Muscatine Arboretum Association


Mar 17, 2002

Tree researchers are wierd. They don't just cut down a dead or dying tree--they DIG it up and look at its roots.
Rather simple, what they found out though. According to Gary Johnson from the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, dysfunctional roots are the problem. What makes a root dysfunctional? Planting the tree too deeply.
Mr. Johnson addressed this question and told us the answer at the Shade Tree Short Course, sponsored by Iowa State University Extension,last week at Ames.
In short: When you plant this spring>>>>>>>
1. Dig the hole same depth as distance from first root to the bottom of the rootball.
2. Remove ALL burlap, wire cages, twine from the tree roots.
3. Remove the soil from the TOP of the rootball until you can see the first root. Don't be afraid to prune any roots that seem to be encircling the trunk.
4. Place your tree in the hole so that the top of the first root will be above the soil line when you finish planting. Oh! that's going to be hard for oldtimers!
5. Replace the same soil you took out of the hole around the rootball BUT not over it.
6. Water
7. Mulch to the rootball from several feet out. It was not recommended that we put any mulch over the rootball. If you must mulch over the rootball make it very light and none against the tree trunk.

There is all sorts of research on how much to water, to feed or not, to stake or not but the really big news is DON'T PLANT TOO DEEP if you want healthy trees with good functional roots.

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