Moving a tree…. Or not.
May 2, 2008 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I need to move a little tree, but I’m afraid I’ll end up killing it. Is it worth the risk?

Here’s the story. About eleven years ago, my grandfather and I planted a little sapling next to his house. It was one of the last things we did before he passed away. That goofy little tree means a lot to me. I always think of my grandfather when I see it. Now, eleven years later, its grown too big for its place against the house. Its started to twist against the house and I’m worried. I think it needs to be moved ASAP.

Ok I’ve googled “moving a tree” and gotten directions (which pretty much amount to “Dig a hole. Dig up tree. Put in hole. Pray.”) I want to try it next weekend when I go back upstate to visit my family. However, my dad thinks that we’ll kill it if we try to move it. He thinks we should just leave it alone . FYI, its your basic little fir tree, about four feet tall.

So my question is, to move or not to move? I really don’t want to risk killing the tree, but I think it’ll die anyway if we leave it where it is. Help! I’m looking for anecdotes, suggestions, warnings, etc.
posted by silverstatue to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I moved a tulip tree from my previous home about 10 miles to my current home. That was about 15 years ago. The tulip is doing fine. It stood about 7-8 ft. tall at the time of the move. The trick is to dig a large enough root ball.

Moving a 4-foot fir to another spot in the same yard should be a piece of cake.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:02 AM on May 2, 2008

A 4' tree can be moved fairly easily without damaging it. You may want to look around for a professional or an equipment rental place with a tree spade (aka a tree transplanter, aka a root baller, also they aren't all massive peices of equipment).
posted by Pollomacho at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2008

Okay, I've never tried this myself, but I have read about it. What you do is wait until fall, then get a spade and cut through the roots all the way around. You are going to be moving the root ball inside the circle cut you make, so you want to make it as large as possible but not so big that you won't be able to move it. Then you do nothing until spring. Meantime the tree is growing new little rootlets inside of the line that you cut, basically forming a more extensive root system in there to make up for what you cut off. Then early in the spring, before it warms up enough to stress the tree, you move it. Water it in with some root growth booster, and keep it well watered.

But, you know, you probably don't need to move it unless you think it will damage the house. Trees are incredibly tough and normally prevail in fights against houses, sidewalks, sewer lines, etc.
posted by Enroute at 11:10 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Should be ok. Dig out as much of the roots as you can move, then prep the new hole with compost and it should be fine.
posted by electroboy at 11:20 AM on May 2, 2008

It's my understanding that they're pretty hardy, so I'd say get some tools and do it.
posted by resurrexit at 11:29 AM on May 2, 2008

Enroute has the right idea. This should either be done in the late fall/early winter before the ground freezes. the idea is that the tree is mostly dormant and doesn't have many water needs at this time. Once spring comes around, the tree will push new roots in it's new hole.

depending on the soil type and where you are moving it to, you might want to dig a looser/bigger new hole and break up a bunch of soil in the new hole to so the tree has a easier time pushing it's new roots.

Firs are pretty hardy, so I doubt you'll kill it as long as it gets a few nice waterings in first few days after the transplant.
posted by jrishel at 12:33 PM on May 2, 2008

Seconding (thirding) enroute and jrishel. Don't move any woody perennials this late in the spring. Winter (after the deciduous trees have lost their leaves, and before the lilacs bloom in spring, roughly October-early March depending on where you are) is the only time to do this without too much risk of unduly traumatizing the tree.

When you cut the rootball, picture the roots being the same size as the treetop; like a kind of underground mirror image. That will help you decide how deep and wide to dig. With a tree that size you don't necessarily have to cut-and-then-wait if you don't want to, you can move it to the new site right away.

Almost as important as not killing the roots is making the new home easy to adjust to by breaking up the soil all around it and working in a buttload of compost (not fertilizer, you don't want to risk burning the roots).
posted by GardenGal at 12:50 PM on May 2, 2008

this is great stuff, guys. I really appreciate it. I had no idea about the "prepping the winter before" part. Looks like the move will have to be NEXT spring.
posted by silverstatue at 1:04 PM on May 2, 2008

« Older Must I disclose my race?   |   Crystal Beth is off the table, thankfully Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.