Trees sold with their roots in soil wrapped in burlap tend to be larger and more mature. These B & B (balled and burlapped) trees grow in the ground and are dug in late winter or spring, wrapped, and shipped to garden centers.
Sometimes the burlap-wrapped root ball is covered with a wire cage to stabilize it and make carrying easier. Although they're more difficult to handle, B & B plants generally transplant successfully. When properly cared for, they can sit safely for months at the nursery, where the root balls may be buried in mulch to keep them moist. When the tree is sold, its branches are bound loosely with twine to prevent damage during transport and planting.
In the past, suppliers traditionally used standard burlap because it's tough, its natural fibers rot in the hole, the soil around the roots isn't disturbed, and it makes planting easier. Today's "new" burlap is made from synthetic fibers. It's difficult to detect and doesn't decay in the soil. Cut away as much as possible from the sides of the root ball after you've positioned it properly in the hole. Because most roots grow laterally, this will ensure unobstructed progress. If the ball is encased in a wire cage, cut it away, too. Then you can get at the burlap and remove it.
Because the first priority for a newly planted tree or shrub is to establish and grow roots, use a kelp or mycorrhiza growth product at planting time to help it get started. Delay spreading granular, slow-acting fertilizer until the plant indicates its roots are established and functioning by showing new stem and leaf growth.
Continued on page 2: Steps 1-5