In the garden with Jo: all hands on deck, it's bare-root season!

Rose B O'Donoghue

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Rose B O'Donoghue

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In the garden with Jo: all hands on deck, it's bare-root season!

Planting a double row hedge using bare root plants properly

At this stage in the year, we in the nursery are at ‘full throttle’ as this is what we commonly refer to as our bareroot season. We are madly lifting, grading, selling and planting our foot-balled and bare root stock.

We idly throw these names around as part of our every day and expect that they are part of everyone else’s language too, forgetting that as in so many businesses, we need to stop using our industry terminology or explain exactly the meanings, so here goes

Bare roots
Bare root plants are plants that have been grown in the open ground and then lifted to be transplanted during the dormant season. This is generally between November and March and means that plants are ‘sleeping’ before kicking back into gear for growth, when the weather warms up in spring.

There are many advantages to buying bare root; without the need for pots and extra compost, they are a more cost effective option, especially when buying in bulk for hedging.
Producing bareroot plants also require less resources at the nursery.

Bare root plants need less fertiliser, less water and less plastic, making them more environmentally friendly. They take up less space than potted plants, making them easier and cheaper to transport, again thinking environmentally this has got to b a winner. Bare root are also easier to transplant, and having had a chance to set down roots while still dormant, are usually in a great position for growth come spring.


A little care must be taken when handling bare root plants, as it is important not to let the root dry out completely, or get too exposed to the elements. They can be kept in bags for seven to ten days once stored in cool, dark conditions, but ideally, should be planted as soon as possible. Roots should be wet before planting to retain moisture and give the the plant the best possible start.


When choosing the size of bare root hedging plants, cost, maintenance and purpose are usually the deciding factors.
While 1-2ft plants will be cheaper than 4-5ft, more care is required to ensure that smaller plants are clear of weeds, competing for nutrients necessary for growth. It will also take several years for smaller plants to reach the same maturity in terms of size and growth, as the larger version of the same variety.


Medium sized bareroot hedging (2-3ft and 3-4ft) plants are a popular choice based on the fact that they are small enough to be economical, but big enough not to be bothered by weeds.


At this stage, they are usually more stable than the smaller versions, but still not too cumbersome to plant.


Larger bare root hedging (4-5ft) are the most popular choice for hedging, giving instant impact, without having to wait the years it would take smaller plants to reach the same growth. Larger sizes will require larger holes in the ground for planting and may also need to be checked from time to time, to make sure they are not getting loose in the ground. The general rule is to plant three plants per metre for a single row, and six per metre for a double, staggered row. This will provide a decent, thick hedge to mark a boundary or provide screening. Young plants and shrubs need plenty of moisture. They should not be allowed to dry out completely, but its important not to let them get waterlogged either.

Strong bare root structure

Check soil moisture
Check soil moisture by digging your finger into the soil around the root system. If it feels dry it needs water. There is no need for fertiliser until spring, we recommend waiting until after St Patrick’s day, as anything used now while the plant is dormant will just be wasted on the soil.


So whatever hedging you are planting, whether it be beech, hornbeam, white or blackthorn or plenty of our other deciduous plants the advise is pretty much the same. If you are looking for evergreen options then these fall into the root balled plants that I will cover next week. There is a couple of exceptions to the rule, box hedging is one of those, being at such a small size box can cope with being transplanted bare root and we usually lift and sell these unto around 50cm tall in bare root options, again another difference with the sizes being much smaller than most you are usually planting between 5 to 7 plants per metre but your nursery can advise you not his or feel free to as k us directly.


We also have bareroot trees too but the majority of our trees are rootballed as our preferred tree sizes are usually too large for bareroot, the footballs just give them more stability and less chance of failing but I will give you the full run down of all those next week, for now — happy planting