Nursery Quality Challenges

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    Ellyn Shea

    Dear colleagues,

    Earlier this year DeepRoot and I asked buyers to anonymously share their experience sourcing quality nursery stock and I wrote a blog post summarizing the results of that survey:

    We are now collecting responses to this survey from growers for a followup article, and are asking you to reach out to your nursery contacts to encourage them to anonymously share their perspectives on the state of the industry. The survey is only 10 questions long and shouldn’t take longer than five minutes. Here is the link to the grower’s survey:

    Responses should be submitted by September 23rd.

    Thank you so much for your assistance. We think sharing our experiences, preferences, and ideas is the best way to advance the cause of planting high quality trees in our cities and towns. We appreciate you being a part of that.

    Ellyn Shea (Garden Guidance) and Leda Marritz (DeepRoot)




    Sherwood Botsford

    The problem with buying bare root, or providing it, is the narrow window for lifting and planting.

    You also have issues with the amount of root left in the field.  One local company does evertyhing in a 32 inch space, because they have one.  For a lot of their trees, this is overkill.  They could use a 24 without a problem.  But some of their material is marginally too big.  

    When companies have a long haul, the temptation to go either small root ball or light weight media lures people in.

    One good compromise is to seek out container nurseries that grow in root control bags.   The idea is that the root is tip killed or strangled at the margin of the bag, and you get a more fibrous root inside. This works quite well.

    Container trees are frequently done with media that isn’t dense enough.  There are two reasons for this:  Save shipping costs.  Same watering regime for everything.  A pot that lets the excess flow thorugh is almost impossible to overwater.  I know of places that put on an inch a day on every pot, then collect and filter the runoff and use it again.

    Density check:  You can check this easily.  Put an inch of water in the pot.  If it vanishes in under 30 seconds, it’s too porous.  Drip watering will go thorugh the root ball without wetting it.  Times over 2 minutes suggest pulling one and giving it th sniff test for soggy soil.  Between, you are generally good.

    If you have to use stock that is too light, cut open or tease open the root ball, and get roots into whatever you are backfilling with.  Try to plant on un-hot days, and maintain the accustomed watering rfrequency.

    Container shrubs routinely have too much top growth for the root ball.  You can still use them, but ask the grower what the watering routine has been.  Keep to that routine for a week gallon pot size.  (So if it came in a #2 pot and was watered three times a week, water it three times a week or 2 weeks.)  

    A better way to verify root moisture levels on a project is to plant a glass jar with the lid flush to the surface at the edge of the root ball.  Pull it out, and you can touch the side of the root ball on one side, the immediate surrounding soil on the other, and decide if it needs water.  Generally I tell people to not water until the top 2 inches are dry to the touch.  replace the jar after checking.  Remove at the end of the season.

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