top of page
  • Bob Nold

The Super Genius Planting Method

By Bob Nold:

Many years ago I was an advocate of a method of planting which involved removing all the soil-less mix from the root balls of nursery-grown plants, and planting the almost-bare-rooted plants directly into the garden. The idea being that, with the roots in instant contact with the garden soil, they would have an easier time growing into that soil, and become established more quickly.

When this method was first proposed, the reactions were, to say the least, extremely negative, and it is mildly hysterical to see that this technique is now considered standard practice.

There are drawbacks. The first one is that it’s work and the second is that when the soil-mix is washed off the roots are sort of all bound together, so even though the roots have instant contact with the garden soil, they’re positioned in an unnatural way, like a squid with all its tentacles stuck together.

After considerable thought, and some appeal to the heavens, I came up with an alternative method, which requires almost no work, and which I’ve dubbed the Super Genius Method (very modestly naming it after myself). The only things you need are extra nursery pots, a suitable medium, and (I’m sorry to say this) patience. Every plant I buy or transplant after the spring solstice is subjected to the method.

All you do is take a purchased or transplanted plant and repot it into a larger-sized pot, fill the area around the root ball or transplant with a coarse mix, water it regularly, and within a week or so (maybe a month for severely root-bound plants) there will be roots growing into the coarse mix and the plant can be planted into the garden. Of course it will still need watering, but with the roots growing in the right direction (out and down), the success rate, even in the hottest days of summer, is considerable.

The mix can be made of almost anything. Coarse sand (paving sand, but not “play sand” which will clog the micropores of the mix) is best, with perlite, scoria, pumice, gravel, and so on, added. No organic matter is needed.

Water is more available to roots in a coarse mix like this than it is in a denser soil mix, so the roots will eagerly leave the nursery root ball in search of water. A coarse mix supplies more oxygen, too, for breathing room.

A paper towel placed in the bottom of the pot will prevent sand from dribbling out of the pot.

That’s it. Once the roots have left the root ball, the plant can be planted, and the leftover mix (don’t pour all of that into the planting hole) reused for the next batch of plants you buy.

You can read Bob Nold’s blog, “The Miserable Gardener”, at



bottom of page