South Dakota collecting trip, Day 4

Yes, day 4. Day 3 was a driving day, 11 hours back to Iowa, so I won’t bore anyone with blurry photos of the northern plains.

However some of the conversation was around Dan Robinson’s “Papoose Wrap”, described by a few of his comrades/students on Bonsai Nut, and in Will Hiltz’ book, Gnarly Branches. Since we had already wrapped the root balls in burlap, and tightly bound them with tape for the ride home, we spent a few hundred miles debating the merit (and risk) of trying a modified version of the papoose wrap, combined with the common nursery practice of planting landscape trees Ball and Burlap (B&B). Last time we potted what we collected out there, we had a sick feeling every time we unwrapped a burlap and the field soil fell away, no doubt, taking precious feeder roots with it. The soil was very sandy and didn’t hold together very well on its own, but drained perfectly.

So, the obvious caveat is that I have no results to share yet…don’t try this at home. We went all-in, 13 trees, 13 B&B heeled into wooden boxes, so I hope it works…I’ll keep you posted, maybe. (Translate: If it works, I’ll never shut up about it, if it doesn’t, you’ll never hear about it again)

First, we measured the root ball and made a wooden box out of reclaimed cedar fence boards, 1×6″, then attached a treated plywood base, drilled with plenty of holes.


The box was intended to be a very tight fit:


We added anchor wires through the bottom and sides, and placed a very coarse, 1/2″ sized drainage layer in the bottom, then worked the B&B into the box.

Sometimes, further encouragement was needed:

Then, we tightened it down:

Next, we loosened the burlap and tape around the trunk, worked in soil, and watered well:



Finally, we finished, and moved everything into the garage where they’ll be misted, and allowed to rest for a few weeks…which is exactly what I need now!


Tomorrow, some photos. Hope you and yours are having a nice relaxing Memorial Day weekend. Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “South Dakota collecting trip, Day 4

  1. Awesome! Looks like all junipers. Did yo see any ponderosa pines? I hear they are really nice.

  2. That’s not how I’d want to spend my first day back home! I’m wondering if the duct tape has an residual chemicals that might not be healthy for the tree.

    Thanks for the posts, I’ve enjoyed being part of your trip.

  3. Great trip Brian! I’ll be interested in hearing how the B&B heeling in works out. I believe Andy Smith does this with most of his fall collected trees. He just heels the B&B in to mulch for the winter and then pots them up in the spring. (Don’t quote me on that, but I believe that’s what he was descriping to us.)

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