“Hey!” we said.

(Watch out for brilliant ideas – they always turn out to be a lot of work.)

“While Bruce is here excavating for our septic system, let’s ask him to move a few trees planted by the previous owner, and we can make our future garden plot bigger.”

Bruce moved trees when we were first putting in a driveway.  Some lovely young spruce about 6 feet tall were growing where the drive was laid out.  Bruce offered to scoop them up with his back hoe and move then out of harm’s way.”

Back in the ground is just a few minutes.

We were no strangers to  transplanting trees on our land.  During our first few years as we were restoring an area to prairie, we were digging them up with a shovel and moving them by wheelbarrow, and had pretty good success.  (see Putting Pines in their Place or tips on Transferring Evergreens 

So we were thrilled to preserve the lane trees and fill in a bare spot along the road.  Almost all of them survived – thanks to many many gallons of water that we hauled to them with 2 five-gallon plastic buckets and a yoke.

That was four years ago, and those toddler trees have turned into strapping big teens.

But we are optimistic that they may make the move.  They were out of the ground a very short time, and we have been hauling water to them like crazy.  I personally hauled half a ton of water on the day the first eight were moved.  Since then three more changed address.

Nutrient-rich water.

When Doug said, “Bruce is ready to move the trees now!” I ran for the buckets and the power wagon.  A back hoe is a pretty blunt instrument for delicate surgery, but it went very fast.  Bruce could dig a hole, scoop out a tree and settle it in as fast as I could haul it 15 gallons of water.

Now we have 11 thirsty cedars and pines.  I don’t think we would have undertaken the process without our power wagon and a lot more plastic buckets.

We still use the yoke to get the buckets over the dike.

We are giving each tree 7-10 gallons of water every few days.

Of course you can’t tell how an evergreen is going for quite some time.  A holiday tree will sit in your living room looking vibrant for weeks without a root to its name.  So we won’t really know till next year.

We think we have a chance because

Fall is an excellent time to transplant evergreens as long as we make sure they are well mulched before winter to avoid freezing and thawing of the root ball.

Here's how we make tracks with the power wagon.

We are able to give them plenty of water, and not just any water – nutrient-rich water from our murky little pond.

Yesterday I got down on my knees to feel how wet the ground was under the branches of a cedar and realized that the dirt was settling irregularly and leaving some air pockets.

Air pockets underground are very bad for transplanted trees.  Their roots can’t move through the air.  It’s like a deadly force field to them.  So we have tucked them in more snugly.  It was a wild race the day they were transferred, and we dropped the ball on filling them in carefully enough.  All better now.

Soon we will mulch them well for winter.

Anybody transplanting or planting any trees this fall?  What have you learned to do to keep them happy when their roots are in short supply?

These are some big trees!

4 replies

  1. We have oak trees all over meadowland but we were thinking it might be best to transfer them in spring as our ground is so wet it will be difficult to dig them up and the frosts could arrive far too soon. Plus we haven’t much time at the moment as we have lots of other jobs to do.

    That power wagon looks a nifty piece of equipment though, have you any more details about it?

  2. Hi Joanna,
    How well I know how projects have to get in line and take a number.
    We have not transplanted any oaks, but I understand that it’s tricky.

    According to Allan Maclaren
    Transplanting an oak is a labor-intensive task. Oaks are most easily transplanted when they are small (under three feet tall) and less than three years old. Oaks develop a taproot that often can be almost as long as the tree is tall. Cutting the taproot usually results in the tree dying within months after it is planted. For this reason substantial digging is required so the whole tree (taproot and the root mass) can be removed from the hole.

    As far as the nifty power wagon — we find it invaluable for many tasks. We chose it because it was the least fuel use for moving a lot of heavy things. Walking behind and guiding it is a very physical job, but doable for an average person.
    Here’s a link


  3. I know oak trees can be tricky, so thanks for the link. We have a lot of them, but fortunately many are under three feet tall, so we can afford to lose a few. In fact there seems to be hundreds of them, they’re almost a weed

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