Now is the time to venture outside, start planting

The end of February is time to dig in and get planting. This is the season to save money and score better yardage by buying and planting bare root trees, shrubs and vines.

What is bare root?

In early spring tough plants like roses, fruit trees, berry canes and some perennials can be dug from the ground, placed without soil into plastic bags or containers and sold with “naked” or bare roots to gardeners.

Why plant bare root?

Plants, trees and shrubs sold without soil and pots are less expensive, easier to load into a car and transport out to the garden and with the advantage of not being confined to a pot they often grow much better root systems. Plus planting while dormant means bare root plants don’t suffer from the trauma of the transplant operation.

Bare root planting tips:

As soon as you get your roses, raspberries or fruit tree home remove any plastic wrapping from around the roots and place into a bucket of water. You need to plump up those roots with moisture before planting. Soak at least a few hours but overnight is better. Then follow the planting instructions found with the plant. Dig a hole and loosen the surrounding soil, adding amendments for hungry roses but not for bare root trees.

Avoid permanent staking of new trees

The newest research shows that the less time a new tree is tied to a stake the quicker it grows roots to support itself. If you must stake a tree to keep it upright at planting time remember to remove the support as soon as it can stand without help and stake so that the tree can still move about in the wind. The more a young tree moves the more supporting roots it will grow.

Don’t stomp on the soil with your big boots

Again you can blame science for this new way of thinking. Big boots stomping on the soil around a newly planted tree or shrub can push the air channels from the top soil layer making it harder for rain to penetrate and also disrupt the natural microorganisms in the soil. Use your hands or feet to lightly firm the soil around the plant forming a basin to collect water. Slowly watering a newly planted tree or shrub will also help to settle the soil and fill in any large air spaces.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

See Binetti in person

• 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at Bellevue Botanical Gardens “Layering the Landscape for Less Maintenance, more color and to block out weeds.”

The event is free. Register at or just show up at the classroom next to the gift shop.

• 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2 at Squawk Mountain Nursery, 7600 Renton-Issaquah Road SE, Issaquah for “Contain Yourself: Smart Ideas for Gardening in Pots.”

The event is free. Register online at or just show up at the nursery.

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