by-passing the garden centre.

Here are the 5 top benefits of bare root plants:

1.    Buying plants online from a specialist organic grower supports their work and organic principles. You can also check that they are grown in a sustainable, peat-free way.  
2.    Buying bare root avoids the use of plastic pots.  You are reducing the amount of plastic in your growing area.
3.    They tend to have a healthier root system than those sold in pots.  Plants in pots can be months or even years old by the time you buy them from a garden centre, and many have overgrown root systems constricted by the pot.
4.    The plant gets established better.  Bare root plants are usually sold from autumn through to early spring.  Planting during this period gives the roots time to adjust to the new soil conditions, while the rest of the plant is dormant. By spring, when buds form, the roots are well established and able to bring up soil nutrients to feed the new growth.  
5.    They’re cheaper.  The plants are smaller, sometimes with only one or two year’s growth, which keeps the nursery costs down.

How do I plant them?

  • Plant immediately on arrival. If you aren't sure where to put them, plant them in a temporary bed while you plan and prepare the final growing spot. This is called ‘heeling in’.
  • Make sure the soil is frost free and not water-logged.  If conditions aren't ideal, keep bare-root plants covered for a few days in a sack to prevent them drying out.  
  • Dig a hole wide and deep enough for the roots to be covered.
  • Check planting instructions on how deep the stem needs to be. 
  • After back-filling the hole, generously mulch with leafmould and other organic material.  The worms will pull this down to feed the roots beneath.
  • Water regularly. Continue watering for the first year, especially during dry summer months.
  • Keep the plant free of weeds and grass, they will compete for soil nutrients

What can I plant?

  • Trees.  Bare root trees come as small ‘whips’. They may look small, but they will establish well and quickly catch up the growth of those larger potted plants.  And don't forget to make leafmould from the leaves in autumn!  
  • Fruit trees.  Take your pick from pears, apples and plums to cherry, quince and apricot. Most fruit trees are now grown on dwarfing root stock - this means they can fit in smaller gardens. Fruit bushes.  Bare root soft fruit includes black and red currants, gooseberry, raspberry and tayberry. Plant in sunny positions, and think of the cordials and crumbles to come! 
  • Roses. From rugosa to hybrid tea, climbers and ramblers, roses planted bare-root nearly always establish better than pot-grown ones. Be sure to plant in rich, well-composted soil for best blooms.

You can buy bare root plants online.  Many specialist organic nurseries will supply.  You can also check out fruit trees from The Organic Gardening Catalogue