Steps For Heeling In Plants


By: Heather Rhoades

There are times when we gardeners simply run out of time to properly plant everything in the garden that we bought. In the winter bare root trees and plants or trees and plants in containers don’t have the protection to survive the cold and, in the summer, bare root and container plants are susceptible to heat damage. Heeling in plants gives them a little extra layer of protection from the weather.

Steps for Heeling in Plants

The first step to heel in a plant is to prepare your plant for heeling in. If you are heeling in a bare root plant or tree, remove any of the packaging and soak the roots of the plant in water for four to seven hours.

If you are heeling in plants in containers, you can either leave the plants in the container or take it out. If you decide to leave the plants in the containers while they are heeled in, make sure that you do not leave them in the container too long, as they can become root bound if left heeled in for too long.

The next step in heeling in a plant is to dig a trench that is deep and wide enough to accommodate the roots of the plant. In the winter, if possible, dig the trench near a building foundation. This will add an extra layer of protection to the plant as the building will let off radiant heat. In the summer, dig the trench in a shady area to protect the plants that are being heeled in from the intense sun.

After you dig the trench, lay the plant in the trench with the plant at an angle so that the canopy is just above the trench and the roots are in the trench. Placing the canopy close to the ground allows the plant to get further protection from wind and cold.

Fill the heeling in trench back in with soil. If you are heeling in for the winter mulch the plant with sawdust, hay, or leaves.

If you are heeling in plants in the summer they can be left in the trench for about a month. If you are heeling in plants for the winter, they can be left in the trench for the winter, but should be dug up as soon as possible in the spring for their permanent planting.

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How to Heel in Plants for the Winter

Early winter or late fall is a great time to score some bargains on plants such as bare root roses, trees and shrubs. The timing might not be right for you to plant them, however. If that is the case, you can heel in your bare root plants for the winter and plant them in early spring, when the soil warms up. The expression "heel in" means to cover the plants up in a blanket of soil until you can plant them in their permanent locations. Container plants can also be heeled in for the winter, but be sure to remove them from the container first, as they can become root-bound.

Unwrap the roots of the plant, or remove the plant from the container, shaking off excess dirt. Soak the roots of the plant in water for between four and seven hours.

  • Early winter or late fall is a great time to score some bargains on plants such as bare root roses, trees and shrubs.
  • If that is the case, you can heel in your bare root plants for the winter and plant them in early spring, when the soil warms up.

Dig a trench near the foundation of your house or another protected location. Loosen the soil down to about 6 inches. This will help keep the plants warm in cold winds. Make the trench long and wide enough to hold all the roots of your plants without bending the roots.

Angle the plants into the trench, with the roots fully inside the trench and the top of the plant fully on the outside. The canopy of the plant can and probably will be touching the ground. Set the plants in the trench about 6 inches apart.

  • Dig a trench near the foundation of your house or another protected location.
  • Make the trench long and wide enough to hold all the roots of your plants without bending the roots.

Backfill the trench, then cover it with a thick (at least 2 inches) layer of mulch. Water the trench and try to keep it moist, but not soggy or frozen.

Plants with root balls (from containers) will easily over-winter when heeled in. Bare root plants will last at least eight weeks, but might start to decline after that time.


Heeling-in fruit trees

Bare-root trees should be planted as soon as you receive them, into well-prepared soil on a day when the air and soil temperatures are above freezing. Inevitably this is not always possible - the weather may be bad or you might not have had time to get the ground ready. As a general principle if conditions are not ideal it is better to wait until things improve rather than rushing to plant early. "Heeling-in" is a technique for storing bare-root fruit trees if you are unable to plant them right away.

Bare-root fruit trees are trees that have been lifted from the nursery when they are dormant, and are then shipped to the customer. They are usually supplied with a protective wrapping around the roots, but unlike container-grown trees, the roots are essentially "bare". The interval between despatch from the fruit tree nursery and planting by the recipient should ideally be kept as short as possible to prevent the roots drying out, but as long as the tree is dormant it will be quite resilient to problems in transit. Well-packaged bare-root trees will usually survive for up to 10 days, whilst un-protected ones will survive for 3-5 days.

Therefore if you have purchased bare-root fruit trees, or received them as a gift, you should plant them straightaway. However this may not always be possible, either because your gardening plans have not been finalised or perhaps because of very bad weather. In these situations you should heel-in the trees - since leaving them un-protected or in their delivery cartons is not an option.

The main objective of heeling-in is to protect the roots of the tree. Proceed as follows:

  • If you have just one tree, dig a shallow hole. If you have several trees, a long shallow trench is easier.
  • Lie the trees on the ground at 90 degrees to the trench, so that their roots are in the bottom of the trench.
  • Re-fill the trench, covering the roots with soil and firming down carefully to remove airspaces. You may find that you need more soil than was in the trench, and you will probably end up with a mound of soil covering the roots.
  • Only the roots should be covered. However you can protect the rest of the tree by lying it on old carpet or straw.
  • It is a good idea to plant some bamboo canes around the trees, this will prevent you accidentally walking over them in the future.

The trees can be left like this for a month or so if necessary. However they should definitely be planted before they start to come out of dormancy as spring approaches. If you are concerned that spring might arrive before you are ready, heel the trees in on the north side of a building where colder temperatures will keep them dormant a bit longer.


Crystals in the Garden

Crystals, being born of the earth, are not only useful in healing body and mind, but also in healing the earth itself. If your surroundings aren't healthy, this will reflect back upon you. Take a look at your garden. Whether it's a container garden on an urban balcony, cottage garden in the country or a flowerbed in the suburbs, any garden can benefit from a bit of crystal help. No matter where you live or how big or small your garden is, crystals placed in and around your space will make for healthier, more productive plants. I use the term 'garden' loosely, for it can really encompass your entire property. Trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, water features and containers can all make up a garden.

All living things have energy. And flowers, plants and trees are no different. And just as certain crystals are used to heal certain physical ailments in the body or aid in easing a troubled mind, there are certain crystals that can be used to make your garden more productive, healthy, and beautiful.

Moss Agate is probably the most beneficial stone when you want increased plant growth. It is known as “the gardener's talisman” for this very reason. Moss agate is often used to attract prosperity and abundance. It's also a healing stone. This crystal is associated with nature spirits. Wearing moss agate while gardening can increase your energy, relieve a stiff neck, and “tune” you in to the energies of your garden. Placing moss agate stones in a container pot or in the ground will increase flower and plant growth. I made a moss agate wind chime suspended from three bamboo stakes tied together at the top and placed this “tee-pee” in a part of my garden where the Phlox weren't doing so well. Within a couple of weeks, I was overrun. A little goes a long way when it comes to crystals. If you have fruit trees, try hanging a small moss agate stone from one of the branches to promote a healthy harvest.

Malachite is another green stone useful in the garden. The Ancient Egyptians used malachite as a fertility symbol and it was associated with vegetation, agriculture and healthy crops. Malachite is a healing crystal and as such, can be placed in the garden to encourage growth and abundance. It is also a protective stone, shielding us from the negative influences of electromagnetic fields, such as power lines. Placing a stone in the garden will protect your home from these sources. Wearing one while working in the garden will also help if you don't want to bury a malachite in the earth. Even setting one in shade of a bush or underneath a flower will help. Indoors, malachite is very effective when placed near computers and televisions to remove the negative energies from these devices.

Another crystal useful in the garden is Green Calcite, a pale green stone that is said to belong to the small earth spirits of the woods and meadows. Offering a small stone with thanks to these elementals can result in a lush and beautiful garden. Green calcite is also a healing stone and is often used to calm and soothe. If your property is too loud, crowded or over active, you can place a green calcite crystal in a flowerpot or under a tree to soothe the area.

Moonstone is a crystal associated with - you guessed it - the moon. It's also a symbol of fertility and is used in the garden. A favorite of Native American healers, it encourages healthy plants and flowers and promotes a soothing, restful area. You can wear moonstone while watering your flowers, clipping herbs or mowing the lawn. Carrying one in your pocket is just as helpful. You can even hang one in a tree to increase growth.

The last crystal on our list is also associated with the moon but it's not used in the garden. Instead, it is the stone of the sea, Aquamarine. For those who have a pond or lake that contains fish or other water creatures, a small aquamarine crystal placed in the water will keep fish and plants healthy.


Heeling In Bareroot Plants

Dormant, woody plants with roots washed of soil are termed bareroot plants. While bareroot plants have many advantages over containerized nursery stock, including better root development and lower cost, they can be susceptible to heat and drying conditions if not planted immediately. If you are planting bareroot plants this spring and need a little more time to get them planted, consider heeling in – a temporary planting technique. Heeling in plants gives them a little more protection from the weather and can give a gardener more time for site prep or to wait for good planting weather. Heeling in prevents the plants from breaking dormancy early and keeps the roots moist until you can get them planted.

Follow these steps for heeling in a plant:

  1. Remove all packaging and soak the roots in water for up to an hour.
  2. In a shaded location, dig a V-shaped trench just large enough to accommodate the roots.
  3. Place the roots in the trench and lay the plant on the ground at an angle (see diagram).
  4. Loosely fill the trench back in with soil and water until lightly moistened.

In the spring, plants can remain heeled in for up to a month. In the fall, this technique will allow you to overwinter your plants as long as they are planted early the following spring. If your ground is still frozen, you can use a wheelbarrow or 5-gallon bucket and mulch, sawdust, or sand. If you have multiple bareroot plants, they can be loosely piled together when heeled in and do not require the same spacing as permanent planting. When you’re ready to plant and your permanent site prep is complete, simply uncover the plants and rinse their roots before planting.


Plants and People of Micronesia

Michael Balick and collaborators

Micronesia, in the western Pacific Ocean, is a region of vast but poorly explored plant biodiversity, with many unique species found nowhere else on earth. This is the result of the isolation of the individual islands, their diverse topography, and the fact that they are found very far from continents that would otherwise dominate their floras. Micronesia contains over 2000 individual islands spread throughout 3.5 million square miles of ocean, an area approximately the size of the continental United States and is located about 2500 miles southwest of Honolulu. The NYBG’s work in Micronesia involves the study of the botany and traditional utilization and conservation of the flora across a ca. 1500 mile long transect from the islands of Kosrae and Pohnpei in the east to The Republic of Palau in the west. Initiated in 1997, the program is entitled “Plants and People of Micronesia.”

To carry out the research, three centers of research in these island nations were formed at local NGOs on Pohnpei and Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and in The Republic of Palau. This program has involved creating teams of scientists and local community members who have explored some of the most remote and little known parts of these islands to collect plants and fungi, to produce annotated biodiversity inventories, as well as information on how plants and fungi have been used traditionally for food, fiber, construction materials, medicine, and for other purposes. This information is being documented in papers, books, and databases. There is also an ethnomedical training component of this project, designed to build an understanding of the relationship between public health and biodiversity. One aspect of this is the preparation of primary health care manuals for each field site, where, working with local and international physicians, plants are evaluated for their potential use in treating common health conditions. Through the College of Micronesia-FSM, an ethnobotany course has been developed with Prof. Dana Lee Ling, the first of its kind in the region, and hundreds of students have participated in this class, designed to foster a better understanding of the importance of plants in island life.

This work in Micronesia comes at a particularly important time in the history of conservation efforts in this region. The “Micronesia Challenge”—one of the globe’s most ambitious efforts to protect native habitat, announced at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in 2006, calls for the protection of 30% of the near shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial habitats throughout Micronesia by 2020. Armed with the knowledge of plant diversity, particularly the locations of endemic and rare plant species, and an understanding of the ecology of the habitats where they are found, conservation planners can demarcate the most important terrestrial areas. More information about the research on the biodiversity of Micronesia can be found in the Biodiversity Reference Lists.

Institutional partners in this work include The National Tropical Botanical Garden, The Beth Israel Continuum Center for Health and Healing, The Conservation Society of Pohnpei, The Micronesia Office of The Nature Conservancy, The College of Micronesia, The Pohnpei Council of Traditional Leaders, Pohnpei State Government, the Kosrae Conservation and Safety Organization and Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority and The Belau National Museum/Natural History Section.


Heeling In: What To Do With Bare Root Trees

It’s that time of the year when a lot of gardeners are getting their hands dirty. On our homestead we are planting fruit trees. Actually, we just planted 12 new apple, 6 peach, and 4 apricot trees. All of them were purchased by us and their roots were bare.

At this time of the year most fruit trees are dormant so most nurseries can and will most often ship your trees without soil and with minimal root covering or protection. If this is your first time ordering trees and you open the box and discovered what I just mentioned, don’t be surprised or alarm. If you follow these solid tips, your trees will be okay and ready for planting ahead of Spring.

First, after receiving your tree(s) if you’re in a climate in which you can plant your trees do so. Bare-root trees should be planted as soon as you receive them, into well-prepared soil on a day when the air and soil temperatures are above freezing. Ideally, you’ll want to dig a hole for the trees before they arrives, prepare your holes in the manner in which you normally plant your trees. However, if you’re in a climate where you’re not able to do so due to in-climate weather i.e. snow, frost, or freezing temperatures you should hold off and “Heel-In” your tree(s).

Heeling-in is what this article is all about. If you must store the bare-root tree for more than a few hours, it’s important to protect the bare roots from drying out or freezing. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid placing the tree in a warm, sunny location where it’s biological clock may sound the alarm that spring is at hand. Heeling-in is the gardener’s best choice for storing bare-root trees.

Bare-root fruit trees are trees that have been lifted from the nursery when they are in their dormant stage. They are then quickly shipped to the customer. They are usually supplied with a protective wrapping around their roots, but unlike most container grown trees, the roots are basically “bare”. In order to ensure that your fruit tree doesn’t arrive dry, the time in which the tree is shipped from the tree nursery and planting by the recipient should be kept as short as possible to prevent the roots drying out. A well-packaged bare-root tree will easily survive for up to 10 days, or unprotected fruit tree with bare roots will survive for about 3-5 days.

Here is the process for Heeling-in a fruit tree:

If you have just one tree, dig a shallow hole. If you have several trees, then you should make a long shallow trench. Lie the trees on the ground at a 90 degrees angle in the trench. Make sure that ALL of the tree roots are in the bottom of the trench. Refill the trench, covering the roots with soil and firmly pres down carefully to remove air spaces. You may find that you need more soil than was in the trench, and you will probably end up with a mound of soil covering the roots. Only the roots should be covered. Apply 3 inches of mulch like sawdust, hay or dried leaves. If you leave the tree for more than several weeks, you need to irrigate the roots to keep them moist. You’ll want to put up some type of barrier so that you or someone else won’t accidentally walking over the trees. Plan to plant the tree as soon as time and weather permit.

Fruit trees can be left in this state for about a month or so if necessary. However they should definitely be planted before they start to come out of dormancy i.e. as Spring approaches. If you are concerned that Spring might arrive before you are ready, heel the trees in on the north side of your home or a building. This is where cooler temperatures are and this ares should keep them a the dormant state longer.

In most climate zones you do not need to worry about the top part of the tree, which can be left exposed. However, in the colder zones of North America and central Europe you might prefer to heel-in the trees indoors (e.g. in an unheated shed or barn – not in a heated house). In this situation you can use a quantity of soil or compost to simulate the trench and then proceed as above. Remember the idea is to protect the roots from frost and freezing air, so firm the soil down carefully.

May you planting and harvesting this year be in abundance.


Watch the video: Heeling In Trees for Winter - with Guild Companionship


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