Mitch BakerMitch Baker is the Horticultural Specialist at the American Plant Food Co. Garden Center and Nursery, in Bethesda, MD, focusing on natural gardening products and organic gardening. Mitch is a MD Certified Professional Horticulturist, with 31 years of experience in the garden center industry. He has studied at numerous horticultural institutions from New York to Oregon, and also serves on the board of the Rachel Carson Council.
Hi, I am Mitch Baker with American Plant Food Company. We are going to talk about properly preparing the tree or shrub to plant. Now that we have the soil properly prepared, there are few things to do before you can place the plant in the hole. Now, lets say your tree is grown in a container, obviously it has got to come out of the container, but you need to be careful removing it from the container. So, often its a good idea to lay the tree down, gently coax it from the container, try not to disturb the roots too much. But at this point you want to encourage root development, to place it in the hole like this where it maybe root bound, its not going to break out of that shape. So, we want to gently coax the roots from the root ball, across the bottom, around the sides. You can use your fingers, if you want to take a tool of some kind, you can do that as well. You are not going to hurt it, this is absolutely important to encourage that root development. I am using a bypass pruner. This is the kind of pruning shear that you would use to do trimming and pruning in the garden, but it also has other purposes. In this case were just gently squaring the side of the root ball. Were not really cutting roots, were just loosening them slightly form the soil. Alright, that looks good. Now, lets say your tree or shrub is field grown and has a root ball like this. Its not grown in a container, its field grown. So, its going to come with a burlap. Its not necessary to remove the burlap, but its also going to be tied around the base. You do want to make sure that you cut those ropes or twine from around the base of the plant. If you like you can lay the burlap back. Its not necessary but make sure that youve removed all of the twine, all the burlap from the crown of the plant. We dont want to encourage any sort of fungal activity right at the crown. So, make sure that you lay that back and you have cut all of the rope, all of the twine, from around the base of the tree or shrub. Its not necessary to remove the burlap. First of all, its not worth the risk of having this root nest fall away, soil falling away from the roots. So, the burlap is no barrier to root development. Roots are going to grow right through the burlap. The burlap will decompose over time. So, I would leave the burlap on. If you would like to lay it back, thats fine, but you dont want to take a chance on that root ball breaking apart. Alright, next were going to put the tree in the hole at the proper depth, and that is key.