Root Balling Trees for Fall

By: Nancy Penrose

The successful moving and transplanting of a tree depends on several important factors, including the type of tree, where the it is planted and how well it is prepared for planting. This preparation includes the methods used to dig the tree out of the ground and prepare its root ball.

The term “root ball’ refers to the network of roots at the tree’s base. Most of a tree’s roots are in the top soil, while the deeper roots are located directly under the trunk and its leaf canopy. When removing a tree from the ground for transplanting, the roots are wrapped in a ball and wrapped with burlap, twine and in some cases, nails and wire.

Depending on the tree, the mass of roots may need to be reduced somewhat in size to allow for easier transportation and transplanting. When preparing a root ball it is important that the soil remains attached to the roots so that the tree can continue to be nourished. Once the root ball has been created, it must be maintained with water and fertilizer until the tree is transplanted in its new location.

A tree can experience shock during the replanting process. This is due to the stress that occurs when the it is removed from the ground. Tree shock can prevent the roots from growing properly in their new environment. When the roots are unable to establish themselves, it makes it more difficult for the tree to absorb the water and nutrients it needs. The lack of water and root growth can reduce growth and eventually cause the it to die.

Tree shock can be minimized if the root ball procedure is done correctly. It will enable the tree to be able to survive and grow better in its new transplanted location. Fall and winter are the best times to dig up and transplant trees because that is when they are in their dormant stage. Cool weather also facilitates the root balling and tree transplanting process.

Now is the time when tree nurseries are restocking for Fall, bringing in spectacular trees from demolition sites. It's important in this process that the root balls on the them that are removed be meticulously prepared to ease the transplanting process. You have to do everything possible to minimize tree shock and other problems associated with transplanting. This helps ensure a transplanted tree will quickly grow and adapt to its new environment.

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Nancy Penrose is owner of Big Trees Inc. ( in Snohomish, WA, one of the largest Seattle tree nurseries specializing in tree transplanting.

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