Grown Here at Home: Harvesting trees at Booth’s Nurseries, the work Ralph Booth dedicated his life to

Ralph Booth loved being on the farm, in the outdoor air, caring for trees.
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 7:37 AM EST
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FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ) - Ralph Booth loved being on the farm, in the outdoor air, caring for trees.

“I’ve been doing this for just over 40 years. I started in 1981. I love everything about it. I love growing trees, watching them grow. I’ve enjoyed planting trees wherever I go,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Ralph did as the owner of Booth’s Nurseries in Franklin County. He planted trees for homeowners and cities. His work has spruced up many of our hometowns – bringing new life to each place.

Ralph and his wife, Anne, showed how they harvest a Scarlet Oak. First, you need to get out the heavy machinery, because that’s one heavy tree. Ralph had all the stats on the tree.

“This is about a 2.5- to 3-inch caliper tree. It weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. It’s probably 14 to 16 feet tall. It’s going to be a long-live tree and will probably grow to 70 or 100 feet tall.

After it’s pulled out of the ground, Anne gets to work.

“I have to cut a small portion of soil off the bottom to make it flat so the tree will sit flat,” she explained.

The roots are cut down to the root ball, and the tree is ready to be lowered into a wire basket lined with burlap. Anne pulls the burlap around the root ball and fastens it down. The top is tied with rope to hold the soil in, then they twist the frame of the basket to tighten it around the root ball to hold everything together.

“We also then tie the top of the tree so as we’re transporting it, the branches aren’t sticking out of the truck or hanging on things. That just makes it much easier to transport. When we place the tree into the ground, we’re going to cut these ropes here and lay the burlap back so that the top of the soil has access to the rain and can start establishing itself and start getting settled into a new home,” Anne said.

In time, the burlap will deteriorate, and the wire basket will rust away. Early spring is a prime harvest season. They say the key is planting the tree before it breaks dormancy, so that it has a better chance of surviving.

“Most trees are going to break dormancy about mid-April. That’s the proper time to begin your fertilizer treatment or nutrient program so that the tree builds a new set of roots. That’s the crucial item and primary thing you want to do on a new tree is establish the new roots,” Ralph said.

Some good advice from a pro. Ralph Booth committed his life to his passion. And although he’s no longer with us, we can see the works of his hands in all the trees he’s planted that will live on for years to come.

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