I visited a local nursery last week in hopes of finding a conical evergreen to replace a small redbud tree at the front corner of our house that died. I hit the jackpot when I found a ball-and-burlap Robusta Green juniper (Juniperus chinensis) for a reasonable price. This particular juniper cultivar is a female form of the species. It is relatively slow-growing, reaching 10 to 15 feet in height, with a natural conical form and bluish berries. As an added bonus, the Robusta Green juniper is touted as being relatively deer-resistant. It’s the perfect fit for out location! Now to get it planted.
As you can see, I needed to use our hand truck to lug the juniper tree up our front hill. This was not an easy task, as the root ball weighed about 90 pounds! I started the transplanting process by digging a hole about one foot wider than the root ball and exactly as deep. The soil in this area was trucked in a few years ago to help with drainage issues. When it was added, we combined the topsoil with an equal volume of compost so the soil is nice and loose and easy to dig.
Before putting the root ball into the hole, I measured the hole using the shovel handle to be sure it was both wide enough and deep enough for the plant. When I was satisfied, I rolled the root ball into the hole and rotated the plant until the “good” side was facing in the right direction. You can see that the nursery tied up the branches with a piece of jute twine, which made the whole process a little bit easier.
Once the tree was properly positioned in the hole, I readied the root ball by cutting off the twine and pulling out the nails held the burlap together. I didn’t remove the wire cage around the bottom of the root ball because it helps keep the root ball intact. Because the root ball was wrapped in natural burlap and not synthetic, I could have left the burlap fully intact, but sometimes if it is exposed to air, the burlap can act like a wick and draw moisture away from the roots. Rather than risk this, I took a knife and cut the burlap off the top half of the root ball before filling the hole back in.
I tamped down the backfill to remove any air pockets but was careful not to overly compact it. I used the same soil that came out of the hole to backfill around the plant. I did not amend it in any way as I want the roots to grow out into the existing soil, rather than circling around in a little pocket of highly amended, compost-rich backfill.
After planting, I watered the tree carefully. I’ll need to keep it watered throughout the winter, especially if we don’t get much natural precipitation. It will probably take a full year or two for the roots to become fully established.
And here is my newly planted juniper! We are very happy.