LawnSite Member
According to the "Tree Owner's Manual for the Northeastern and Midwestern United States," here's the way to determine how deep and wide to dig:

  • Measure the height of the root ball. This is exactly how deep you should dig the hole.
  • Measure the approximate width of the root ball or root system. Multiply this by 2, or if your soil is hard (clay or compacted), by at least 3. This is how wide you should dig the hole.

Tree Planting And Installation Feb 21 (NJ)

Leo the Landscaper

LawnSite Member
Cleveland, Ohio
I would suggest that the description of the depth would result in some trees being planted too deep. To say that the hole should be the exact depth as the height of the root-ball is leaving too much to chance. It should state that the depth of the hole should result in the root flare being at or slightly above grade.

Too many nursery grown b&b trees and shrubs have a root flare buried deep within the root-ball. This is a result of cultivation techniques for weed control and digging practices.

There is a fine line between opening the burlap to find the root flare and yet maintaining the integrity of the root-ball while placing it in the hole. Overtime with experience one will become familiar with the typical depth of root flare based on type of material and what supplier grew it.


LawnSite Member
Just passing on some info I read - though I DO want to plant a few small trees, and I'm thinking that Leo has some good additional info. So thanks, Leo.

On another topic, there's a pine tree behind my house - it's about 85 feet high, and I wonder how deep the roots go, because I've had some issues with roots getting into the sewer line.


LawnSite Fanatic
Pines do no not have a 'deep' root, relatively speaking. Oaks grow deep and wide by comparison.

Common mistake made by scapers is that they establish the depth with dry soil, then when it is soaked it will sink to one degree or another. Undisturbed soils will theoretically sink less.

B&Bs are becoming an issue again, since their 'last big' recommendation change of not removeing the burlap. Now they are pushing the idea of it almost being planted as a 'bare root', which is fine most of the time as long as it is soaked into place and adjusted for height before it is left to dry and grow.

It is always better to observe a few essential and basic principles, then modify each individual situation to to meet the criteria of those essentials.
Settling the root hairs in saturated soil and the elimination of air pockets are 2 of the essential principles to observe. Of course, the 'crown' up in the air as opposed to under the dirt is another essential. Staking is almost never required with a properly handled rootball. Even B&Bs... :)