At Great Hill we move trees quite often and for a variety of reasons. Most often, trees are moved because they have grown too large for a specific location or have been damaged and need to be replaced. We may also be faced with a large transplant when a specific garden area is being redesigned or is in the process of an alteration.

When planning to move a tree, it’s important to account for numerous factors that dictate when and how to go about the move. For example, the type of tree or the size of its root system, access to the tree, the time of year, as well as how far the tree will have to travel. Each of these factors is considered in deciding when and how the tree is moved.

There are several different methods of tree transplant that we utilize at Great Hill. These are the three most common.

The bare root method. Utilizing this method, much of the soil is removed exposing the roots and allowing us to keep a large percentage of them during the process of digging the tree. This method has several benefits. Removing soil from the roots reduces the trees weight significantly and allows for the use of smaller machinery during the dig. Also, as the roots are exposed, we can examine them and observe and correct any potential issues. There are draw backs to bare root transplanting as well. For example, the removal of soil from the root ball can lead to the tree becoming  top heavy and difficult to balance during transport. Another draw back is that exposed roots, if allowed to dry out, can die back quickly and significantly.

Another method used to transplant is the ball and burlap method. This method involves digging a root ball with the use of a mini excavator or similar equipment. The root ball (made of dirt and roots) is then laced with twine and covered with burlap for stability. This method is the most commonly used in the nursery industry. Depending on site access, a mini excavator is used to roughly dig around the tree. Then, using a spade shovel, the root ball is shaped, covered in burlap and drum laced. While wrapping the root ball is beneficial in many ways during transportation of the tree, there are also draw backs. When using large machinery some larger roots can be cut, compromising the trees health following transplant. Also, lacking good access,  the majority of the root ball is dug by hand, which is a long and laborious undertaking.

A third method involves a digging spade. This mechanical spade is an attachment to a front end loader. Depending on access to the tree, the trees size, as well as its branch habit, the spade mechanically digs a root ball around the tree. This is by far the fastest method, but requires getting a large piece of equipment into the garden, which is not always possible.

No matter the method, a successful dig begins with proper preparations. Making sure the tree is as healthy as possible before the dig leads to a better chance of a successful move. When trees are transplanted they undergo a level of stress, and the larger the tree, the longer the recovery period. Included on this page are pictures of some of the moves we have done using these different methods.