The sunlight is beginning to stick around longer each day, making gardeners and homeowners equally giddy about their new arrivals. Now is the time to begin ordering for the spring planting season – but what are green-thumbs to do if the new trees show up at an inconvenient time?
Although a hardy method of shipping and transporting trees, root balled stock still needs to be treated with care. The extra soil tends to make these saplings much heavier and more prone to being dropped or injured. Do not use plastic to cover the root balls, but instead use canvas, peat moss, etc. The ball should be kept moist and unfrozen.
Some trees, whether bare root or root ball, are packaged in a way that will stand up for several weeks in a cool area. Be sure to find out from the nursery or shipping company what the exact instructions for care may be. If left to get too warm, trees may begin to break dormancy and must be removed from packaging and either potted or transplanted immediately.
Storing bare root trees has always proved to be much more difficult than handling root balls or potted varieties. Dormant trees have a couple of reliable options. If it will be a few weeks before tree planting, make sure to soak the roots for an hour or so in water – let them get a nice, long drink. A cool garage or shady corner outdoors will work for storage, but roots should be misted occasionally to keep moist. If a tree arrives that has already broken dormancy an executive decision will be required: it must be heeled in outdoors or potted. The pot will need to be covered with mulch, leaves, or snow to be kept insulated in the chilly late winter and early spring.