jimmy_le

Tree Root Wire Basket. Remove or not to remove?

Jimmy Le
July 10, 2019

My home builder's contracted landscaper said that planting a tree with the wire basket is normal. Should I argue and make them remove it?

Comments (22)

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    No! The roots have plenty of holes to grow through while the basket is rusting away. Trying to remove it would cause a lot of damage to the roots.

  • saccharum

    I usually recommend that the top third of the basket be cut off or folded down during planting, so that the wire isn't protruding out of the ground like that. It looks like it's too late for that now, though it may be possible to carefully cut off any visible wire - making sure not to leave any sharp ends pointing up.

  • treebarb Z5 Denver

    I think before I tackled the wire basket, I'd remove the soil around the trunk until you find the root flare, the point where the roots and trunk meet. The flare should be at soil level or slightly above soil level. If you find the flare below soil level, make them come back and reset it. Then make them remove at least the top third of the wire. Although I'd be hesitant to have that person touch my tree again, if there's a warranty involved you may have to.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    Given the size of basket and trunk diameter, it looks like this is not a fresh planting. If so, I'd say it is too late to do anything (other than cut off the protruding basket if you wish). If the tree seems to be growing happily, I wouldn't touch it. It will likely already have overcome any "mistakes" in the level it is planted.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    "It will likely already have overcome any "mistakes" in the level it is planted."

    This is not just a "mistake" - it is a serious error. The proper planting depth for a tree is critical to its health and longevity and is not an issue that is easily 'overcome' by the tree. Personally, I would be far more concerned about the planting depth of this tree than I would be about the remains of the wire basket.

    treebarb' comments are completely on point. That root flare needs to be exposed. And I would do it sooner rather than later.

    If there is ANY question about this, try posting that photo and the question in the Trees forum........I can pretty much guarantee what the response will be...........

  • Embothrium

    Wire baskets are typically still present when tree roots get thick enough to start being constricted by the wire - never leave anything artificial in planting holes. No burlap, no twine, no wire.

    The Myth of Collapsing Root Balls

    https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/bb-root-balls.pdf

  • l pinkmountain

    The tree will struggle and possibly die. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, and for the rest of its life . . . due to being planted too deep. I've never had success with leaving burlap or wire around tree roots. Healthy roots are critical for healthy trees. I have a beautiful dogwood I am watching slowly die in my front yard due to it being planted too deep by the previous owners of the house. And the real tragedy is he comes by every year to check on it due to it being planted in honor if his daughter. I'm trying to keep it alive, but it is an uphill battle. But the landscapers are long gone when the you know what hits the fan, and besides, job security for selling you a new tree. Looks like your tree might be a dogwood, it looks just like mine . . .

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "This is not just a "mistake" - it is a serious error." Like the general public, for my own yard doings, I am sometimes faced with doing wrong, if doing right is either extraordinarily hard work or very costly. My fallback is that, if it is a failure, I will just do it over. But usually it doesn't amount to any penalty at all. I've had times I've had to bury trees much deeper than should been (because of some weird surrounding issue) ... and nothing happened. As perilous as everyone is calling it, in real life one may totally get away with it. No guarantees of course. I'll mention again though, this looks like it has some age to the work.)

    BTW, burlap composts itself so quickly I cannot see how anyone would worry about it. It cannot last a season on a bare rootball. Burlap that's buried is shorter lived.

  • l pinkmountain

    I've planted a lot of trees in my day, and dug up some ones that didn't make it, and my experience mirrors Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University who wrote the article that Embothrium posted. Also, not all burlap is made the same, some is slow to break down and some is synthetic, and the tree nursery may not tell you that's the case. I'd be more worried about that than the wire. Reviews are mixed on the wire but I wouldn't want rusty wire sticking up around my tree. That tree was just badly planted.

    This article from UFL cooperative extension discusses some of the variables with burlap and wire.

    https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/bb.shtml

  • Jimmy Le

    Thank you for everyone's insightful discussion. The builder is having their landscaping company to come out and remove the metal basket.

    I just want to say, I hate customer service these days. They know what I wanted but kept throwing out, "it's normal and I should just cut the wire and pound the tip flat into the ground." It's not until I demanded I want the metal basket removed and are like, "Sure, not a problem!" Could have prevented many back and forth emails if they just offered to have the landscaping co. to come out the first place.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    Polypropylene fabric is not burlap. Burlap is jute and rots in no time.

  • PRO
    Revolutionary Gardens


    Could be worse. This is how the builder's landscapers planted trees in a high end subdivision in the wealthiest county in the US.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    Haha! It's a new thing, Rev ... trying to emulate nature.

  • l pinkmountain

    YV I never said anything about polypropylene fabric. But as the article states: "It
    may be difficult to distinguish between natural and synthetic burlap. If so,
    burn a small portion with a match. Synthetic burlap often melts and smokes and
    may not produce a flame. A plastic goo remains following burning. Natural burlap
    usually burns with a flame and turns to ash."

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    The primary synthetic "burlap" is polypropylene. It is not difficult to distinguish the two. These are the only two materials I've ever seen used.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Natural burlap is often treated with a preservative to increase its longevity. Sometimes it is tinted with a turquoise colorant but many times it is difficult to distinguish from nontreated burlap. For that reason, most horticulturists suggest removal of the burlap from at least the top and sides of the rootball so as to not impede lateral root development at all and to prevent issues with water penetration or wicking.

    Ideally, you want nothing to impede the healthy establishment of any tree and that includes removing as many wrappings as possible before planting, inspecting the rootball to remove or loosen any circling or girdling roots, planting at the proper depth and not amending individual planting holes.

    Failing to adhere to any of these recommendations puts the tree at risk. Probably not tomorrow.....need to think in tree time.......but certainly over time.

    Check any ISA website or .edu publication on tree planting to confirm.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    I haven't found enough difference in longevity in the green treated burlap vs. brown, to put in a thimble. it still rots away very quickly.

  • nidnay

    When they come and cut off the wire to a little below ground level, it’s easy enough to pull back the soil that has been mounded around the trunk (in order to expose the flare). Improper planting like this can sometimes take a long time to rear it’s ugly head by killing the tree.....the damage it inflicts does not happen overnight.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Treated burlap has a usable lifespan of 2-3 times that of untreated burlap. So if untreated burlap begins to breakdown in a single growing season (and it can), treated burlap can take 2-3 growing seasons before it begins to breakdown. And that is too long to leave in place.

  • l pinkmountain

    Plus moisture is a factor in burlap breakdown. I've seen trees also way "overwrapped" in burlap. An inexperienced planter who doesn't know the basic important things about proper planting can easily make a mistake (including burying the trunk flare) which is why I linked to the two very informational cooperative extension bulletins on what to look out for when planting a wire bound balled burlap wrapped tree. Also, the burlap is often wrapped around the trunk making if difficult to figure out where the trunk flare is and burying the tree too deeply (as in OP's photo) is a common cause of long term tree decline. Frankly I could write my master's thesis over again using all the information and references on the variations in burlap and balling techniques and how to manage them.
    https://www.arborday.org/trees/planting/balled-burlapped.cfm
    https://www.clemson.edu/cafls/vincent/articles/show_me_your_root_flare.pdf

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