Show & Tell

By Bob Gluck, Certified Arborist WI-0116A

After over 30 years of practicing arboriculture, I have quite the collection of “show and tell” treasures of tree care blunders. I have used these props many times for talks to various garden clubs, school classes and for Arbor Day programs over the years.


Spring is a great time to plant new trees, so in this article I will share my all-time, number one, pet peeve arboricultural blunder:  leaving planting baskets on. Baskets are simply a means of keeping the roots intact while moving a plant from field to nursery and then to the new location. The tree stumps in this picture come from a yard that was surrounded by spruce trees. These trees were offering a very private yard. They were 20 feet tall and beginning to show a lot of decline, (yellow needles, stunted growth) and were generally very unhealthy looking. At the time of my examination I looked for any sign of insect and or disease issues that we could fix easily. I found none of the above so I began to look at the soil and found that every one of the 30 trees surrounding the yard all had the planting baskets, wire and rope intact. While talking with the homeowner they told me that a “reputable” landscape company did the planting 8 years prior to my visit, and the trees were doing great until recently. (It took a number of years of growing for the wires and ropes to become so tight as to strangle the plant.) They informed me that the trees were warrantied for one year and now no warranty was left. We ended up removing all the trees and planting all new ones, WITHOUT the wire baskets, ropes and strings.

Upon researching this topic over the years, I have yet to find any article that says shipping containers should be left on. My personal philosophy has always been to try and mimic Mother Nature and I have yet to see wires and planting baskets in a forest environment, which are the trees that Mother Nature plants. In the “Trees are Good” brochure written by the International Society of Arboriculture step # 3 in proper tree planting states “Remove the containers or cut away the wire basket”. In the Best Management Practice (practical publ. of ANSI standard of tree planting) states, “If the root ball is wrapped with a wire basket remove the upper 1/4 – 1/3 of the wire and burlap after the ball is set in the hole. I prefer to remove it all as it only takes another few minutes to remove it completely.

So as we anxiously await spring planting time, please remove the wire basket and follow all the proper planting recommendations set forth by the International Society of Arboriculture, Tree Care Industry or a reputable, certified arborist.

For further questions on this topic or any tree related questions, please don’t hesitate to call one of our exam certified arborists/diagnostics, at Hoppe Tree Service, LLC.

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