Questions About Spring Planting

ChiloquinNews article 2/14/2011

This week I received questions from 2 friends about spring planting, and I thought I’d share the answers.

Last fall, when it was already too late to plant in Chiloquin, one friend ordered roses from Rogue Valley Roses. Those roses are in pots, and still living in the much milder climate of the Rogue Valley. The question—when is the best time to move them to Chiloquin? If they are left in the Rogue Valley until they leaf out (which will be any day now) then they most likely will have to stay there until roses are leafing out in Chiloquin, which is still a couple of months away. To bring them to Chiloquin with leaves open is just asking for them to get frozen and likely not survive it. The decision for this one was to bring them back before they leaf out (they are coming back with me this weekend), and then they will be kept in a sheltered place—a hay barn was mentioned—and not planted out until established roses in Chiloquin start to leaf out.

My other friend had a more complex set of questions. She had seen bareroot roses for sale in Klamath Falls, and didn’t know whether she should buy them now, or wait, and if she does wait, what exactly is she waiting for—warm soil? warm days?—or what? Well my own opinion is that if we waited for warm soil we would never plant anything, but at a bare minimum, the soil has to have thawed. Those bareroot plants were dug up last fall and have been kept in cold storage all winter. The fine root hairs that absorb water from the soil were left behind when they were dug up and the roots drastically pruned. They can’t absorb water now until they grow new root hairs. If we put them into very cold ground, where the fine roots can only grow very slowly, and the wind blows hard through the branches, drying them out, even though there are no leaves, the plant could be quite stressed just trying to get water to the developing buds. They might do fine, but then again, they might not. Safer to wait, I think. If you have a place to store them that mimics the conditions they have been kept in all winter then you might buy them now, and plant out later. They would need to be kept cold, but not frozen, in a humid place with absolutely no sun shining on them.

As for what we are waiting for—I take my cue from the plants that are already established in my garden. We have lots of microclimates in our area. I know that I have had my annuals frozen out in the fall while others further up the hill still have flowers. So look around your own and your neighbors’ gardens. If you see buds swelling on roses, then go ahead and plant the bareroot roses, but be prepared to cover them in the inevitable late season freezes.

The last question was whether it is cold enough for the plants to remain dormant now, and I think the answer to that has to be ‘yes’. The lake is still frozen, so the nights must be quite cold even though the days are warmer than we might expect for February. Also, the plants are not only waiting for the nights to get warmer, they are also waiting for the nights to get shorter. When both of those conditions are right (and that varies from plant to plant) then the leaves will pop right open. Bring it on…..

Flowering this week in my garden in a south facing sheltered spot – Johnny Jump-Ups, Crocus chrysanthus, Iris reticulata.

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