have always been moved by digging a root ball that is in
proportion to the size of the tree trunk. Root balls are
typically 10 to 12 inches in diameter for each inch of trunk
diameter. Trees handled this way are called "B&B" which
stands for "balled and burlapped."
Back in the old days,
natural burlap was used for wrapping wrap root balls to
contain the soil, and twine was used to cinch them up. This
tying of root balls with twine was called "drum lacing"
since the roping pattern resembled the sides of a musician's
The problem with using these natural burlap and twine
products came when nurseries would have to hold trees for
more than a couple months. Burlap and twine typically began
to rot away, increasing the likelihood of the earth ball
falling apart when the tree was moved to its new home.
Someone came up with the idea of treating burlap and twine
with chemicals to extend the hold time before they began to
rot. Treated burlap and twine is typically green in color,
instead of brown. These products are still in use today.
At some point, a few other "new inventions" came down the
pike. One was the wire tree basket, which is a woven metal
basket that a root ball is lowered into after the tree is
dug. Tree baskets save time by eliminating the labor
involved in drum lacing. A new burlap called "leno" was
produced that used plastic fibers, greatly lengthening the
hold time of B&B trees in a nursery. Natural twine was
replaced with plastic twine to also increase nursery hold
"Drum" lacing used around the burlap wrap of the
soil ball on a large tree.
Wire baskets support the root ball on B&B
(balled and burlapped) trees.
burlap & rope helps a nurserymen but can kill a tree!
While B&B trees
are held at a nursery, they begin to root-out through the
synthetic burlap. The longer they are held, the more
difficult it becomes to remove this synthetic burlap
material due to extensive root growth. At some point it
becomes nearly impossible to remove, and the best that can
be done is to cut away as much of the material as possible
without killing the tree in the process.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous nurserymen, in an effort to
save time and increase profits, have planted trees without
any concern for their longevity. Synthetic burlap and
plastic twine has been
left tightly wrapped around the root ball and trunk,
basically signing the tree's death warrant when it is
planted. While a tree may penetrate the synthetic burlap
with small roots, the tree isn't able to root into the soil
like it should. Furthermore, tightly bound tree trunks
become 'girdled' by constriction, especially from synthetic
twine (and sometimes by guy wires).
The resulting tree problems may take a decade or three to
show up, but they will surely come. We saw a 30-foot White
Pine get blown over by high winds since it wasn't properly
anchored with a good root system, due to synthetic burlap.
Other trees, like the one of the choked rootball below, begin to
struggle and exhibit problems that could be easily mistaken
for disease or nutritional deficiencies.
Remember what our professor taught us?
If you have a tree exhibiting problems in the top
of the tree check the