Experience bare rooting things for winter storage

On this year’s to-do list of techniques to master is bare rooting plants for winter dormancy. To that end I have about 50 willow cuttings, probably 30 haskaps cuttings, and if the Romeo root cherry cuttings put up good growth i may bare root some of those as well. Heck I should get some currants going…

Is there an optimal trunk caliper based on species?

Here we can hit the -20’s (f) so the dirt pile where I plan on heeling them will be frozen solid. They obviously can cope with that but beyond keeping them under snow and protected from the drying wind (and rodents), is there anything else to take into consideration?

Last but not least, are there guidances on building the greenhouse equivalent of a bare root storage cellar? I have a shaded east wall on the house. I could dig a few feet next to the wall, line the bottom with insulation, build the sides with cement, and install slightly insulated cellar doors. It would not be a whole lot of space but enough to put dirt and have some of the heat irradiating from the house keep it a few degrees warmer than the exposed outside.


Honestly there is so many different things that go into planting bare root trees in any medium other than dirt. Wind can push them over, some materials plants can survive much easier ( my grow bags and plastic plants seem to easily survive while terracotta things seem to die), how much water they get etc.

I probably could have done a better title. This is about uprooting saplings for winter storage as bareroots.

If you are talking about storing things bare root over the winter… i tried a few things and maybe learned one other thing.

I made a makeshift raised bed out of mostly leaves, hay and manure along with some compost… all things that were leftovers from the year. I put 200 raspberry and blackberry plants in there and all but a few made it.

On the flipside i saw this spring that a guy had put around 100 bare root blackberry plants in bushel baskets full of straw and they all seemed to be very happy. So i think some big 17.5 gallon tubs from walmart with big holes drilled in and lined with straw would work.

I think the key is drainage… dont want any ice or water to freeze the roots?

Last but not least there is a guy on youtube (Mikes BackyardNursery) that is in a cold climate and he does all of his in sand i think.

Still looking for the easiest and cheapest ideas.

I have an empty raised bed (8" boards so low on the ground) where I overwinter pots. These are mostly one and two year old plants on one and two gallon pots. On the plus side it is next to the house so they should get a smidge of heat compared to away from the house. On the minus, they have it rough; sub zero strong winds, snow melts which builds a solid frozen slab of ice followed by swamped when it melts, lather/rinse/repeat for about a month. I’m actually surprised that I don’t get a higher attrition rate.

The good thing is that doing it that way (and on purpose I may add) basically gives me a solid baseline to go from. If I get a worse attrition rate on a heeled setup I know for a fact that is not the ability of the plant to come back that is the problem :smiley:

I find replanted bare root plants do better than if not bare-rooted.
Mainly because the potting soil mix isn’t really suitable for larger plants!

Strangely enough I’m having a hard time searching for information on this topic. On this day and age that is rare. Lots of (repetitive) stuff on root cellars, just not on actual “root” cellars. I’m going to do a lot of ‘thinking out loud’ here in case somebody wants to chime in with a suggestion.

For staters there are lots and lots and lots of conventional wisdom/dogma, like how you are supposed to protect them from freezing. Well i have overwintered quite a few first year tender saplings on pots, in the open, -20f, 45mph winds, and some even managed to survive. Actually a good percent do survive, just haphazardly sheltering them from the winds improves the odds significantly. I’m not buying the whole “can’t let them freeze” hysteria. Heck I’m more concerned with them warming up too early, we often get a January meltdown so the shelter needs to make sure they stay cold through that.

I do need to make sure ground water doesn’t seep in, creating a soggy mess. Which by the way the same abused first year potted plants do put up with every spring… It pays to abuse plants, you learn a lot about how much punishment they can take.

I also want an insulated lid I can operate in the middle of the winter, resistant to freezing in place. That way I can monitor conditions; soggy mess, rodents, soil doesn’t dry off, etc. Here if something freezes to the ground you are not getting it back until May.

Does it needs to be ventilated? What are the requirements for dormant plant respiration?

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