The Q&A Archives: B&B tree planting

Question: I am planting B&B trees (8 to 15 ft tall, 15 of them). Do I remove the wire and the burlap or can I leave it? Some trees have roots growing out and over the top of the burlap. Do I cut them off or fill the hole under them and then spread them and cover with soil?. My holes are 5'x5'. I am planting in sandy soil. Do I supplement the soil? I have been told to mix 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost and 1/3 original soil. Is this good, and how much do I need to mix it?

Answer: Planting B & B trees is relatively easy. Here's how:

Put your trees in a cool, shady place, cover the rootball with mulch, and keep the roots moist until planting time.

Calculate your hole dimensions carefully: a B-and-B plant is heavy, but the roots are easily damaged. The less you have to move it the better. You'll want to set the plant into the hole so that the bottom of the trunk (or trunks) is just above the soil surface.

Measure the rootball, then dig a hole that's about six inches wider all around and roughly as deep. Lay a flat stake across the hole, measure the distance from the stake to the bottom of the hole and adjust the depth as needed.

Loosen up the sides of the hole with your shovel, and, if your plant is too large to lift and lower without strain, cut down one side of the hole so that it forms a slope. Then simply slide the plant down the ramp and into the hole. Place stakes in the hole if you're planting a tree that will need support.

Move the plant to the hole very carefully. Ease the plant onto a plastic tarpaulin and drag it to the site; don't roll it. If your tree is large, or if you have several, it pays to rent a special plant-moving hand cart from a nursery or equipment rental shop.

Lower the rootball into the hole, covering and all. Remove any synthetic wrappings or fastenings. Leave natural burlap and twine in place (they'll rot quickly) but cut away any burlap around the trunk; if it sticks out above ground it will wick moisture away from the roots. It isn't necessary to prune away any of the roots that are sticking out of the burlap because the burlap will rot away without damaging the roots.

Fill the hole about halfway with soil and tamp it lightly with your foot to remove large air pockets. Make sure the tree is standing straight up, then water slowly to saturate the soil and remove any remaining air pockets.

Finish filling the hole with soil. Use any extra to build a temporary berm at the drip line (the place on the ground directly below the outer edges of the foliage) and water again.

Keep the soil moist for the first year after planting. Mulch to retain moisture, but keep at least six inches bare around the trunk. Check frequently; if you see yellow leaves or the soil feels dry, water immediately.

Unless you're planting a small shrub or a street or patio tree in a small, confined space, avoid amending the soil in the planting hole. The "good" soil will encourage the roots to confine themselves within that small area rather than spreading out as they need to, and the result will be a weak plant.

Deep, thorough watering is the key to healthy shrubs and trees. Give new trees at least an inch of water a week all around the root zone. (The roots of a woody plant extend about the same distance as its branches).

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