Bare-root stock, if handled
properly, is one of the best bargains. Survival rates of 95% to 99% are
typical. It is an economical means of acquiring nursery stock because:
the plants are grown in the ground like a field crop, they are removed
from the ground with efficient machinery or cheap labor, they are stored
in refrigerated and humidified warehouses, the freight costs from the grower
to your nursery are small because of the absence of heavy soil and they
are held in beds of moist sand or potting media awaiting your purchase.
If their roots are not allowed to become dry and die anytime between being
dug up and being placed in your landscape or orchard, all will be well.
However, most failures with bare-root stock occur after the ultimate consumer
(you) has acquired it. Dig the square hole before you go to the nursery.
As insurance, take an old wet blanket (no, not him) wrapped in a tarp to
place around the precious bundles at the nursery. Drive straight home,
don't leave the plants in the back of the truck or in the trunk any longer
than is necessary. Place the wrapped bundles outdoors, in the shade and
protected from wind. Remove each plant, one at a time, from its moist cocoon.
Place it so the top of the soil stain on the stem is at soil line. Make
sure the square hole is deep enough, if not, place the plant in a bucket
of water and keep digging. Cut off all damaged roots. Use the recommended
number of 21-gram, 2-year fertilizer tablets. Fill the hole carefully with
unamended soil identical to that in which it will grow (without the bigger
rocks). Take care to spread out each root horizontally as the backfilling
reaches its level. Water it in with root stimulator solution or dilute
water-soluble fertilizer. Till the ground 6 inches deep in a 3 foot radius
around the newly planted tree and cover the tilled circle with 4 inches
of a shredded hardwood mulch. Certain fruit trees must be topped at planting
time, most other bare-root plants are not pruned at all. Do not over-water
the plants, strive to keep the soil just moist.
A balled-and-burlapped plant,
like a bare-root plant, is economically grown in the ground. It is dug
manually or mechanically with an intact ball of the soil in which it has
grown. To keep the natural soil ball entire, it is wrapped with real burlap
or a woven plastic sheeting held in place, with quickly-rusting nails and
it is further secured with sisal or polypropylene twine or a wire basket.
The root balls must never dry out and they must never be fractured. A broken
ball means severed roots and a diminished chance of survival. A balled-and-burlapped
plant must NEVER be handled by the stem. Handle only the bound ball
of soil. The root balls of balled-and-burlapped stock are normally buried
in moist mulch or sand while being displayed for sale. Balled-and-burlapped
stock is more expensive than bare- root because of the increased labor
costs of digging and wrapping and also the much higher freight costs.
When planting a balled-and-burlapped
plant, dig the hole 90% the height of the root ball; for example, a 9 inch
deep hole for a 10 inch high root ball. The lateral dimensions of
the square hole should be 3 to 4 times the width of the root ball. Lifting
the plant by the root ball, place it in the hole. Use the recommended number
of 21-gram, 2-year fertilizer tablets. If it is wrapped in real, biodegradable
burlap, backfill halfway up the root ball with unamended soil identical
to that in which it will grow. Cut all the twine from the upper hemisphere
of the root ball and peel back the natural burlap. Finish backfilling the
hole with more unamended soil. Water it in with a root stimulator solution
or dilute water-soluble fertilizer. Till the ground 6 inches deep in a
3 foot radius beyond the edge of the square hole. Cover the tilled area
with 4 inches of a shredded hardwood mulch. Should the ball come wrapped
in a woven plastic fabric, place the root ball in the hole. Remove all
the twine and woven plastic sheeting from the sides and top of the root
ball by cutting it away. Leave a disc of woven plastic sheeting at
the bottom of the root ball. Backfill as described above. Do not prune
balled-and-burlapped stock planted during the dormant season. Do not over-water.
Water newly-planted balled-and-burlapped plants when the soil of the original
root ball is dry 1 inch down.
Ain't technology sumthin? Imagine
growing plants in the ground with their roots contained in a special bag.
Grow-bags consist of a solid plastic bottom sewn and/or fused to cylindrical
walls of a root-constricting, man-made, felt-like fabric. Plants growing
in grow-bags can be removed from the ground even during the growing season.
The cylindrical bags are dug up by hand or machine. Unearthed grow-bags
can be stored in moist sand or mulch, but are usually planted immediately.
They are planted within a few days either in pots or where they are to
grow for the rest of their life. In either case, the fabric sides and the
plastic disc at the bottom are removed completely. When planting a tree
or shrub in a grow-bag, dig the square hole 90% to 95% the height of the
root ball. The width of the square hole should be 3 to 4 times the diameter
of the root ball. Use the recommended number of 21-gram, 2-year fertilizer
tablets. Backfill the square hole with the unamended soil from the site.
Till the ground 6 inches deep for 3 feet beyond the edges of square hole
and cover the tilled area with 4 inches of a shredded hardwood mulch.
These monstrosities are normally
seen in the temporarily fenced-in, parking lot nursery sales yards of "value
merchandisers" who sell plants only during the peak spring season. They
consist of bare root plants whose roots are mangled, twisted and enclosed
in peat-moss-filled plastic sausages or cardboard boxes. Their shelf life
is very short. Their life expectancy, once in the landscape, is usually
measured in days. May they rest in peace.
A containerized plant was originally
grown in the ground and harvested either bare-root, balled-and-burlapped
or in a grow-bag. They are potted and held by a nursery until their roots
form a cohesive root ball. These plants incorporate the economies associated
with growing in the ground with the convenience to the consumer of being
acquired in pots. The major problem with containerized plants is in the
case of those which come from bare-root stock. Those who pot them up seldom
take the time to position the roots correctly as the pot is filled with
soil. This leads either to all the roots being pressed together in the
center of the pot and/or to very long roots being left coiled around the
sides of the pot to form girdling roots in the future. Such stock should
be root pruned before being planted. A containerized tree or shrub is planted
in a square hole exactly as deep as the root ball and at least 3 to 4 times
its width. Use the recommended number of 21-gram, 2-year fertilizer tablets.
Backfill the hole with unamended soil identical to that which exists on
the site (discard the bigger rocks). Till the ground 6 inches deep in a
3 foot span beyond the edges of the hole and cover the tilled ground with
4 inches of a shredded hardwood mulch.
These are grown, obviously,
in containers from the time the seed is sown or the cutting rooted. The
plants are stepped up from 2 1/4 inch "rose" pots to 1 gallon black plastic
pots to 2, 3 or 5 gallon black plastic pots and a few further stepped up
into 7, 10 or 15 gallon pots. Some large shrubs or trees are again stepped
up into 20 gallon or larger containers. Plants grown in containers usually
take longer to reach a certain size than field-grown plants. This longer
time to reach a marketable size plus the costs of stepping up to ever larger
containers plus the cost of potting media (not soil) plus the costs of
frequent irrigation and constant fertilization plus the costs of providing
winter protection (even for otherwise hardy plants) make container-grown
plants more expensive than field-grown plants. Container-grown plants are
planted exactly like containerized plants.
Boxed specimens are started
from container-grown plants or are containerized in wooden boxes. Boxed
nursery stock is also stepped up to ever larger boxes. Such plants are
usually sold in 24", 30", 36" or 48" boxes. Boxed trees in 96" and larger
sizes are also available, they do, however, sell for thousands of dollars.
Much of the stock produced in boxes is trees disparagingly referred to
as "Lollipop Trees". They are the specimens with a single, straight trunk
and a symmetrical ball of foliage which some Landscape Architects specify
routinely. They are the trees one sees arrayed in a boring and unnatural
geometric grid at the entrance to a subdivision or office park or by an
office building. Aside from their very high cost, boxed specimens very
often carry a fatal flaw. If the plants are not stepped up often enough
and if corrective root pruning is not performed at such times, the roots
will stay in the shape of the box and never leave those dimensions, even
after being in the ground several years. Such trees never become well-established
and they are, regrettably, quite short-lived. Do not plant a boxed specimen
before first inspecting its root system. Remove the walls of the box and
wash away the outer layer of soil from one side of the root ball and reject
any boxed plant which has only 3/8 inch or larger roots exposed. The absence
of fine roots indicates possible problems in the future. Boxed plants are
planted exactly like plants in grow-bags. Watch their water needs closely
for the first year. Over-watering will kill them quickly in our heavy,
Advertising to the contrary,
there are not different grades of sod, as far as I am concerned. Sod consists
of at least 99.99% of the specific grass clone being purchased, with enough
of a soil layer to bear the roots necessary to survive transplanting. "Sod"
consists of two or more kinds of grass or it is that which harbors noxious
weeds like Nut Sedge, Common Bermudagrass, etc. It is produced by sloppy
grass farms. I suggest you buy sod, not "sod". Sod should be delivered
to the planting site within 24 hours of being cut. It must be placed on
the ground within 48 hours of being cut. No exceptions. Sod is placed on
graded, weed-free top soil which is moist 1/2 inch down. The perennial
weeds, like Johnsongrass, Nut Sedge or Common Bermudagrass are removed
in the months before sodding, with a glyphosate-containing herbicide. Sod
is ideally placed by two persons with a third person watering it with a
hand-held hose as soon as it hits the ground. The first course is placed
against the front curb or foundation of the house. Blocks in subsequent
courses are placed with their seams offset. Once the topsoil and sod are
very wet, they are rolled numerous times with a roller as least 1/2 full
of water. The sod is to be watered often until the rectangles cannot be
picked up because rooting has occurred. Afterwards, the lawn is watered
whenever the blades of grass first show evidence of wilting in the morning.
To achieve deeper water penetration, a lawn is watered on 2 consecutive
mornings and not watered again until evidence of wilting first appears
in the morning.