I like to get bare-root* trees for the autumn to add to containers on the patio. Once I got over the initial surprise at how underwhelming a bare-root plant is on delivery I realised that there are lots of advantages from buying a bare-root plant over a potted plant.
First of all there are the costs. For exactly the same fruit tree of the same age a bare-root specimen will cost you £5-£10 less than an average container plant. A bare-root plant is looked after in its first three years in exactly the same way as a potted plant is at the nursery. The only difference is that the bare-root plant arrives to you without a pot. I’ve always thought that a saving of anything up to a tenner is well worth doing without the pot.
The weight of the matter
I no longer under-estimate the weight of a three year old potted fruit tree. I’ve always loved the fact that you can cart a bare-root tree around the garden or from the front door to your patio pot and it lifts with ease. Try to move a three year old tree in a pot filled with moist soil and you’ll soon feel the difference.
I’ve dirtied the hall carpet more than once putting a potted plant temporarily on the ground. With a bare-root plant the roots are contained in a clean polythene bag keeping grubby roots off the carpet. With potted plants the container, often with holes in the bottom, can be muddy – a pain when you have to get the carpet cleaner and vacuum cleaner out.
Lifting plants out of containers to re-pot them into larger containers can be heavy, hard work when the original container is 9 litres and filled with moist compost. I save my back by planting a bare-root tree that merely needs to be positioned in a planting hole rather than being heaved out of a pot.
I’ve found that the roots of potted plants tend to need breaking up a little bit at the bottom to discourage roots from circling around in the new planting hole as they had to do in the original container. With bare-root plants no breaking-up of roots is needed. I simply place the new soil on top of the roots in the new planting hole.
Finally a large 9 litre pot requires a planting hole of at least 30cm in diameter and usually as deep. That’s a deep hole to dig effort-wise especially when the soil is hard and with a clay consistency. With bare-root trees I just need to dig a dip deep enough to cover the roots – much less strenuous than potted equivalents.
The only advantage a potted tree has over a bare- root equivalent is that you have a re-usable pot at the end of it which can come in useful when you need a slightly larger container when it comes to repotting.
*In the business a bare-root plant is sent to customers outside of the main summer season. The main trunk is attached to a collection of roots contained within a bag filled with damp newspaper or loose soil to keep them healthy and active before you plant your tree.