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I am transplanting an 8 year old Royal Frost Birch in Ohio; about 20 feet tall, 4" diameter clumped trunks. I pruned the roots back in June and the root ball was just dug up today, mid-March. The root ball is wrapped in burlap and blankets, and I am keeping it moist. It was supposed to be replanted tomorrow, but there is construction involved that is not allowing me to do so.

If the root ball is exposed to freezing temperatures overnight, will it cause harm? Do I need to dig a hole and temporarily plant to avoid this? It will get down to 30 F for a few hours tonight, then warm for a day, but then we are headed into nights in the low 20's after that. The tree may be looking at 4 or 5 nights in the lower 20's.

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In Wisconsin, we stored B&B trees for the winter by stacking them closely, covering them with woodchips, tarping, and covering with straw. The trees lived through -20 Fahrenheit temps. Given that you'll be 40 degrees warmer than that, simply tarping the root ball and the area around it in order to trap heat from the ground is probably sufficient. Surrounding the root ball with soil or wood chips would also be a way to keep the roots above freezing. Do not heel it in.

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  • what kind of tarp? Just thin poly?
    – Evil Elf
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 12:29
  • The thicker the tarp, the better. An old mover's blanket (should you have one) would work better. Thin poly might get you an extra couple of degrees. Your soil itself is almost certainly above freezing - the aim with covering it with a tarp is to trap this heat as it leaves the soil via convection, so you want to cover the root ball and the soil around it (kind of tented, with the root ball in the middle), not just the root ball, to create a just-above-freezing zone around the root ball.
    – Jurp
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 16:43

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