To move trees and shrubs, you need to get down and dirty!
The first thing you have to do, is plan where you want these trees to go. Now, I am talking about moving small trees such as spruce or pines or maples, that are basically still seedling or maybe a year or two old. Anything bigger than three feet tall and a couple of feet wide, is going to take a lot of hard labor and friends, or hire a tree mover. Also make sure the area you are moving them to, is not directly under hydro lines, as they will be forced to cut your trees down a few years down the road if they are fast growers and interfere with the hydro and phone lines. Also allow room around them and between them.
Remember how large your trees can get. They may be cute little bushy seedlings right now, but some of those trees can grow over 60 feet tall. So, take a good look around you before you plant. We once made the mistake of letting the kids plant a cute little Blue spruce off the end of the deck. Five years later the roots were trying to push up the corner of the deck.. Yes they are that strong! Also, if you have a septic system, stay far away from that, as tree roots will source out and find water, and your septic bed is a great source of water. This can cause a lot of damage, and you will need a new septic system. So, just allow plenty of room for your trees to grow.
But if you have quite a few of those small spruce trees or shrubs, that are growing too close together, then it is a good idea to try and move trees to a better spot with more room.
There is much controversy about when the best time to transplant trees, whether it be the spring or the fall. But from personal experience, I have found the early spring to be the best. It gives the tree or shrub time to get their roots rooted so to speak before the winter winds are upon them. I have found uprooted trees in the spring when planted in the fall, as they have not had a chance to properly root and are susceptible to the blowing and gusting winds of winter.
March is a really good time, but depending on where you live, you may need to wait until the end of March or the first couple weeks of April. The ground has to be workable. Now, the only problem with spring transplanting, is that you may need to wear rain gear and be ready for a lot of mud! So get out those rubber boots and gloves and rain coat.
Here is how you decide how big an area you cut around a small shrub or tree. You look at their bottom branches, and see how far they stick out. If it is about a foot from the tree, then you should dig at that point. The bottom branch spread is a good indicator of where the roots grow out to. If you dig to close to the tree, you will slice these roots and the tree will go into shock and may or may not survive.
If you are going to all of this trouble you want to move trees to survive right?
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So, now you have an idea of how big a root ball to dig up, go to the area you wish to transplant the tree or shrub to, and dig that hole first. Make sure there are no big rocks in it, and that the hole is big enough to accommodate the root ball you will be dropping in there. It doesn't hurt for it to be a bit wider. Don't go to deep, you don't want the tree to far below the surface of the surrounding ground, but a little divot would not hurt, as this will hold some water after a rain and help keep them watered.
Go back to your tree or shrub you plan on moving, and dig carefully around the tree. Go around in a circle with a sharp shovel, and make a deep slice around in a circle. Now carefully lever the shrub onto the shovel and then into a waiting wheel barrow. Take your tree carefully over to its new home, and carefully slide the tree into the hole.
Now this part is really important. You want to get rid of any air gaps between the newly dug hole and the transplanted tree or shrub. The easiest way to do this, is to make sure there is enough dirt in the hole to touch the bottom of the root ball, and then add a good drenching of water. Lift the tree a bit and then drop back down, you will hear a squishing sound, that pretty well tells you that any air gap is gone. It is hard for a root to jump an air gap when the tree is trying to grown in its new spot.
Once you have the tree in the hole, and the air gaps are taken care of, put any excess soil around the outside of the hole, and create a slight divot. This area will hold the rain water a bit longer. If your soil is well draining, then this will not be a problem. But if your newly transplanted tree or shrub is on the side of a hill for example, then you need to make a bit of a well or a divot so that the water does not just run off the tree and down the hill.
Those newly transplanted trees and shrubs need lots of water that first year, especially that initial spring and summer to get rooted properly. After that, an occasional watering will be good, but this can be difficult if you are filling up a rural property, so that bit of a well in the soil will give them a fighting chance that first season. Now enjoy your trees!
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