Burlap root balls

Should burlap be removed from root balls when planting?
The state university's tree planting web page says yes. However, I've read that if the root ball comes apart, that's bad. On the other hand, I've seen diagrams of how to split root balls or cut the sides to get the roots freed up from the root balls mass to promote growth.
Is there any consensus on this?
Thanks
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Kurt Gavin wrote:

Well, I think you've already ruled-out that there can be a consensus by presenting two conflicting opinions. Best we can do is discredit one or the other opinion, vote on which one this group likes best, or flesh-out situations where each one would be more appropriate than the other. But we're past the point of consensus.
One thing you don't want to do is leave part of the burlap exposed. That will result in water being wicked away from the root ball. I don't think you're going to find anyone who thinks leaving part of the burlap unburied is a good idea.
Burlap is biodegradable, so leaving it buried shouldn't be a problem. But if someone has balled it up in some synthetic tarp that isn't going to biodegrade, then that needs to be removed. But removing what's holding the root ball together leaves you with a whole lot of other problems. This may not be much of a problem with a small shrub, but if you're talking about a big tree, you don't want to have to figure out how to support the tree while you pull a David Copperfield, and get the tarp out from under the root ball. A better idea would be to get the tree from somewhere that uses real, biodegradable burlap. Save the synthetic stuff for debris barriers.
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I agree.

But some of the natural fiber burlap has been treated to slow decomposition drastically, so I'd get as much off as possible.
Kay
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Yes. Put tree in hole. Push to one side as far as possible, and cut the burlap low on that side. Remove what you can, and push the rest under the root ball as far as possible. Tip the tree as far in the other direction as possible, and pull the burlap out. Set the tree straight. Continue planting.
If that's too much work, cut burlap all around the root ball as far down as you can reach, and remove most of it, leaving only the patch under the center of the root ball.
Kay
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synthetic, yes, cotton, no. Ingrid
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So broken root balls are no big deal?
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Depends on what you're calling a broken root ball. If you haul a b&b tree around by the trunk, you're probably going to break roots. That's a big deal.
If some soil or other packing material falls off the root ball while you're getting the burlap off by rolling it from side to side, that's not a big deal. Of course, you've used straps or ropes to support the root ball as it was placed in the hole anyhow, so you've not broken roots as it was placed.
And then there are the abominable tree in wire basket problems... my unfavorite way of dealing with transplanting trees.
Kay

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Kurk For me, I do. Why? Because I want to prune the roots before I plant it some a ring of callus forms from which new non-woody roots come from. Plus I want to see where the roots come off the trunk because the planting depth, for me, must be the area where the roots are coming off the trunk. Remember, the flair at the base of the trunk is truck tissues and not woody root tissues. If you had a high quality nursery, I have only heard of two, you may not have to prune the roots because they prune them. Oh, yes, they prune the correctly. Sincerely,
John A. Keslick, Jr. Beware of so-called TREE EXPERTS who do not understand TREE BIOLOGY! www.treedictionary.com http://mercury.ccil.org/~treeman / Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss. Some people will buy products they do not understand and not buy books that will give them understanding.

seen
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Yes, remove it -- CAREFULLY -- so you don't disturb the roots more than necessary. Being buried in the ground, the burlap will decompose very slowly. And the new root growth will probably reach the burlap long before then.
Suzy, Zone 5, Wisconsin

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I depends upon the burlap.
Some large nurseries that ship long distances use treated burlap. This must be removed because the treatment keeps it from rotting.
If you buy directly from the grower, ask about the burlap. Most local growers use a raw burlap that rots quickly and is easily penetrated before it rots. Remember that tree roots will break open rocks so burlap is no problem. When leaving burlap in the ground care must be taken that:
1: the burlap should pushed down the bottom the hole so that it never comes in contact with the air. Otherwise it will wick moisture out of the ground.
2: cut slits in the part of the burlap you can see, but don't disturb the roots. The reason for the burlap is to keep from disturbing the roots. Removing the burlap usually disturbs the root ball.

It depends upon which state you are talking about:
Arkansas: You dont need to remove the burlap, since its biodegradable. http://www.uaex.edu/news/april2006/0407tree.htm
Colorado: Roll the burlap down to the base of the plant if possible, slash it with a knife, or remove it from at least the top third of the root ball. http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/index.html#http://www.coopext .colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/fall_planting.html
Georgia: Before planting balled-and-burlapped plants, cut any wire or cord from around the trunk and pull back the burlap from the top third of the root ball. This will allow newly formed feeder roots to grow into the new environment. When planting on poorly drained soils, remove the burlap completely. http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B932-w.htm
Indiana: Roll back the burlap to below the soil surface. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-100.pdf
Minnesota: Cut and remove the twine from around the trunk. Next, with wire cutters and scissors, remove as much of the wire basket and burlap containing the soil ball as possible without allowing the soil ball to fall apart. Water slowly to saturate the soil ball and to remove air pockets in the backfill. Finish filling the hole with soil. No burlap should remain above the soil surface as it may act as a wick and dry the root ball. http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG3825.html
Montana: set the tree in the hole and remove the ties that hold the burlap to the root crown (at the top of the ball, where the roots join the trunk). Remove the materials if it's plastic or synthetic. Natural burlap does not have to be completely removed. After removing the ties, tuck the burlap back against the sides of the ball so that no burlap is exposed to the air after the hole is backfilled. Inspect the root ball, taking care not to damage the roots, and gently untangle any circling roots. http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article736
New Hampshire: Remove rope and burlap entirely if root ball is intact. If root ball is loose, cut away only half of burlap. If root ball is in a wire basket, cut away and remove entire basket. http://extension.unh.edu/Pubs/HGPubs/stepspts.pdf
North Carolina: fold back the burlap, and remove the nylon strings. Be sure to remove plastic liners or synthetic burlap-type materials. http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/publicat/wqwm/ag508_4 /
North Dakota: To plant, leave the burlap around the roots, but untie the twine. http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/askext/treeshr/1412.htm
Ohio State: Slowly lower the root ball into the planting hole to prevent breaking or cracking of the soil around the roots of B & B plants. After placing in the hole, the burlap of B & B plants should be loosened and rolled down the sides of the soil ball. No burlap should be exposed above the soil surface in order to prevent wicking and drying which interferes with proper moisture flow between the soil ball and the backfill. Cut and remove all twine, cords, wire, or strapping material, especially around the trunk or stems. Also, remove all labels attached with wire or nylon twine that can eventually girdle stem tissue. http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=planting+%22balled+an d+burlapped%22+extension&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
Oregon: Cut and remove all twine around the trunk. Pull or cut the burlap away from the trunk and top of the ball as far down as possible. Sometimes the root ball is wrapped with non-degradable fabric; be sure to cut away this fabric. http://eesc.oregonstate.edu/agcomwebfile/edmat/html/ec/ec1438/ec1438.html
Utah: if the root ball ... is strong and firm all packing materials should be removed, including ... burlap. If the root ball is broken and loose, remove these materials carefully and only to the extent that you can keep the root ball together. Backfilling as you remove these materials may help keep the root ball intact. Any burlap ... that must be left on should be slit in several places to allow roots to grow through. It is less important but still desirable to remove packing materials left underneath the root ball. Cleanly cut any circling or damaged roots that are exposed at this point to promote good root growth. http://extension.usu.edu/forestry/HomeTown/Planting_PlantingLandscapeTree s.htm
Vermont: to ensure root growth and access to nutrients and water, pull the burlap down off the root ball and leave it in the bottom of the hole. Do not attempt to pull the burlap from under the plant - this could damage the root ball. http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/envirohort/426-701/426-701.html
Washington State: 1) Remove all wire baskets, twine, and burlap from the root ball. Working on top of a tarp will allow you to transport the root ball remnants elsewhere. 2) Remove all clay from the root ball. This can be done most easily by using a water bath or a hose. Use your fingers to work out clumps of clay from between the roots. 3) Look for and prune out defects in your freshly denuded roots. Be sure to keep the roots moist during this procedure and work in the shade if possible. http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths_ files/Myths/B&B%20root%20ball.pdf
West Virginia: It is not necessary to remove the burlap as it will rot in a short time. Only loosen it from around the trunk and lay back or cut it off. http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/treeshru/planting.htm
Wisconsin: Do not remove burlap from B&B plants, but be sure to take off rope or twine tied around the stem. http://s142412519.onlinehome.us/uw/pdfs/A1730.PDF

Yes, but not unanimous. The consensus is to remove all twine but leave the burlap in the bottom of the hole.
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