Transplanting is a winter sport!
Transplanting season typically begins around Thanksgiving in most northern states. It lasts all winter and ends in very early spring before plants leaf out. Usually around mid April in cold states, earlier in warmer states. Once plants make leaves in the spring, digging/transplanting is over.
That means that if we growers want to buy plants in from a wholesale source and they are too big to ship with soil around the roots, we have to get them bare root. That means that you are having plants shipped to you pretty much in the dead of winter.
Not really a good thing. But it’s the way that it works.
I recently placed an order for about $7,000 worth of Japanese maples and the nursery that I ordered from starts shipping in February. Here in Ohio it can be pretty ugly in February. Usually the ground is frozen as hard as rock, the potting soil pile is frozen even harder.
But I want those Japanese maples sent to me in February while they are still dormant. If I receive them when dormant it’s easy to keep them dormant and that protects them against the freezing temps here in Ohio.
If I let them ship to me in March, from the west coast, they send me plants that are all flushed out with new, soft growth that would be very vulnerable. So I need to get them while dormant.
By the way, you might be wondering,
How Many Japanese Maples does $7,000 buy?
Hundreds of them! Some were around $12 each some were only $2.25 each. On that order I also have about 100 Weeping Redbud Trees and really awesome Rosy Teacups Pink Dogwoods. I think those were around $15 each.
By the way, in January 2021 I will be doing a Zoom Meeting with our Members about buying wholesale at prices like these. On that call I will reveal my sources. I cannot share wholesale sources here. The call will be recorded and available to members, even those who Join Later.
My dilemma is pretty simple. What in the world can I do with these trees in February to keep them safe and happy until we can get them planted or potted in the spring?
I’ll Build an Underground Bunker for Them!
Some of the block is exposed because I wanted to make the inside of this box as large as possible and still only use lids that are 48″ wide. To keep the block from translocating cold into my bunker I pile some second hand straw over the entire cover and edges to keep the ground heat locked in. And the straw will be easy enough to move when I go to open things up in Feb to add the plants.
Once the soil settles around the outside of the block I’ll rake the area out. This is in an area of my property where nobody goes but hopefully the string will keep the deer and coyotes from walking on the cover. It would support them in they did. I just don’t want the soil on the outside of the block getting pushed in since the block are not mortared into place.
Cost? 80 concrete blocks at $2.35 each. They would have been cheaper if I bought them at a big box store but it probably would have taken hours to get loaded and it might have had to be done by hand. The supply yard loaded me in 10 minutes.
The wood for the covers was just under $100 if I remember correctly. It’s just one sheet of plywood and 5 treated two buy fours.
In this video you can see a similar bunker that I had years ago. It first appears just 22 seconds into the video. Then at 1:48 in the video you can see another system I devised for storing bare root trees above ground. I think the bunker is a better option, but the above ground application worked just fine when I used it.
Questions, comments or mean things to say? Post them below and I will respond.
Until then, by any and all means stay inspired!
OLOLADE Matthew says
I’m schooled by the day, thanks for all your videos and sharing. I have been following them so we’ll from Nigeria.
You are welcome Ololade!
Melody Arnett says
I like your bunker, but I have a root cellar. Can I use it like your bunker?
You can but it’s best if the temp stays at 40 degrees F or below so the plants remain dormant. You don’t want them breaking dormancy with no sunlight.
That soil you’re digging does not look frozen, much less rock hard! You’d never dig solid frozen with that small backhoe! Neat idea though, I just ordered 200 arborvitae I can’t plant until April 20th or later, when frost goes out. Planning to just pack the roots in damp sand and mist the tops weekly, keeping them at 40-50F and getting natural daylight. Fingers crossed!
It’s not frozen, that’s why I am digging it before it freezes. I can assure you, it’s frozen solid right now, but not inside the bunker. I’ll be adding the trees the week of 2/7/21.
Elizabeth A Gregory says
I just read this article about your bunker system, but don’t understand how to stack the cuttings. Could your explain more or show a photo?
I’ll add a photo once I have the trees in there. They are not cuttings, but small trees.
You have such great ideas!
Harlan Lichty says
How do I find out what privileges I’ve signed up for and how to use them.
I’ve lived in Hastings and presently reside in Randolph 55065. 15 – 20 year member.
Contact Duston with your username, email etc. [email protected] or [email protected]
Last year I had a couple hundred red Japanese maples and Japanese lilac trees delivered and by the time they got to me I needed to get them planted FAST. It was such a wet spring in PA we couldn’t get our big tractor back in planting area. So we had a bunch of totes that we put our planting soil in and we planted them. They grew pretty well. We have built a larger area with shade for transplanting them in ground. Should we wait til March or April depending on weather to replant in ground?
Late March, early April before they leaf out would be good. If you can’t do that just get them out of the totes while dormant, loose then roots then heel back in until you can plant.
Ron Marcello says
HI mike, I placed an order for 10 small bare root Forsythias they should be arriving late Jan here in upstate NY (Rochester). Should I place them in a large pot with potting soil in my garage? Thank you, Ron
That should be fine, just water every once in a while to make sure the roots don’t dry out. A cold garage is a lot drier than you might think.
Kathleen OMeal says
That under ground bunker is genius
Sharon Moreno says
Mike, what would you recommend the depth should be for those of us living in colder climates than Ohio? I know water lines are buried 6″ here.
I really can’t say. Here we bury water lines 48″ deep, but water meters in pits in front yards are only about 18″ below grade in a relatively small vault. I would think 32 inches with some insulation over the cover would be fine.
Mike Carter says
Hi Mike, very interesting I’ve been transplanting as well. Just curious when is the best time to transplant rooted Formosa azalea plants? I grew these from cuttings this summer and I feel like now might be a good time to pot up? I’m in zone 7 so just had a good hard freeze
Now or early spring. Some things will heave out of the pots over winter if not rooted in. That’s why I’d wait until early spring.