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Handling and Storage

Hardwood bareroot seedlings are perishable and require careful handling to prevent their roots form drying out. Bareroot seedlings are stored in controlled environments (33 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 to 95 percent humidity) at tree nurseries until they are shipped or picked up. Seedlings are packed with sphagnum moss or other types of moisture-retaining material around their roots, bundled in packages, and placed in waterproof bags or boxes.

Transport your seedlings (or arrange for delivery) to the planting site in a refrigerated truck, if one is available. Seedling buds may break dormancy if the temperatures become too warm. Seedlings should be transported (or delivered) as close as possible to the date planting will actually begin. If refrigerated transport is not possible, protect seedlings from sun, wind, and excessive drying.

Stack the bundles properly in open truck beds, allowing adequate ventilation and prevent overheating. Cover the bundles with a reflective, insulated tarpaulin. Leave enough air space between the tarpaulin and the seedlings for to air circulate, reducing heat buildup. Seedlings should be unloaded as soon as they arrive at the planting site and kept in the shade at all times.

Seedlings should be planted as soon as possible (within 1 week of delivery). If they are not planted immediately, place them in cold storage (33 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and protect them.

You can store seedlings in a barn, shed, or dense shade to protect them for a few days to a few weeks, but only if temperatures are kept cool (40 degrees Fahrenheit). Stack bundles loosely with spacers (no more than two bundles high) to ensure adequate ventilation. Seedlings’ roots need to be kept moist, but not wet. A small amount of water may need to be added to the open end of the bundles. If seedlings are stored properly for no more than a few days, no additional water should be needed.

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