How and When to Move a Tree

There are many reasons you could want to move a tree. Perhaps it was planted too close to the house or other trees, and now it has overgrown its space. Maybe you are doing some renovations that include putting something else in the spot where the tree is. Or, perhaps you are moving and wish you could take your prized tree with you. Whatever the reason, the good news is that you can safely move a tree with a few basic steps.

1. Gather What You Need

You will need a sharp shovel, a tarp, a watering hose and mulch. You may also want someone else to help you, depending on the size of the tree.

2. Determine the Correct Timing

In most of the United States, the best time to move and plant trees is early spring. If that’s not possible, you can do it in the fall. Do not move a tree in the summer because the heat will further stress the plant. If you are not sure when your type of tree should be moved, call a local nursery or agriculture college.

3. Pick a Location

Give this some thought, taking into consideration how much sun or shade and water or dry soil your particular specimen will require. Also, make sure to give it enough room away from walls or other plantings, so it can stretch out and grow.

4. Dig the New Hole

The new hole should be twice as wide as the rootball. Do not loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole. As you dig, pile up the soil on one side of the hole.

5. Dig Up the Tree

This must be done very carefully, so you minimize the harm to your tree’s root system as much as possible. Place your tarp near the tree. Start digging about 3 feet away from the base of the tree trunk. As you do, start figuring out just how big the rootball is and where it’s located. If it’s small enough, you may be able to dig most of it out without hurting it. If it is bigger, however, you will likely have to cut through roots shooting off the sides of the ball. When you see most of the rootball, start sliding your shovel under it and gently begin loosening and prying it up, away from the ground. Once the ball is free, carefully lift it and carry it over to the tarp.

6. Plant the Tree

Drag the tarp with the tree on it over to the new hole. Gently slide it into the hole. Use the shovel to carefully move the loose soil back into the hole, packing it gently around the rootball. Every so often, add water to the hole. When you’ve placed all the soil back, gently mound it up, creating a rim to catch water. Starting a couple of inches away from the trunk, spread a layer of mulch over the ground in a circle around the tree.

7. Monitor and Maintain the Tree

Make sure to check the tree frequently, and water as needed. It will take awhile for the roots to grow and establish a new root system in their new location, so you need to water them regularly until they are able to do so. Be patient; realize that it could take about a year before your tree fully recovers from moving.

Follow these steps to give your tree its best chance of moving successfully into its new home. Take the time to make the move correctly so that your tree goes on to thrive for years to come.

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