The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

May 19, 2016

Remove burlap and twine from balled and burlapped trees

Filed under: Planting,Trees — bob @ 9:49 am

The balled and burlapped method of planting trees is very popular because it allows nurseries to dig, move and sell larger specimens than if the trees were bare-root or potted. It also makes it easier for homeowners and landscapers to plant. In landscaping, like in any other business, time is money which is why it can be tempting for some to cut corners when planting trees.

The most common of these cost-cutting items is dropping a balled and burlappped tree into a hole, replacing the soil, then mulching the new tree. From the outside everything looks wonderful but not taking care of the burlap or twine can prove to be devastating to a tree.

Wire, burlap and twine does not decompose in the soil as readily as some landscapers would like you to believe. To keep roots growing to their full potential, wire must be cut and removed from the root ball. It will not “rust right away” as we are often told.

I had an experience many years ago when someone asked me to move a tree for them that was planted five or more years earlier. It was going to be a big job. When I uncovered the top layer of soil I discovered that the landscaper had left the wire basket on the rootball. It was a simple matter for me to hook a chain onto the wire basket and just lift the entire tree out of the hole with a front end loader on my tractor and carry it to its new location. The tree looked like it just came from the nursery. The wire was still sturdy and the burlap was sound with no roots growing through.

Damage by twine left on root ball.

Damage by twine left on root ball.


The twine tree growers use to tie the top of the burlap does not deteriorate very fast either and will eventually cause major damage to or even kill a tree if it is not removed. As the tree grows in diameter, the twine stays in place and acts as tourniquet strangling the tree. It may take many years for symptoms to show.

The tree formed a callus around the twine as it tried to minimize the damage.

The tree formed a callus around the twine as it tried to minimize the damage.

Even the roots were not able to develop properly

Even the roots were not able to develop properly

Finally, the burlap cloth itself should at least be slashed to allow roots a place to grow into the surrounding soil — removing it completely would be even better.

If you landscaper tries to tell you that that leaving twine and burlap on the trees is standard practice, don’t believe it and insist they do it right.



Homemade lawn weed killer using 20 Mule Team Borax

Filed under: Weeds — bob @ 7:46 am

Every year there seems to one species of plant that thrives more than it usually does. I remember a few years back when sweet clover could be seen popping allover in places where it hardly grew at all before.

This year it is the low-growing lawn weed with the purple flowers called creeping charlie that’s making the rounds. It’s all over our area, even in farm fields. It’s so dense in many places that it form a purple mat that’s easy to spot from quite a distance away.

There are chemical herbicides on the market that will control creeping charlie and other broad leaf lawn weeds. But what can you do if you are trying to avoid exposure to chemicals?

The easiest thing to do is just ignore it and accept that it is a part of your lawn’s ecosystem.

Another possible solution to try is a homemade borax-based  broad leaf  weed killer that uses 20 Mule Team Borax as its main ingredient. Researchers in Wisconsin discovered that borax used in the right concentration, killed broad leaf weeds while leaving the grass untouched.

Disolve borax in some hot water first. Then add that solution to the rest of the water.

Dissolve borax in some hot water first. Then add that solution to the rest of the water.

The science behind this concept is the element boron. Boron is an essential micro-nutrient that all plants need. In too high of a concentration, it will kill a plant. Grasses are more tolerant of high levels of boron than are broad leaf weeds like creeping charlie. That means weeds will die of a boron overdose easier than grass.

The problem with this solution is the amount of borax needed to work varies with soil type. Certain soils neutralize boron more efficiently than others.

A good formula to start out with is eight to ten ounces of 20 Mule Team Borax to two and one-half gallons of water (the volume of a standard hand-held pump sprayer). It’s a little difficult to get it to dissolve so mix it in a pail first then fill your sprayer. Spray that amount over 1000 square feet of lawn.

Sometimes the grass will start to turn brown but it eventually will out grow any damage. Like cleaning fabric, try it out in a inconspicuous spot before doing the entire area.



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