How to Ball
and Burlap Dig Plants
n order to create this page I had to talk my buddy Larry into letting
me dig one of his dogwoods for him. That wasn't hard to do!
Especially since I was willing to pay for the tree so I could give it to
my son for his new house.
I'm serious. You'll like it that much! That's once you realize how the weight of the spade can do most of the work for you.
Anyway, let's ball and burlap dig a Pink Flowering Dogwood Tree.
Determine the distance out from the tree. 11" of root ball per one inch of tree
caliper, 6" above the soil.
Now start digging the trench wider and deeper, but move away from the the line a little to give the ball a round shape. Don't dig straight down. What you are doing is actually carving the ball as a sculptor would do.
It's important to dig away from your ball, and not to pry against the root ball with your spade. Notice I am still digging with the spade actually facing me.
Once you reach a depth of 50% of what your ball will be, you start carving under the ball as you go deeper.
Once you get about 75% of the way down, you can start forcing the spade under the ball at an angle, but be very careful not to disturb the ball. A sharp spade is essential, so the roots cut easily and smoothly. With a dull spade, or the wrong kind of spade you will beat the ball to death trying to cut the roots. Professional diggers file their spade several times a day.
Once you have the ball completely loose, you can tip it and gently slide the burlap under the root ball, or if the root ball is firm enough you can lift it out and set it on the burlap.
If the soil you are working in is sand and or gravel, you might have to slide the ball out of the hole on the spade. Also in these types of soils it helps if you firmly pack the soil around the tree before you start forming the ball. Clean the top of the ball as shown above, then firmly pack the soil with the heel of your work boot.
You're not trying to dig a tree in tennis shoes are you?
Pull the opposite corners of the burlap together and tie them together as tightly as you can get them.
Using small nails, (they make special pinning nails that have a rounded head so you don't cut your fingers) start pulling the lose areas of the burlap, then using the nail for leverage, pull them tight and pin them down.
Just pull any loose flap up and as tight as you can get it, fold it over, stick a nail through the corner of the flap, then stick the point of the nail into the root ball just enough so it can't slip, then push the nail over, pulling the burlap tight as you push. Once the nail is pushed all the way over, push it into the burlap and the root ball, but at a very horizontal angle. Sticking a nail straight into the ball will not work at all. It will pull right out.
You have to insert the nail almost horizontal, after you use the nail to pull the burlap as tight as possible. This action gives you a considerable amount of leverage, and with just six to ten nails you can tightly pin up a balled in burlap tree.
Actually this is my oldest son. I gave him the tree as a house warming present, and I even dug it for him. But he had to take the pictures for this web page and carry the the tree out of the field. Seemed like a good deal to me.
But if you enlarge the above photo and look closely, my son is standing in my buddy Larry's backyard. Notice all the beautiful Pink and White Flowering Dogwood trees that Larry has grown? Many of them he grew from seed. That's really easy money. Click here to explore the wonderful business of backyard growing.
in burlap digging is actually pretty simple, especially if you have a clay based soil. Sand isn't too bad, but gravel can make you crazy!
by Michael J. McGroarty