As gardeners, we seem to have got out of the habit of planting in the autumn and early winter. Yet, now is the perfect time to get bare root trees, shrubs and even perennials into the ground.
While the bare twigs of a rose or leafless hedging may not be as tempting as in the height of summer, planting between October and March will see things establishing more quickly as effort goes into root production rather than flower or leaf.
Bare root plants are usually available via mail order and describe plants and trees that are grown in the ground and then dug up prior to delivery. They’re sent without soil or pots, making them cheaper to buy. There’s also often a wider choice available.
Hedging is particularly good planted this way as it can be expensive. Try a single species, such as beech, or put in a mixed native hedge that will benefit wildlife.
Fruit trees, canes and bushes are also widely available during the dormant season.
When it comes to planting, the most important consideration is the weather. Don’t attempt to plant in ground that is waterlogged or frozen.
For best results, try to plant within days of delivery but, if conditions aren’t suitable, unpack your plants and ‘heel’ them into a spare piece of ground, or, in the case of trees and shrubs, store them in water for a few days.
Prepare the ground well before planting, removing any weeds and breaking up the soil. Dig a planting hole that is big enough to take the roots and give extra space. Adding mycorrhizal fungi will help the roots to get established.
Bare-rooted shrubs and trees will need to be placed in a bucket of water for at least half-an-hour before planting. Then place in the hole, ensuring the roots are not cramped. Do not plant too deeply but so that the top roots are just under the soil surface.
Backfill the hole and firm in. Wind rock over winter can be a problem especially when it comes to getting trees established and large trees should be staked. Roses should be pruned back to a strong bud about 15cm from ground level, 40cm on ramblers and climbers.
Water well and continue to water during the growing season. This will be important for trees and shrubs over their first summer but take care not to overwater, if your soil is poorly drained.