Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bare Root Transplants

There's green fuzz popping up around our yard in spite of the incessant drizzle that threatens to freeze our bones. Spring is on its way and I am so happy to be back on our homestead in time before the green grass has come and gone. We are working on seedlings inside, but some plants are ready to go into the ground now. On the farm where I work, we are pruning back the berries and trellising this year’s bine, the long berry stalks that lie tangled in prickly bundles on the ground.

Early March is the right time to find your bare root plants. For raspberries, you can certainly purchase them on line or at a nursery, but before you do... see if your local organic farm has some  plants to share, or maybe friend's whose raspberries have weathered a couple seasons. The stronger the plant the better chance it has of taking root when transplanted.  You will want to harvest your bare root plants while it is still cold, so they are in the middle of their dormancy. Vernalization is the ability of a plant to flower because of a period of cold. If a plant is pruned or showing signs of new growth, you will jeopardize its longevity. It is important that you keep the plant cool until you plant it, so the process of vernalization does not start too soon.

At home we are transplanting some bare root raspberries from a friend's garden, just in time for a week of rain headed our way. The new plants will continue down one side of a fence line which will act as both a natural barrier and trellis, with blackberries on the other side. The tiny stalks need protection in the ground, insulation, and a nutritional source in order to help them settle into their spot. I started out with good chicken wire, potting soil, compost, and wood chips.

The holes should be about two feet apart so as to leave room for the plants to grow wider. Our dirt is in top condition under a layer of straw and newspaper which is still breaking down from last year, so without turning the soil; I simply dug a hole about one foot deep and just as wide. 

Since we have gophers and moles, I lined the hole with the chicken wire in both directions to act as a physical barrier to protect the roots. In order to ground the “basket” I put about half of the original dirt inside with a handful of compost and potting soil in order to give it a little staying power for the end of winter. We have a great supply of earthworms to aerate our soil, so I am positive it will keep getting better. 

I nestled the plant’s root system into about six inches of dirt and then filled the basket with the original dirt leaving just enough room at the top of the wire mesh to fold it into a ball shape. Part of the stem is covered, but this will not hurt the plant. It will lend more support which helps a lot in our windy little corner of the world. 

Next, I covered the rest of the hole with the original dirt along with some compost and an added layer of wood chips to hold in the warmth and moisture.  A good rain (which started just as I put the last plant in the ground) will help the compost and soil settle in around the little plants. 

Early spring can be a little tricky because of factors beyond our control... things that can devastate garden plans such as an unexpected late frost, excessive moisture, or a lack of rain altogether. I won’t know how these have settled in for several weeks, but I know I have given them the best start possible. Now the sun and rain must do their part. 


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