PPDL Picture of the Week

May 2, 2016

In the Nursery: Nearing the End of Digging Season

Kyle Daniel, Nursery and Landscape Outreach Specialist, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Prior to the popularity of growing ornamental plants in containers, plants were grown in the field.  There are advantages and disadvantages to growing in the field, one of them being limitations on when and how plants can be moved and stored.  Digging season in the Midwest begins in the spring when the ground becomes thawed enough to dig and ends when temperatures start to creep up in late spring and plants start to break bud.  Most nurseries use a spade connected to skid steer or tractor that digs a conical shaped root ball.  Once the trees are dug, workers place them in wire and burlap.  Burlap with wire baskets and twine are typically used at most nurseries in the Midwest to hold the larger root balls together (Figure 1), while smaller root balls are often without the wire basket and are fastened with nails or pins (Figure 2). 

When transplanting these trees in the landscape, remove the twine and burlap around the top of the root ball and fold the wire down about half way once the plant is in the hole.  This will aide in holding the root ball together, while allowing the tree to increase in caliper without any impediments.  Synthetic twine is sometimes used, and will not break down, so removing the twine is very important.   

Click to enlarge picture.


Figure 1.  Root balls are often held together with burlap, wire baskets, and twine.

Figure 2.  Smaller root balls typically only need burlap and pins or nails.