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Buying & planting field-grown trees in winter

Winter is a great time plant new trees and hedges as long as the ground is not frozen.  An advantage of winter planting is that you can buy young field-grown trees and hedging plants more cheaply than pot-grown specimens.   As the name suggests field-grown trees are grown in open fields and lifted (dug up) just before delivery to you or the nursery.

Bare-root plants are lifted and the soil shaken off the roots which are then protected Young Apple tree photobut often just with a hessian or plastic sack.  Time is of the essence with as short a delay as possible between the plants being lifted and replanted or at least ‘heeled in’ to a temporary bed.  This is what you will probably see if you view bare-roots plants at a nursery.  The roots are inevitable damaged when any plant is dug out of the ground and it is the tiny root hairs that do the major work of absorbing water and nutrients.  It is crucial that these do not dry out and die back.

Root-balled plants are similarly field grown but a larger ball of soil is retained round the roots so there should be less damage and less tendency to dry out so quickly.  In both cases the trees need to be planted soon after arrival and the roots kept moist and frost free if you need to store them for a few days.

Bare root hedging is a very economical purchase even allowing for a few failures.  Most suppliers offer individual varieties such as English Yew or Beech or a bundle of ‘mixed native’ hedging.  This is a good choice for a boundary hedge adjoining open countryside and provides a mix of deciduous shrubs with autumn colour and berries and evergreens for winter privacy.

The bare-root and root-ball season is November to March but order early especially for the less common varieties of fruit trees as there is a finite stock of trees grown each year and they take 3-4 years to prepare.

Happy Gardening from Alison

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