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Root ball is ready to check for root defects

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burlap wrapped root ball

Close-up shows the unevenness of the top of a field-grown B&B root ball-this is normal. You can remove soil from the elevated portion of the ball (see right side of root ball) down to the root flare. Check for and treat circling roots if necessary, cover the sides of the root ball with soil or mulch, and finish the planting.

If you suspect that the root system is too deep remove soil from the top of the root ball so the point where the top-most root meets the trunk is within the top two inches of the root ball. Pull the excess soil away from the trunk and push it into the hole around the ball. Use your hands for this instead of a shovel to avoid root and trunk injury. Cut circling roots or other roots that are growing across the top of the main roots. It may be easiest to removed the burlap on top of the ball to do this.