Whether you're putting trees in your own backyard or in the local city park as part of a community service project, being familiar with the specific requirements of planting a tree wrapped in burlap can mean the difference between a healthy, vigorous tree and a sickly one. A balled and burlapped tree--or a "B & B," as horticulture and gardening experts call it--is harvested with its root system intact in a ball of soil, which is then securely contained in a bag of burlap. During tree selection, take the time to check beneath the top edge of the burlap to ensure that the base of the trunk is sturdy and healthy.
Pour a bucket of water over the burlap and the root ball during storage to keep the root system moist. Cover it with a thin layer of mulch to help hold in the moisture if you plan on waiting for more than a couple of days to plant it. Select a sunny planting location, ideally one that has at least eight hours of daily sun. Check overhead to ensure there are no power lines or other obstacles that might inhibit or hamper the growth of your tree.
Dig a hole that is at least three times bigger than the diameter of the root ball. For example, if the root ball is 10 inches wide, dig a circular hole that is at least 30 inches across at the middle. The depth of the hole should be 1 to 2 inches less than the height of the root ball; for instance, if the root ball is 18 inches tall, your hole should be 16 to 17 inches deep.
Lift the root ball and place the tree in the center of the planting hole. Remove the twine that holds the burlap in place. Lift the edges of the burlap away from the root ball and spread the burlap flat across the soil.
Scoop the dirt back into the hole. Avoid packing it down to minimize soil compaction. Fill the hole to the level of the surrounding soil, making sure the top 1 to 2 inches of root ball are still exposed. Let your garden hose trickle water over the root ball for two to three hours.
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of finished compost around the surface of the loose topsoil. Leave a 1-foot circle around the trunk of the tree free of compost.