Autumn - the start of the planting season



Autumn is the start of the planting season and is the traditional time for planting most shrubs and perennials. Planting is best done between October and April. Avoid planting in soil or compost that is saturated with water. or frozen (too hard to get the spade in) soil.


Traditionally nearly all plant material was sold as either “Bare Rooted” or” Root balled” .

Bare rooted plants were grown in the nursery and then lifted once the temperature had dropped sufficiently to allow the plant to become dormant. Soil was shaken off the roots and the plants sold simply as roots and stems.


Bare-root plants should be planted with the main structural roots near the soil surface. Planting holes should not be dug so deeply that loose backfill is required to elevate the plant to the correct height. Roots should be spread and distributed to prevent kinking or circling. Exposure of the roots to air can lead to desiccation; thus, the backfill should be placed firmly around the roots to minimize air pockets. It is also recommended to water as you gradually backfill the planting hole.


Plants with larger root systems were sold with ball of soil retained around the roots system. The root system was wrapped in hessian or similar and this was secured to the root system with twine or wire. To preserve the fine root system and protect from desiccation and frost. Trees and shrubs dug in this manner have better transplantation success than the equivalent bare root trees and shrubs.


The roots on a rootballed tree have usually been undercut (root pruned). They may also have been transplanted several times. This movement and root pruning will encourage the fibrous root system to develop. The other main advantages of bare root and root balled nursery stock is that the plants will have been grown in soil in the open ground rather than commercial potting compost This will encourage successful establishment as the soil around the roots is closer in texture to garden soil .


Now a days the commercial nursery growers have moved towards containerized and container grown plants the big advantage of these methods of plant production is that they can be planted at any time of year. Although for the best results planting should be done between November and April.


Container grown plants are those which are grown from seed/plug/cuttings etc on a container or pot. As they grow they may be re-potted into larger pots but will remain in pots until sold. Containerized plants are those which were grown in soil in the open ground and are then dug up and planted into containers or pots. The root system of a containerized tree is surrounded by soil or a substrate that is held within a container. If the plant is containerized rather than container grown and If they have recently been potted, there will not be an established root system in the container. Containers must be removed before planting, unless they are biodegradable, such as natural peat pots. It still might be preferable to remove a biodegradable container unless the root system will not hold together without it.


When selecting container grown plants, the root system should be checked. Sometimes the roots will have grown in circles and matted within the container and must be pulled apart. If properly watered and maintained, container-grown trees can be planted any time

of the year that the ground is not frozen. If planted after leaf drop, roots can begin establishment before the next growing season.


Rootballed plants are often favoured over container grown plants as they have been grown in soil in the open ground rather than commercial potting compost, but the roots being pruned will put set- back in the tree, whereas a container tree has no damage to the roots.





The most vigorous root growth occurs near the surface. Root growth from the lower portions of the ball is often reduced due to inadequate soil drainage and aeration. This should be taken into consideration when digging the planting hole. Ideally, the planting hole should be two to three times the width of the root ball at the soil surface, sloping down to about the width of the root ball at the base.





This article has been written by Stephen Charles, one of our Directors. Stephen set his company up in 1984 and remains one of the most affluential landscapers and designers in Richmond Upon Thames.

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