CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plantin' in the Rain I'm Plantin' in the Rain

Posted by: Curtis Utley Jefferson County Extension

While a reality or drudgery in many parts of the US, the opportunity to plant in the rain is a luxury not often possible in Colorado. The benefits of being able to plant at the beginning of a rainstorm are many. Purchased potted plants require some root manipulation before planting.

Container plant root ball
You must either cut the outer inch of the rootball off to prevent the continuation of circling roots or you must tease the rootball apart so you can lay the root system out carefully into the planting hole.
Digging planting hole
This all takes time and plant roots are extremely sensitive to dry air which is common in Colorado. By planting in a rainstorm you afford yourself some time to tease the root system out of the ball and provides a larger window of time to adjust the root system in the planting hole as you layer in the backfill soil.
Laying out the root system
Close-up of root system re-orientation 
In dryer times if too much time is taken in transplanting transplant shock can occur when the root system desiccates. Drought stress may also occur as the water demand by the leaves for transpiration is not met. These stress factors are greatly avoided when planting during a rain shower because the root system doesn't desiccate and the leaves of the plant are not actively transpiring water to cool themselves when raindrops are falling.
 I found three Jostaberry plants for a song at a local garden center and bought them with excited anticipation of jam in my future.
Rain can also help settle the soil around the root system. It is not advisable to plant after a lot of rain has fallen because the soil has the potential to become compacted as you plant. When the soil particles are well lubricated it's best to stay off of the soil to avoid destroying soil structure, but at the beginning of a rainstorm, before the soil is saturated  is a great time to install new plants in your garden. It may not be the most comfortable time for you to be out in the garden but gardening is a labor of love and if you can establish new plants when they are less stressed you will have more gardening success. Keep in mind that Colorado rain events can be intermittent or short at best.
Watering to settle the soil around the root system
In this situation it is still advisable to water in your newly planted plants to allow the soil to settle around the root system. If air pockets remain around the root system of your new plants, the roots can still desiccate and the plant will not thrive.
A flooded planting hole assures the elimination of air pockets 

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