The recent rains have made the soil in the Santa Clarita Valley soft and easy to dig. Now is the time to get to the nursery for your bare root roses, trees and vines.
The term “bare root” means plants that are dormant (without leaves) and not planted in soil, or a pot.
Bare root SCV
Mike Wronkowski, nursery manager of Green Thumb Nursery, said bare root planting season lasts until early March.
In the SCV, Wronkowski said fruit trees, roses, grapes, rhubarb, strawberries and asparagus all do well.
Fruit trees and roses are among the most popular bare root plants in the SCV.
“I try to corner the fruit tree market,” said Wronkowski. “You can find just about any kind of fruit tree you want in stock now.”
Wronkowski said peaches, nectarines and plums, as well as persimmons, are very popular in the SCV.
Also popular is what Wronkowski called the “fruit salad” fruit tree.
“It has peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines all growing on one tree,” he said.
Buying bare root
When buying bare root plants make sure to examine the plants carefully before purchase.
There should not be any mold or mildew on the plants or on their packaging.
You should not smell any rotten or “funny” odors. If it smells like dirt, or earth, that is okay.
Make sure the plant is not damaged, a few broken twigs on a bare root fruit tree are okay, but the main branches should be unbroken.
Experts suggest avoiding purchasing a bare root plant that already has new growth.
Roots, rhizomes and other parts should feel “heavy.” If the bare root plant feels unusually light, it most likely has dried out and the roots are dead.
Do not buy more bare root plants at one time than you can plant in 24 hours. After you get your bare root plants home, don’t let the roots dry out.
Planting bare root
Before planting make sure to carefully unpack the roots and spread them out. Remove all the packing material from the roots.
Never cut the roots to fit the hole, dig the hole wider or deeper to accommodate the roots.
Place the root portion of the plant in a bucket of water and let it soak before you plant. For trees soak three to six hours. Do not soak the roots for more than 24 hours. For perennials, asparagus, strawberries, 30 minutes to one hour will do the job.
Dig a hole that is wide enough and deep enough to put the plant in without bending or crowding the roots. Rule of thumb is to dig a hole at least twice as wide and deep as you think you will need. The wider the hole the easier it will be for the roots to grow strong in the “worked” soil.
As you plant, spread the roots out evenly over a dirt cone in the bottom of the hole.
Wronkowski said the No. 1 mistake people make when planting bare root is planting too deeply. The plant should be placed in the hole at the same level it was grown by the nursery. Look to see where the roots start and the top shoots begin (the crown). Don’t plant the plant deeper than this line. Ask someone at the nursery where you are purchasing your plants to show you if you are unsure before you take the plant home.
As you fill the hole, gently work the soil in and around the roots. Tamp down gently, do not pack the soil down firmly.
When the hole is half full, soak the area with water.
Continue to fill the hole and construct a water-holding basin around the plant.
The soil is the SCV is known to be very heavy with clay said Wronkowski.
“Because of the clay in the soil we have to use soil amendments in the SCV,” he said. “For roses, I like to use a product called Rose Grow. I mix about 50 percent of Rose Grow and 50 percent native soil.”
Wronkowski recommends using a premium planting mix for fruit trees.
If the soil is sandy, he recommends using a 50-50 mix, but if you have the typical SCV clay soil you should increase it to 70 percent planting mix and 30 percent soil.