Best to order shrubs now even if you're not planting til 5/10?

ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)March 5, 2013

Hi. I'm going to be ordering about 10 shrubs from Forest Farm pretty soon. Is it best to get them delivered now while they're asleep, even though I won't be planting til the last threat of frost is over? That particular date is usually around 5//10 in my area.

Forest Farm is in a different (warmer) zone, so I thought maybe I should get them now, and put them on the front (North) porch, and just let them wake up on their own here.

Would that be ok?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

call them.. and tell them they MUST be shipped dormant.. and at their option ...

you must receive them DORMANT.. they will not care what your weather is ... due to such ...

ALL YOUR PROBLEMS start.. when you receive a leafed out plant.. and you cant plant it for months ... due to your zons e... frost freeze issues ...

i am getting some conifers from OR.. to be shipped next week or so ... because if they break bud.. i will have to keep them protected thru 6/1 .. and that would be a nightmare ...

also.. the seller should appreciate the shipping request.. because it affects their warranty ... less chance of loss due to weather ...


    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 1:39PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"...I won't be planting til the last threat of frost is over..."

WHY??? Are these tropical trees/shurbs that you plan on digging up and taking inside each year?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 6:27PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

good catch brandon..

DORMANT.. they can be planted as soon as the soil is workable ...

w/o leaves.. there is no frost/freeze issue ...


    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 6:39PM
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Planting as soon as the soil is workable is frequently given advice, but must be followed with caution, especially in colder zones and where the soil is less than ideal in terms of drainage. IMHO, it's far better to wait until the soil has warmed to 50+ degrees; then you will have very few worries about damage to the roots . There's almost nothing to gain by planting earlier, either. Cold wet soil inhibits the establishment of the plant and, in severe cases can actually lead to root death.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 5:50AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

There's nothing about the last likely frost date that should have any impact on root survival. If you're planting trees with fleshy root systems (most magnolias, pawpaws, etc), waiting until spring for transplanting is a good idea, BUT, if the tree/shrub is already dug or is shipped bare-root it would serve no purpose to wait. Most trees and shrubs (pretty much all of the ones without fleshy roots) would be best transplanted as soon as you got them, assuming the soil was workable, even if they were pot-grown.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:51PM
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I completely agree with brandon7 that last frost date has nothing to do with root survival. This is precisely why I indicated being guided by soil temperature, rather than the calendar. Some soils, particularly those with lots of sand or gravel, warm far in advance of last frost dates. Fully dormant plants would not be harmed by any late frosts after planting in them. Nor would they likely be damaged by heaving in such soil should it refreeze in a late cold spell. Heavy clay soil is another matter entirely - small plants can be pushed out of the ground and the roots damaged even if dormant.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 6:24AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Some soils, particularly those with lots of sand or gravel, warm far in advance of last frost dates.

Thats right on the money and why I got completely jacked last year by plants breaking dormancy before the threat of frost/freeze had passed (due to unseasonably warm temps. in March). Yet my friends slightly south have clay and they didn't break as soon yet it was colder by me and why I saw more freezes.

Last year the soil was workable mid-March. Cripes thats a week away. This year I don't forsee being able to get workable soil until early April as an optimist.

The plants I was able to get this year have been in my garage for several weeks now. I got one order this week from OR and the damn maple had swelling buds already.

As Ken said, be sure to ask that the plants are dormant and have them shipped ASAP. They will warm up on the way over.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:06PM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Good morning. I ordered 12 shrubs yesterday afternoon, and added a note with my online order that I wanted them shipped ASAP. I didn't mention anything about them being dormant. I figured they would still be dormant so I didn't think to ask. I'll give FF a call when they open and touch base with them.

The reason I don't want to plant them til the frost threat is over is not because of the roots. It's because of what I went through last March. I know this winter is entirely different than last year's, and that we've had 6-12 inches of snow in our yard almost constantly for the last 4 months, so it's doubtful March will heat up like it did last year.

But even so, last year was such a huge turn-off for me personally in terms of having to cover trees with tomato cages and blankets because they had leafed out early, with hard freezes following shortly thereafter. that I want to wait to plant these shrubs til I know I don't have to be concerned about it. I'll just leave them on the porch and plant them in 8 weeks. If a hard freeze happens in the meantime, no worries, I can just bring them in and put them in our wood room that is much cooler than the rest of the house.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 6:18AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

For small trees that are 1 gallon or less thats understandable. The forecast for an above average (temp wise) April would make me nervous too as you know we're going to get freezes and frosts mixed in there.

I'm too impatient myself though. I'd rather get them in the ground as soon as the ground is workable. With Feb and March trending below normal I don't see April warming up the soil to the degree the 100 year record breakers of 70s and 80s that came along March of last year. Just isn't going to happen.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 8:06AM
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Every gardener in a colder climate zones faces ilovemytrees's dilemma. Delay ordering so you can plant immediately, taking the chance of plants selling out early or having to deal with the plants for weeks before it's safe to put them in the ground.

Many of the large mail order nurseries will accept your order very early in the year, tag your plants and ship them when you indicate even if it's months away from the date of your order.

It's true that dormant plants will ship with fewer potential problems, but "demanding" that they be in this condition is impractical. Many of the large west coast nurseries grow exclusively under cover and in containers so the dormant season is very short. Places like Forest Farm, Greer Gardens and many others have decades of experience in packing and shipping plants. They want your purchases to succeed as much as you do. Trust them to treat your plants well, ship under the right conditions, and make good on any problems should they occur.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 5:27AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

You could simply ask if they are dormant and if they aren't then delay shipment.

Ak, I'd agree most (if all) places tag/reserve your plants if you order them. Obviously some places are better at managing their inventory. There is one in particular that keeps the plants online available for order but then when it comes time to ship they don't have them.

I had an order that was supposed to ship last week but it didn't and I had to ask again if they are still dormant for shipment this Monday. Usually I'm only worried about species that break bud earlier than others. Plants like conifers and Oaks not too worried. Maples, need to get those shipped early this month.

I have to take the resposibility to ensure two things.

1) How is the weather looking across the shipping path and 2) ensure they ship on Monday if they are coming from the west coast so they don't sit at a hub over the weekend.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 8:40AM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

I called FF yesterday about 2 hours after they opened. They were so busy! The number was busy every time I called until finally someone answered who then said the call rolled over to her department and that she didn't have a computer and to try calling back in a few minutes, which I did and finally got through.

The woman I spoke with sounded friendly but extremely rushed. I asked if the shrubs were still dormant and she said she hadn't notice any leafing out, but her voice trailed off as she said something to the effect of they could be nearing breaking bud. She said they are shipping my order on Monday.

I wish I had ordered these 2 weeks ago. I'm not holding off my order til May though; I'll accept the consequences of getting them now.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:21AM
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