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Dallas Morning News - April 3, 2019


Trees Too Deep in the Nursery Containers

It is a sad commentary, but true that almost all trees for sale in garden centers are too deep in the containers. In most cases they are way far too deep. This is a flaw in the planting and harvesting operations that happen at the growing operations/tree farms where the trees are purchased by the nurseries. Sometimes it’s just sloppy work because of workers going too fast without the proper guidance and attention to detail. It also happens on purpose as dictated by the owners and managers. Many landscape folks and homeowners think trees should have perfectly straight trunks. Setting small trees deeply in the potting soil causes them to grow straighter up like suckers. This unhealthy growth does not create the best trees long term. 
 


Almost all trees for sale in garden centers are too deep in the containers


Another “deep planting” situation happens in the tree farms where the trees are grown in the ground. Because of cultivating techniques and the digging operations used by many farms, excess soil ends up on top of the true root balls. This excess soil covering the flare and part of the trunk ends up being under the burlap on top of balled and burlapped trees.  
 


I discovered that it had been balled and burlapped first, then jammed in the container


The solution is easy. Here’s an actual case study on a small Japanese maple I purchased from a high-quality garden center. 

The dwarf maple was purchased in a 7-gallon plastic pot. Removing the small tree from the pot, I discovered that it had been balled and burlapped first, then jammed in the container. I removed the cord holding the burlap at the trunk and discovered there was no root flare showing and there was apparently excess soil on top of the root ball. I was right. Carefully, I loosened the excess soil with a trowel then removed it with a brush. Although already aware of this general problem, I was amazed that this little tree had a full 4” inches of soil on top of the root ball – under the top burlap. 
 


 

Carefully, I loosened the excess soil with a trowel then removed it with a brush

I was amazed that this little tree had a full 4” inches of soil on top of the root ball – under the top burlap


After removing all the excess soil, the dwarf maple was planted leaving the root flare well exposed and fully open to the air as trunk tissue is supposed to be. 

Our little dwarf Japanese maple has flourish, loves its home in the big concrete pot, has had literally no insect pest or disease issues and has grown beautifully for years. 


Trees can sometimes live and even grow fairly well when too deep in the soil - but their full potential can only be reached in a pest free way if they are planted at the correct height.



 

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