In my early years getting my associate’s degree in Horticulture, I learned that when planting trees in the Fall with balled and burlap, it was advised to cut the rope from around the tree trunk. I learned to pull the burlap back and push the handles from the wire basket down into the ground. The final step was to mulch the tree heavily. I was told that with time the burlap would disintegrate and the wire basket would rust and the tree would grow happily ever after.
For years I have been called by customers several times to check on their plants because it seemed they never seemed to grow, or the plants would decline after a previous landscaper did some plantings on the property. Most of the times, if not all of the times, I discovered the burlap and the wire basket were still buried after several years.
Many symptoms that could be mistakenly identified as a plant disease or nutritional deficiency, are most of the times a problem caused by the burlap and wire basket. The roots of the trees or shrubs planted with burlap do not grow properly since the rootball is generally clay, and the burlap is made out of synthetic material that doesn’t degrade in the soil. Fine roots are able to penetrate the burlap, but bigger roots do not.
Planting Trees In The Fall
Some of the common mistakes I see when people plant trees is that they are usually plant them too deep. In most cases the wire cage and the burlap is not removed. I have seen many trees and shrubs dying because the long term effect of keeping the cage and burlap is the death of the plant.
My most recent discovery was when I removed an almost dead cherry tree from a property. After 20 years, the wire basket was still visible and the burlap was still almost intact. According to the home owner, he did remember the cherry never grew after it was planted. I was amazed how easy was to dig out the tree. I was even more amazed when I saw the burlap still wrapped around the rootball.
Planting season is just around the corner. If you are planting trees in the Fall, or shrubs, remember to remove the the wire basket and burlap before planting.