As members of the Roots Plus Field-growers Association of Florida (RPG) we are often asked questions about various tree related issues. One of the commonly asked questions is: "Should wire baskets be removed from trees at planting?". As members of the field-grown tree industry we depend on wire baskets because they provide the best system of handling, planting, and establishing newly planted trees while maintaining a high quality tight root system. Wire baskets have been used for at least fifty years in our industry and tens of millions of trees have been planted with wire baskets during that time. We believe that wire baskets are not detrimental to trees after planting and in fact believe that hurricanes and storm events have shown that trees planted in wire baskets are superior performers in the landscape. While we do draw upon years of experience, the following response to questions about wire baskets is also based on scientific evidence and research investigating whether or not leaving wire baskets intact impacts tree health.
First, we would like to address the function of a wire basket on a field-grown tree. Wire baskets are designated to support a root ball on the top and sides. The top and side wires support the root ball during loading, shipping, and transplanting, insuring the root ball arrives at its planting site intact. They also provide support to the tree during the time it is establishing in the landscape. This support provided by the basket, along with the weight of the root ball, is the reason field-grown trees often do not need to be staked. When wire baskets are removed entirely, or the top tiers of wire are removed, the advantage of the weight of the root ball helping to hold the tree in the ground is lost. After removal of the wire the trees will need to be staked (like most container trees) and will be subject to blowing over during significant storm events. Not only does staking add significant cost to a tree planting project it can also add liability with guy wires becoming tripping and mowing hazards. Also, we have all seen staking materials not removed in a timely manner that eventually can girdle and destroy a tree.
The wire basket serves one other very important purpose; it provides a means for lifting the tree by the root ball so that the tree is not
lifted by strapping on the trunk. The significance of this advantage to wire baskets cannot be overstated. In fact, container nurseries have looked into using a type of wire basket inside of the container to help provide a safe way of handling larger container trees. A wire basket is designated to support the tree by distributing the weight over the entire root ball.
FALL 2016 A Publication of the Roots Plus Field Growers Association of Florida
By Michael Marshall, Marshall Tree Farm
Wire Baskets: Why Leave them Intact?