Bare root hedging is literally a stem of varying height with a good root system underneath. Field grown and lifted in the winter months when the plants are dormant, bare root hedging which is often deciduous and therefore without foliage at this time, can look a little uninspiring on arrival. However, this type of hedging offers a real value for money option for hedge planting and will thrive when the spring comes.
Bare root plants are only supplied when they are completely dormant, from early/mid-November and most sizes are available until mid-late May (exact dates depend on the weather). Plants used at the end of the season are put into cold store perfect conditions when they are deeply dormant in mid-Winter, to allow the extension of the season without detriment to the success rate, providing they are planted quickly on arrival and, as with all new hedging, kept well watered. Box bare root is the exception – it can be lifted in mid October through to April.
Bare roots have the tremendous benefit of being very low cost. They are much cheaper to grow because they are planted only once and can then be left in the fields for several years rather than re-potting each year. They are also cheaper to deliver because we do not have to pay for the weight of the soil. There is though a certain failure rate – generally about 10% – (slightly more for Beech and Purple Beech) although you can improve the success rate to virtually 100% by planting with Rootgrow, and it’s worth bearing in mind that smaller plants are easier to establish.
Preparation of the site
Even if you are planting small plants, you need to prepare a substantial cleared area ready for a new hedge. We recommend you dig over a trench at least 30cm (12") wide and 25cm (9") deep for small plants (plant height up to 60cm) or wider and deeper for taller plants. Make sure the soil is easily workable. It is really important to remove all perennial weeds. Make sure there is good drainage in the trench by using a garden fork on the sides and bottom to create drainage routes. This will also make it easier for the roots to penetrate the soil and take hold.
Try not to plant:
- if it has been raining heavily as this makes the soil compacted and too "solid" for tiny new roots to grow
- when there is a very cold wind - or at least make sure the plants are out of their pots for the minimum time
If you need to improve the soil you can use well rotted garden compost, well rotted farmyard manure, or any general purpose compost (available everywhere). II the soil is very wet, you could add sharp sand or lime free course grit.
All the species we sell can be planted into decent soil without the need for soil conditioners but if you wish you can also add bonemeal to the soil as this promotes root growth. It is very important that the bonemeal does not come into contact with the plant roots or stems (it is a strong fertiliser and can "burn" the plants) so it should be mixed through the soil/compost Oust put a handful in the bottom of the planting hole and fork it through - please use a gardening glove at all times when handling fertilisers).
We also recommend the use of the RHS approved RootGrow product, particularly for bare roots. It gives plants a boost of the friendly fungi they use to help them find moisture and nutrients in the soil - use of RootGrow dramatically shortens the time it takes plants to establish and gives vigorous growth. Unlike bonemeal, RootGrow does need to be in direct contact with the roots.
If the weather is suitable and you have time to do it properly, then planting bare roots immediately is ideal, but do not be tempted to rush the job or do it in windy, wet or frosty weather. You can store them for a few days by soaking the roots in a bucket of water for up to 2 hours and then drain and keep in an unheated but protected position like a garage or shed (but not a greenhouse). Alternatively, you can "heel them in" by planting them in a bundle, the roots covered with loose soil which is kept moist. Plants that have been "heeled in" can be kept like that for a couple of weeks and sometimes longer (depending on the weather).
Avoid planting during frosts or on windy or very wet days. Wind can dry out bare roots before you can get them into the ground and very wet weather can lead to compaction around the roots, inhibiting initial root growth. If there is even a light wind, keep the bundle of bare roots in a sheltered place or in the packaging and just take out a few roots at a time, to minimise their exposure.
The trench needs to be slightly wider than the roots and the level judged carefully so that the soil level will come to the old soil mark on the stems. Spread the roots out carefully. If you are using canes on taller plants or to pin rabbit guards in place, take note of where to drive in the cane so that the roots will not be damaged.
Make sure the soil is firmed down well around the plant (but not compacted) so that there are no air pockets where frost could form. Water each plant really thoroughly (approx 5 litres per plant) and you could apply a bark mulch* (see note overleaf) around the base of each plant (but not touching the stem) to suppress weeds, protect from frost and retain moisture.