Bench in winter with snow surrounding

Unexpected late frosts or snow or can undermine the best laid plans
Image: Shutterstock

When bad weather stops you from immediately planting out your order, don’t despair. With a little bit of care, your plants will survive intact until conditions improve. Here’s how to look after your freshly ordered roots and plug plants when unexpected snow, late frosts, severe rain or the fickle British weather prevents you from getting them into their final positions straight away. From artichokes to strawberry runners, here’s what you need to do.

How to keep strawberry roots safe until planting

Strawberry ‘Florence’ from T&M

Cover the roots of bare root strawberries with moist soil until you’re able to plant them out
Image: Strawberry ‘Florence’ from Thompson & Morgan

While established strawberry plants overwinter perfectly well in the garden, putting bare roots into cold soggy ground risks them rotting before they have much of a chance to bed in. If, when your strawberry roots arrive, the weather is too bad for planting, simply bury them in a pot of moist compost. The key here is to cover the roots and to stop them from drying out until the weather improves. Put your pot somewhere cool and light until you’re ready to plant them.

How to store bare root trees and shrubs

Wild Cherry Tree from Thompson & Morgan

Wild Cherry trees are supplied as bare root plants during their dormant phase
Image: Wild Cherry Tree from Thompson & Morgan

You should plant bare root trees and shrubs during their dormant phase from late October through to March, but if the ground is frozen or water-logged, or the weather is simply too inclement to get out into the garden, it’s best to delay until the thaw.

Care for bare root trees and shrubs through a process called ‘heeling-in’. Dig a shallow hole in the garden or else use a pot of compost or a growbag, and lie the tree down so that the roots are in the hole with the rest of the tree lying flat to the ground. If you have more than one tree, just dig a shallow trench. Cover the roots with soil and gently firm to remove air pockets. You can protect the rest of the tree by resting it on an old carpet or similar, and like this the tree(s) will last for a good month or so until the weather picks up.

How to care for crowns and roots before planting

Asparagus officinalis 'Guelph Millennium' (Spring Planting) from Thompson & Morgan

Keep asparagus crowns moist until planting for healthy crops
Image: Asparagus officinalis ‘Guelph Millennium’ (Spring Planting) from Thompson & Morgan

Remove the packaging from asparagus, rhubarb and artichokes on arrival. Wrap asparagus crowns in a moist towel or cloth and place them in a frost-free area. Asparagus has fleshy roots which mustn’t dry out so it’s important to keep the towel moist, although not wringing wet, at all times. Like this, they’ll last for approximately three weeks until, hopefully, soil conditions improve enough to plant them out.

Rhubarb crowns are less fussy and can be potted up in suitable sized pots of moist multipurpose compost and placed in a frost-free area. If artichokes are on your order then these are frost hardy and so can be planted individually in smaller pots of moist compost and placed outdoors. Visit our rhubarb hub page for additional gardening guides.

How to keep plug plants healthy before planting

T&M plug plants being shown

Unpack your plug plants as soon as they arrive and water if dry
Image: Thompson & Morgan

When you receive your plug plants it’s important to unpack them right away and, if necessary, water them. Keep plug plants in a frost-free place, preferably a greenhouse or warm windowsill, and pot them up as soon as you can. Turn your plants daily to help stop them becoming too leggy and if the weather does suddenly change for the better but you’re still not ready to plant them into their final positions, move them somewhere a little cooler, but still light, and resolve to get them into the ground ASAP.

It’s always best to get your orders planted soon after arrival, but if life or the weather gets in the way, it’s good to have a backup plan. With these simple methods it’s perfectly possible to delay planting until you have the opportunity to deal with your bare roots or plug plants appropriately.

Do you have any bad weather gardening hints to share? We’d love to hear them! To find out more about planting and growing strawberries, check out our best guides and articles at our strawberry hub page.

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