Saturday, July 5, 2008

Root Bound Solutions

When I worked in a Florida Nursery we were often confronted with the problem above. A plant had been propagated and left in its container too long. It had become root-bound and needed some help in spreading its roots when planted. Many were much worse than the picture of above; trees, other woody plants or spreading plants that would drive their roots to the side of the container and swirl around looking for some outlet.

So what do you do? Most workers at the nursery opted for speed, since they might have to repeat the action hundreds of times in a day. Take a sharp knife or ideally a case cutter and slide it down the outside roots vertically. Cutting the roots made them branch and venture outside the now virtual boundary when removed from the pot.

I did this too. But sought my own theory of root boundedness. Since the soil is usually damper below, why not try to get the roots to grow downward first. So I would cut, or for small plants just peel way the bottom of the root ball with fingers or trowel before planting. It also helps to wet down the hole first. Have done this for years and it has worked well. Would be interesting to see the method studied with alternate plantings. Maybe a University has done that.

Here I am, now bound in my own ways, also seeking the best way out.

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