What is cold storage?
Cold storage is a method of prolonging the dormant season of bare root hedging plants. It means that they can safely be planted slightly beyond what is normally considered the end of the bare root season i.e. late March/early April.
A cold store is, in essence, just a huge fridge. It is dark and the temperatures are kept just below freezing (-3C). This tricks the plants into staying dormant when the weather outside is beginning to reach temperatures and light levels which would normally start them into growth – effectively they are in “suspended animation”. Our cold stores are powered by solar panels, so they keep the plants dormant without any negative impact on the environment.
Before our bare root hedging plants can go into cold storage they are sorted into bundles and then placed on a pallet and covered. Plants are placed into cold storage in mid-winter when they are completely dormant and occasional watering ensures the root system remains moist. They can be safely stored like this right through to the end of May.
Nurserymen have traditionally used cold storage to keep one year old seedlings from the previous spring safely dormant, while they prepare the ground into which they are transplanted for their second year of growth. “Transplants” handled in this way develop strong fibrous root systems and a good bushy framework of branches. We are able to use the same technology to allow you to plant a hedge several weeks after Easter, safe in the knowledge that it will thrive.
Bare root plants that have been in cold storage need to be planted fairly quickly after delivery. We recommend planting within three to four days, as the plant begins to slowly awaken from dormancy, responding to the change in light and temperature as soon as it leaves the storage. It’s a good idea to have your planting site prepared and ready so as not to delay planting.
Each year, we forecast how many bare root plants to put into cold storage and they are stored until we are ready to start using them in April – we get our forecasts reasonably accurate using several years’ sales data but once they are gone, they are gone!
Not all hedging plants are suitable for cold storage. We don’t cold store evergreens because they never enter full dormancy and some of our taller plants are not placed in the cold store, as they would take up too much of the limited space available. Because the bare root season cannot be extended for our evergreen hedging and some of our taller species, the last chance to order these is mid-April – after this it will be too late to lift them from the fields. Once the bare root season has ended you can still pre-order your plants for the autumn and we will start despatching again from November.
Cold storage is a completely safe way of extending the bare root season and, you may not know this, but most food retailers cold store fruit until it reaches the supermarket shelves. And the advantage of being able to plant cold stored bare root hedging for spring planting, is that the air and soil temperatures are warmer, which encourages quick growth and a profusion of foliage and flowers.