No matter how hot it gets, you can still plant

Written by Jennie Hagen July 12, 2011 07:51 pm

A tip of the gardening hat to Debbie Rudd of Cove for her eloquent words in the “Letters” section of the Observer (July 8) describing the new nursery in town, GrandeScapes, on Island Avenue.

Her kind and thoughtful words describing their nursery is probably a better descriptor than I could have done and I am sure it generated more customers for this new business.

She has also encouraged me, with my hectic schedule, to make a visit to their nursery as soon as possible. I too applaud all the gardening avenues available to us and am most grateful that there are so many to choose from in this area. And speaking of the nurseries available to us, please don’t hesitate to visit all you can. The gardening season is warming up but it is not too late to plant outside and in your gardens.

A reader recently asked if it was too late to plant outside. Just be sure you water the new plants very well for at least the first few days, and then every couple of days after that. No matter how hot it gets, you can still plant.

Many plants that are purchased this time of year, whether annuals or perennials, have been in their pots a considerable amount of time and are now root-bound. If the roots are planted without being broke apart, the plant may never survive the stress of trying to grow in the correct position, or may never thrive.

It is essential that you disturb the tightly bound roots. For smaller plants, such as annuals in a four or six-pack, simply pinching the root mass at the bottom to separate it into two parts is usually sufficient. Many larger plants will have their roots so tightly bound that pulling at them with your gloved fingers will be impossible. I have a garden knife, a sharp reject from the kitchen, that I use just for this purpose. Make cuts through the roots, running vertical to the direction the plant is in the pot. This means up and down, not horizontal.

For a one gallon-sized pot, your cuts should be at least 1 to 2 inches deep. Cut downward in a slicing motion. Yes, you will feel like you are damaging the plant, but you are doing the best thing possible! By cutting through the root mass you are stimulating new root growth.

If you look at the bottom of the plant, many times the roots are swirled so tightly, you couldn’t pull them apart.  Using your knife, or three-pronged gardening fork, slice and twist so you break the base mass apart. Remember, all of this must be done as quickly as possible. You don’t want the roots to completely dry out.  Once you have sliced the root-bound mass, place it in the hole you already had prepared and make sure to water it well after it’s planted.

The sweet peas and Canary vine seeds I started between those paper towels months ago are growing and blooming with such vigor that the sweet scent fills our covered deck area and even drifts into the house from time to time. It was the easiest thing ever to simply start them between two wet paper towels.

Until next time, please enjoy your garden. And go visit a nursery!


Jennie Lu Hagen is a La Grande gardener.