planting in ground after starting in 5-1-1 or gritty mix

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)April 8, 2014


I'm growing some trees in containers that will eventually find a home in the ground.

If I'm using a 5-1-1 or a gritty mix, is it acceptable to just unpot and stick straight in the ground in the mix, or is it advisable to bare-root them first?

I'm using Smart Pots and other "root pruning" methods, (and not letting them stay in the pots too long regardless) so bare-rooting for the purpose of untangling/pruning poorly formed roots should not be necessary.

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I dont think you need to bare root them. I would even go a step forward and add some bark fine at the bottom of planting hole and around the seedling and mix it with the native soil.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 9:47AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I will have to take the opposite tack to seysonn. In my planting of trees, I always prefer to have only native soil used. Bare rooting from gritty mix or 5-11 is certainly no trouble and I want the roots from the start in the native soil. Al

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:20AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

The only thing that I think might be hard...if you have a very dense, fibrous root system, is getting the soil to "fill in" around the roots properly.

I've done this before, and they've lived, but I always wonder if the roots are getting a proper start or if there are air gaps I'm not aware of.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:40AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I would certainly remove as much of the potting mix as possible, and then use it as mulch for the final planting. Plants with very fibrous root-systems, such as birch, can be planted with root-systems largely intact - just tease the outer edges and the long roots out.

You want to eliminate air-pockets certainly. But this is easy to do. Simply water the native soil into the root-ball, working slowly and thoroughly, a few inches at a time.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:58AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Absolutely bareroot them. The ease of removing the medium and barerooting the plant is one of the great things about aggregate media like gritty. Barerooting also eliminates any potential for soil interface problems between the container medium and the soil.

The way you get the soil inbetween all the roots is called 'mudding in'. Basically you make the plating hole a muddy mess and sort of shake the plant a bit to get the airpockets to rise to the surface. If the soil is fairly liquid, it will fill in very well. What is really cool is that once the water has drained and the soil has settled around the roots, the plant is very stable and probably won't even need to be staked. I have planted 15gal trees that I barerooted on a hillside where we regularly get 20-30mph winds (and even higher gusts) without staking and they weren't even phased.

I will say that I don't bareroot ornamental grasses grown in something like 511. They will expand out of the 1gal planting hole so quickly soil interface problems don't matter if you keep everything watered.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:48AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

nil13 - can you do that (mudding in) safely even in a heavy clay? I know guys over on the Trees forum doing that in sandy soil, but clay compacts so easily I'd be nervous.

My soil is a silty loam, but has claylike properties and does get hard and compacted easily.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Especially for clay soil, you definitely need to do bareroot and plant in native soil. Gritty mix inside a hole in clay soil will create a nasty bathtub effect and drowning of the roots.

One good thing about Al's gritty mix is how easy it is to bareroot on planting - the stuff falls right off when you take the plant out of the pot. I think it would be hard to prevent, and difficult to plant without losing much of the medium.

As an experiment, I planted a small tree above ground this past weekend, in the

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 3:45PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

The soil type doesn't matter with regards to the process of mudding in. You need to get the air pockets that can dry out roots out of the root ball. Your first big rain will compact the soil more than mudding in will. If you have problematic clay soil, you either have to alter the entire planting area or just use plants that can tolerate clay soil. Copious amounts of mulch will definitely help with heavy soils.

But you have silty loam and that is just fine. I think some of those with gumbo clay might be shaking their heads thinking, "you have no idea how bad clay can get."

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 3:58PM
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