Moving a Lace Leaf Japanese Maple

Discussion in 'Maples' started by EPP1950, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. EPP1950

    EPP1950 Active Member

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    Camas Washington,USA zone 6b
    Hope this all makes sense to you, I tried to explain everthing we did.
    We started digging the tree by first tying the branches together in about four bundles to give us as much room as possible under it ( in the photo of the tree before replanting they are still tied). Next, we scraped any loose soil and debris away and established the diameter of the ball approximately 46 inches. We dug straight down about eighteen inches all the way around the tree before we started to taper under it.
    There are a couple points,I'd make, about the actual digging, First use a shovel with a good sharp edge, I sharpened several the night before with a grinder and removed all traces of rust with a wire wheel (so soil especially clay doesn't stick to it) I also used a file several times during the day to keep the edge sharp. Another important point, is to never pry off the ball while digging always off the outside of the trench ( prying off the ball will loosen it). I used a hand saw to saw through the larger roots that couldn't be cut with a shovel.
    By the time we got to what would be the bottom of the ball, it was left sitting on a pedestal of earth about eighteen inches across. At this point we used sisal twine in a loop that extended from the back bottom of the ball to the front top, in front of the trunk, cinched tight and tied. This was repeated about every six inches around the perimeter of the ball, this adds a lot to the integrity (strenght) of the root ball. At this point we remove some additional earth from two points opposite each other on the outside of the trench creating two dished out areas large enough for the ball to move ten or twelve inches in either direction, till that point the trench was only as wide as needed to accommodate feet and legs. Into these two dished areas we pushed the tree back and forth an broke it free of the remaining earth beneath it.
    Once the tree was free we held it to one side and placed the burlap which was half rolled up under it, the unrolled portion extended up the ball, we pushed the tree to the opposite side and retrieved the rest of the burlap from under it, pulling it up so the tree was now sitting in the middle of the burlap. We used more sisal twine and sixteen penny nails to secure the burlap to the ball.
    What we did next, I think is genius and I take no credit for, by pushing the tree to one side and then the other, each time holding it there while backing filling several shoves full of earth, the tree was raised up out of the hole until it was almost at ground level. The grade sloped from the tree's location to the sidewalk so we dug a shallow trench and rolled it to the sidewalk.
    The floor of the trailer was about twelve inches higher than the sidewalk. To get it up the ramp and in the trailer, we tied one end of a rope to the front of the trailer, ran the rope around the upper portion of the ball (the tree was fairly horizontal for this) then attached the other end of the rope to a come-along which was also attached to the front of the trailer. Retracting the come-along, slowly rolled the tree forward, this was repeated until the tree was in trailer, in front of its axles. This was the most difficult and time consuming part of what was a labor intense day.
    Once the tree was tied in the trailer and covered with a tarp, I triumphantly drove it about seventy miles to its new home in our back-yard (including probably its first trip across the Columbia river).
    One thing I wish I had done, was find/rent a trailer big enough to hold the tree and my tractor, placing it on the trailer would have been easy with it. In the photo of the tree before replanting you can see it, still attached to the tree with a chain. I pulled it off the trailer, with it in about five minutes by myself the next morning. I also dug an oversize hole with the loader bucket, then by offsetting the chain rotated the tree about a quarter of a turn while I dragged it into the hole. One very nice aspect of the very heavy root ball was that it was next to impossible to tip the tree over.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2011
  2. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Northamptonshire, England
    Great info EPP, thanks for sharing. The practical considerations of moving such a large rootball by hand are hard to imagine, it is good to get a first hand account.
  3. CSL

    CSL Active Member

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    Boston USA

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post this information, very informative, and much appreciated. There are a few very good tricks in there that I have filed in my memory banks.

    My wife and I are not in our last home and when we leave this house, I have quite a few trees that are coming with me!

    All the best.


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