Society has been planting trees for hundreds of years and yet we still don’t know how to do it properly. The average landscape tree is not planted correctly – but that long discussion is for another post. Today I would like to show you what happens when you do not remove string, burlap and wire baskets.
What is a B&B Tree?
B&B stands for ball and burlapped. It is a convenient way to prepare and ship larger trees in the nursery trade. The tree is dug up from the field, wrapped in burlap, covered in a wire basket, and then the whole thing is tied up to keep it secure.
Many nurseries will tell you that you do not need to remove the burlap, string and wire – but they at wrong. Many landscape contractors will not remove the material because it is faster to plant by leaving them on the tree but that is the incorrect way to plant the tree.
I have purchased trees in pots, only to find a B&B tree inside the pot – that is false advertising. These trees need to be treated like B&B trees, not pot-grown trees.
Why Remove the Burlap, String and Wire?
Before we discuss why they should be removed it is worthwhile understanding the rational for leaving them on. It is believed that removing them disturbs the roots if the soil falls off the root ball. Keeping the burlap in place prevents root disturbance.
That may be true, but I have news for you. Your recently purchased 8 foot tree was dug out of the field where it had a root span of 15 feet or more. Now it has a root ball of 3 feet. Most of the good feeder roots are left in the field; they are not in the burlap. A bit more disturbance will not harm the tree at this point.
So, why remove the hardware? Because if you don’t it will strangle the tree.
Today’s burlap decomposes very slowly because it is synthetic. It will still be in the ground 10 years after planting. During that time it prevents roots from growing into the surrounding soil. Some people do pull it back a bit when the tree is planted, but that is not good enough. Take it off.
The wire takes decades to rust out and most ropes made today are plastic and will last a very long time.
If you want to disturb the root ball as little as possible, place the whole thing in the new planting hole, and peel it all back right to the bottom of the planting hole. Remove any peeled back material. But to be honest, it is much better to remove it all.
Death Due to Strangulation
The following pictures show what happens when a tree is planted without removing the hardware.
In the picture below you can clearly see the rope tied to the top loop of the wire basket. As the tree grew, the trunk expanded until the rope strangled it. Water and nutrients move up the tree in a thin cambium layer just under the bark. Sugars produced in the leaves travel down the tree in the same layer. It does not take much strangulation to stop the movement of water, nutrients and sugar, and then the tree dies.
In this case, the dying tree fell over, reveling the murderer – rope and wire.
These four pictures are used with permission from Soil, Plant Pest Center Facebook Page; https://www.facebook.com/SoilPlantPestCenter/posts/1774887455888494
Planting Trees the Right Way
This post discusses the whole planting process; Planting Trees the Right Way
You might also be interested in: Washing Roots Before Planting which is a newer, experimental, way to plant trees.