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teeka0801

balled and burlap trees....clay ball as hard as a rock!

Someone suggested I post this as a separate thread, so here goes.

what to do about b&b cement ball of clay?? I noticed as I took out one of my trees, the poor root system was essentially going around the ball of clay wrapped in burlap...it was horrible,really.

What on earth do I do to break this horrible thing up without damaging the roots?

Should I only buy container grown plants from now on?

Comments (20)

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    7 years ago

    you take instruction well ... lol ...


    how big is the plant ..


    whats your native soil???


    why are you thinking about bare rooting??


    are we discussing conifers/evergreens.. or deciduous ...


    where are you ???


    any chance you snapped a pic of the one you are talking about ???? .. if so.. post it ...


    ken

  • wisconsitom
    7 years ago

    teeka, the important factor here is planting depth. In the nursery, cultivating between the rows of trees will have placed additional soil up on top of what should be the grade. Hence, when tree is dug, it now has lots of additional soil piled up at the top of the "root ball". So if the planter follows the advice all too often found on the plant tag, which will say something like: Plant at same depth as the root ball....or words to that effect....as though that root ball top is any kind of guide for planting depth. It's not.

    What you want to see when you've finished planting your tree is that the root flare-that area of swollen tissue where roots meet trunk, should be just visible at or slightly above finish grade. So you may need to carefully shave some soil off the top of the root ball. Obviously, great care must be taken to not ding the tree up.

    As far as what format to use, all have their advantages and disadvantages. Bare root is great. It's inexpensive (relatively-speaking) and by reason of its form, one can really see what they're getting. But it can only be planted while dormant-spring or fall.

    Potted stock has revolutionized the industry, primarily by providing a much longer window to plant stuff in. The negative issues associated with potted is the terrible root conditions that usually develop, the roots winding round and round the inside of the pot walls. This is simply unacceptable, and much noise has been made, by me and a whole bunch of others, about the issues resulting from these root anomalies.

    B&B has advantages too: A relatively large transplant can be accomplished, but many of us consider that small potatoes due to our greater liking for the way young, smaller nursery stock seems to establish.

    I wouldn't try to break up that ball. In fact, in the old days, B&B nurseries w3ere almost always set up in clay country, as that soil type makes for better root balls. The important matter there will be water movement. So long as you can ensure that both the backfill soil and the ball soil, which are different, don't cause one or the other to be too dry or too wet. So long as you pay attention to that, and be certain in the process that the soil in the ball itself is absorbing moisture, the tree should do well.

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  • Embothrium
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The circling roots will be from when the trees were in pots, before being planted in fields.

    When I've planted balled in burlap stock with intact balls grown in clay-like field soil that turned out to have dried out before planting (or dried out after planting) I was not able to get these to root out well and establish successfully. Instead the plants dwindled away over a period of years, despite watering, and when exhumed afterward turned out to be still sitting in dust.

    https://puyallup.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/bb-root-balls.pdf

  • kentrees12
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You've heard of the three most important rules of real estate?

    Here are the three most important for anything with roots.

    1) BUY SMALL

    2)BUY SMALL

    3)BUY SMALL

  • Embothrium
    7 years ago

    From the preceding link:

    Many nurseries will not guarantee their plant materials if

    the customer disturbs the root ball, so customers

    are loathe to do anything that might negate this policy.

    This is unfortunate, as disturbing the root ball is

    exactly what you want to do to maximize survival of your newly transplanted tree

  • teeka0801(7aNoVa)
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    No kidding, I am beginning to understand why it might be better to forgo the larger plant size...it's like getting a puppy versus an older dog...

    In any case, I did go ahead and plant,though I did put the hose on the clay and dissolved what I could of that rootball. I can tell you that inside that cement like clay, there was NOT ONE ROOT, just this hard clay and there was nothing growing in there at all. Once I saw this lack of roots, I kept washing off and left about 30-40% intact(mostly the roots right in the middle and the ones overflowing the clay ball.

    BTW, Zone 7a, Siberian Spruce(5-6' tall), clay soil here, but I have amended over the years...

    I also checked on this dogwood I planted two seasons ago, it was in a good location but just was struggling. Well, guess what? it was a b&b and didn't know they would pile on the clay(just read the post on this,thanks!) and I dug it out carefully, and the dang soil was about four inches from the flare, not kidding, maybe five inches...absolutely ridiculous. This poor dogwood was choking under all that soil.

    Since I had planted it at the soil line, it was way too deep. Had to dig it up, clean it up, replant and hopefully it will survive.

    Truly, I am disgusted that nurseries would sell this... what is up with this practice?

    Really, I am going to rethink my game plan, maybe only containers for larger trees(and no circling roots),haven't tried bare root... or just smaller ones to start out with.

  • Marie Tulin
    7 years ago

    You were just graduated to intermediate gardener level 1. Keep up at this rate and you'll be advanced intermediate 2 in time. (This requires demonstrated ability to diagnose common causes for plant decline and expiration , ability to conduct basic plant research, willingness to accept responsibility for ones own horticultural mistakes and good judgement about when to pull the plug.

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    7 years ago

    Well, guess what? it was a b&b and didn't know they would pile on the clay

    ==>>> nurseries use clay fields.. because its the only soil that will hold together to create a ball that can be shipped cross country ....not to mention its usually nutrient rich ... and holds water well .. if not left to dry and crack ...


    soooo.. your conclusion is kinda off ...


    see link on planting in clay.. and all the other variables ..


    and thank God you are coming to the realization... that there is no instant gratification in buying large plants ...


    finally .. i agree.. if you have a warranty.. you follow the sellers advice ....


    we'll get you there.. never forget.. you wont have green thumbs.. until you have killed every type plant at least 3 times.. we all have.. trust me on that ...


    ken

    https://sites.google.com/site/tnarboretum/Home/planting-a-tree-or-shrub



  • Toronado3800 Zone 6 St Louis
    7 years ago

    Teeka, I do recommend getting as much burlap off as possible w/o breaking roots off the tree.

    Honestly I like smaller transplants also. If for no other reason than you have a smaller hole to dig!

    Marie, you cracked me up.

  • Embothrium
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Clay-like field soil root balls with no roots inside are called "false balls". I planted a Christmas tree sized Serbian spruce here one time that turned out to have a human hand sized tuft of stubbed off main roots at the top of a false ball.

    I know this because I bare-rooted it at planting time.

    It never looked back, did so well I eventually cut it down because it turned out to be too much for the spot.

  • teeka0801(7aNoVa)
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    I have a question or two here: so if you get a b&b, is it best to just bare root it just to make sure it hasn't previously dried out? No way to tell at the time of purchase,right?

    Compacted clay soil is a pain to work in and I know how that water rolls right off of the top, as though it was a piece of cement. Is this what happens to the dried out b&b?once the clay dries out, it doesn't absorb anything?

    I get the importance of clay, just can't fathom why the b&b has the clay all the way up the trunk of the tree? Do they add this on after taking tree out of soil? I doubt the plant came to a 5-6' height under those conditions from the getgo...especially my dogwood was blooming beautifully when I bought it...maybe had gobs of fertlizer? high on steroids? just sounds so misleading to customer....

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    7 years ago

    there should never be any soil .. of any kind.. above the root flare ...


    i hope you read the link on how to deal with clay soil ...


    ken

  • wisconsitom
    7 years ago

    Teeka no, the trees would have been grown in a field somewhere that has a clay-based soil. Nothing is added later.

    I'd either plant as per spec of seller-to retain warranty coverage.....or, do as I said above and carefully shave soil off the top of that falsely sized ball. Don't worry about "fine feeder roots". Yes, they are critically important but the tree will make new ones. What is critical is a factor which is next to impossible to test for; starch reserves in whatever main roots are left. This starch would be the stored energy the tree would use to push out new buds and root tips.

  • edlincoln
    7 years ago

    Equipment moving between rows of trees can heap dirt around the trunks accidentally.

    Also, if the root ball collapses and the roots break the nursery gets blamed and has to pay for a replacement. If the tree languishes from being planted too deep or the burlap not breaking down, it may live more then wo years...until you are no longer under warranty. Drought gets blamed and you may buy a new tree.

    And a lot of commercial properties in the city are landscaped on the assumption no tree can live in that field of asphault long. They buy big trees that look good now and replace them often. Nurseries that cater to them have a certain attitude and set of biases...trees are disposable decorations.

  • Logan L Johnson
    7 years ago

    I would wait until fall, then bare root. Container grown plants are what I buy, and are usually of decent quality as long as you properly plant them. Bare-root is another option. I really don't care for B&B, you can see why. However, if you want a large specimen, there may not be much of a choice.

  • sam_md
    7 years ago

    Hi Teeka, I read your OP about the problem with your Serbian Spruce. I also read the advice that the other posters gave. I would pretty much ignore that. What I would do is return the tree and get a refund. Has anyone here ever noticed how if something is repeated again & again there will be someone who believes it? Like DT and his "birther" nonsense. There is one poster here who is fond of linking that ̶W̶a̶s̶i̶l̶l̶a Puyallup site. That infatuation reminds me of Dr Sheldon Cooper and Batman LOL. Only one small problem, the so-called researcher's grad students, colleagues and provost want to give her the ole "heave ho". It seems that they have some expectation that research on the university level should be peer reviewed, what nerve! Besides that, who links an obscure, extension site on an international forum? Myopic much? In my case I rarely if ever respond to a PNW or West Coast post, I don't have anything to contribute. When I read heavy soil is preferred to keep the rootball intact I am simply baffled. Around here the tree's root system keeps the ball intact. Here is a typical field grower in Maryland.

    The soil is sandy loam. It is no coincidence that our Delmarva has such a concentration of growers with their light, stone-free soil. It drains quickly so the equipment can go back to the field the next day after a rain, unlike clay. I will never forget a trip with the SNA to Hawkersmith Nursery in TN, the soil was just like the seashore. Like the OP I am in zone 7, in my case NE Maryland. It has been stifling here and the forcast for tomorrow is 95°, school districts lacking ac have been closed for two days. And what am I gonna be doing tomorrow? Along with several other vendors, selling plants @ Green Spring Gardens in Annandale. I promise you NOONE is recommending plants be barerooted, no way - no how. If a commodity is defective the liability is not on the consumer. If I buy jeans and the zipper is defective I take them back. Why would trees be any different. This goofy notion that the consumer should "correct" a defect in the product only rewards the seller and perpetuates the problem.

  • Marie Tulin
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sam md: What website are you referring to? Linda Chalker White? Hers (The Garden Professors is a fairly obscure extension service website I've used and if it is disreputable I'll never cite it again. No one would want to intentionally look like an ignorant rube on an "international forum" of houzz's stature

    Regardless of the site you have in mind, unless I misunderstood you, there's no basis I can think of for implying university agricultural programs are inherently deficient. Now Underfunded and defunded, yes. When they were well funded a tremendous amount of plant research, information and education came out of them. Before it became a glossy business, plant trials were often conducted by the university Extension Services. I don't think Michael Dirr's and colleagues research and plant introduction programs are (were?) based out of an Extension program, but sure came out of a university. I think you are wielding a mighty broad brush to make a irrelevant comment.

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    7 years ago

    Marie, while I don't agree with Linda Chalker-Scott and the Garden Professors in every case, the vast majority of the information you will get from their sites/forums/email-groups is VERY GOOD and scientifically accurate. Sam's comments and views are HIGHLY SKEWED, in my opinion, and say more about Sam and his personal vendetta than about Linda Chalker-Scott. I don't know the background story to Sam's feelings, but obviously there's something going on there besides what is being presented here.

    The Chalker-Scott story that Sam mentions (the problems she has had with some of the administration at her university) is highly "political" and says absolutely nothing about the usefulness or reliability of the information she presents. She apparently isn't as much of a "cash cow" for the university as they would like. She and her associates perform an admirable public service to the horticultural industry and gardening public. I would have no problem siting her and that website as a source of reliable and dependable information.

  • Marie Tulin
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, thank you Brandon! I appreciate you putting that fine serving of belittlement in context. After reading an interview with Chalker Scott on Gardenrant, I looked for everything I could find that she and her colleagues have researched and published. I was aware of the controversy, which her peers labeled a witch hunt.

    So though I didn't feel qualified to refute Sam on the details, his assessment had no resemblance to my experience with her and her colleagues' work. Thanks for speaking up.

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