transplanting a 14' maple

I have a healthy 14-foot Norway maple that I want to move.
Four questions:
1) what is the survival rate when transplanting a tree this size?
2) what is the best time of year to do this project?
3) what size equipment should I insist on for transplanting this size tree?
4) Would it actually be cheaper to buy a burlapped 14' maple and pay to have it installed, rather than hiring someone to move this tree?
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1) The survival rate is high if you make the right preparations.(ie. proper hole depth, width, peat moss, topsoil, fertilizer, etc)
2) The best time is in the fall when the tree goes dormant.(you never want to expose bare roots during its active growing season)
3) If you are going to hire a landscape contractor or even better, an arborist, they will definately have the equipment to dig up a tree this size. They also should also know which roots to prune and which ones to keep.
4) I am guessing this tree is 4-5 years old. Depending on how long you've had it in the ground, I would say that the roots are pretty deeply established. The labor to dig up and transplant this tree will definately cost more than twice as much as buying a nursery tree and planting it yourself.
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5) Mark south as to position in the same manner. No real science here.
Bill
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<< 4) I am guessing this tree is 4-5 years old.>>
The trunk diameter at breast height is almost 3 and a half inches.
The tree was here when we bought the property 5 years ago. I don't remember how tall it was then, but I'd guess maybe 8 feet. So I'm guessing the tree is now about 10 years old?
<<The labor to dig up and transplant this tree will definately cost more than twice as much as buying a nursery tree and planting it yourself. >>
None of the nurseries I've been to has maples this large. Last year I saw a couple of very large burlaped trees at a nursery in the next town; they were priced in the $400 range (I don't remember what species).
I was hoping I could hire a tree mover for a couple hundred bucks to dig up my maple and move it 150 feet to its new location. I haven't started making the calls yet to find out if I'm dreaming.
The local Lowe's was selling 7-foot silver maples with 3/4" trunks in 3 gallon pails for under ten bucks. I could handle that job myself, but it would be worth the extra money to me to have the (much) larger tree. Besides, if I don't move the tree, I'm probably going to have to take the chainsaw to it. It's in a very unfavorable location.
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FYI - the following applies to transplanting you original tree, or getting a new tree
If you prune the new tree properly, an 8 foot maple will be 14 feet tall in 3-4 years (at least in Minnesota maples and ash have). And keep growing well.
It works like this -
1) From the tree's standpoint, the top of the tree is just there to balance the roots. So think of a tree as a bunch of roots trying to make its top balance out the roots.
2) to get grass to grow, and for security, you don't want any branches below 8 feet.
3) a branch coming out 6 feet up stays at 6 feet up- it does not move up as the tree grows.
4) roots that do the work are out at the drip line. You have to be sure to take those roots when you transplant.
So when you buy an 8 foot maple, all those branches you see today will be gone in a few years, if you do this right. But the roots will remain and have expanded, balanced by a bigger higher top.
That said - some don'ts-
The biggest mistake in planting a tree is failing to prune the tree when you plant it. If you don't, they sit for a couple years, trying to get going.
The second biggest mistake in planting is not mixing soil (to prevent a barrier in the two soils, between the root ball soil and the soil of the hole.) Different soils not mixed, especially clays, doom the tree to smallness for many years.
The third mistake is not recognizing that you are looking at a tree that is forty-sixty feet across in 15-20 years and thus planting it too close to the house.
So, (skip 1 if transplanting your tree)
1) You pick the kind you like - some (e.g., Norway) keep their leaves until the snow knocks them off, and raking is real late; what color leaves -red/gold, yellow, etc; shape; height; etc. And check it against the spaces you have
2) you find your spot - use it shade the patio, lawn, whatever? - and not too close to the house or next to another tree.
3) You dig a hole twice as far across as the root ball and half again as deep (three foot root ball = 4.5 foot deep hole 6 feet across. Mix the soil you are removing well with some fertilizer and composted matter (or peat moss) and "soil amendment" (sand if clay soil, black dirt if sandy soil, etc.) About 3/4 original soil and UP TO 1/4 added stuff - 3:1 for clay soil or real sandy, less for loam. That compost will warm the soil at the tree roots and speed up the chemical reactions that make the roots grow - and the top size follows the faster root growth.
4) You put back some of the loosened soil into the hole ( that "half again" amount) so that the top of the ball will be just below ground line - yes, measure the depth carefully.
5) Use a hose and wet the burlap so the soil you are about to expose is wet. No need to soak it so it weighs a ton.
5) Put the tree in the hole and center it in the hole and PLUMB THE TRUNK.
6) When the tree is centered and plumb - one person holds the tree trunk upright while the other GENTLY removes the burlap - no need for speed, just move with diligence so the roots do not dry. Cut the burlap away and discard it. Don't worry about the piece of burlap underneath the ball. (I know they say leave the burlap on, because rookies do more damage than good when they remove it - but leaving it promotes barriers in many soils)
7) Shovel in some soil in around the ball, a foot or so deep at the ball, and mix the returned soil near the ball, by hand, in with the soil of the ball about half and half. Don't disturb the ball soil too much, but do get a transition zone of mixed ball soil and amended soil. Gently "firm" the amended and mixed soil near the root ball - not "pack" or hard, but just firm like you do when planting potted plants and seedlings, so air and water can get to the roots.
Check plumb.
Put in more amended soil around the ball, up another foot or so, and mix that and the ball soil. Gently, about half and half again
You should have a hole with a tree and a shallow-sloped cone of soil going out from the tree root ball.
Check plumb.,
Finish up the amended-soil-cone-and-mix around the tree, up to its crown (the small ring on the trunk where the roots meet the trunk).
Check plumb
8) Use the hose and fill the void (made by the hole and the amended soil sloping from the tree) with water. (If you planted the tree over a gopher hole, no need to stand there all day putting in water- use your judgment here !) Turn off the hose and wait until the water drains into the soil completely before proceeding.
Check plumb. Both sides.
9) Fill the hole with amended soil, cutting into the edges of the hole with the shovel here and there as you go, so the amended soil mixes into the existing soil some. Ok to walk on the soil some every 3-4 inches worth of new depth or so, even good for it as long as you don't pack it down hard.
Check plumb. Helper may now let go of the tree.
10) Rake the soil so its fairly flat, and soak the soil, getting beyond the edges of the hole. (but don't soak the left-over soil :-) ). Use your hand around the trunk, not the rake.
11) After the water has soaked in, put as much of the rest of the soil back as possible, sloping the soil out from the trunk in a gentle slope. Walk on the soil to firm it. After pruning--- Scatter grass seed on amended soil and cover it with a thin layer of soil and press the soil with the back of the rake-- if a fall planting, then leave it. Most of it will sprout before spring, using snow as the source of moisture. if a spring planting, -see grass seed care.
(Put any excess soil in the garden.)
12) Pruning time - keep the branches cut off about 1/4 of the total top . If taking a big side branch off at the trunk means more will be lost, then cut the branch back this year to make that 1/4th to 1/3rd max, and take off the rest off at the trunk next year. Priorities - If the tree has a twin leader (two shoots side by side going up as a trunk), cut one off. If there is no twin leader, then if there are two big side branches, take just the bigger of those off to the trunk this year. If it wasn't that big a branch, then prune the bottommost branches from the trunk so as to have removed about 1/4 (to 1/3 max if you have big side branches) of the top growth total in this step. The object here is to leave enough top to make food for growth, yet take enough top to cause new top growth to shoot out elsewhere to balance the roots (If you have two big branches lower than 8 feet, you may have to take more than 1/4 next year when you take off the second -but you can't leave a big low branch, or the tree will split in a storm in 20 years.)
Once the tree is put in, it needs food and water for the rest of its life, but it needs special care the first few years. The fast growth stresses it in a healthy way, but stresses it nonetheless. Water it deep if you get a dry spell or if the soil is dry. Don't overwater, because not only does wet soil promote fungus and deprive the hair roots of the air that they to work, city water is usually PH 8+ to stop lead solder leaching, and that PH water interferes with root nutrient transfer.
Year one - The tree will add a couple feet to the top this year, if a spring plant. It's just first year, so don't be too eager for it to take off growing. It might only be a foot. Wrap it before winter with tree tape. Because you are forcing top growth, the carrying layers that make fast strong growth are thicker and fleshier and keep more water and thus more prone to sunsplits from freeze-thaw --- and sunsplits are depressing because they stop growth cold.
Next year - Late spring early summer, take another big low branch off at the trunk, and/or more bottommost branches off the trunk, again to remove not much more than 1/4th of the top growth. Put in a half-dose of tree spikes outside the drip line in spring. Again, wrap it with tree tape before winter.
Third year spring, it should be about 12 feet high. Now you just take off branches up to the 8 foot mark, and again not more than 1/4th of the top growth. Put in the other half dose of tree spikes in spring Tree tape before winter
Fourth year spring- it should be 14 feet or so high - and by now, there should be only a little growth left below 8 feet to cut from the trunk, and maybe some branches that want to come back down. Just cut the down-leaders from those branches. Cut off any too-close new growth on the trunk, to space out the new trunk branches. If the rough bark has not yet completely formed, again with the tree tape. (Rough bark is not just smooth with some little scabs here and there - rough bark is like the bark on a mature tree - fissured and tough)
Fifth year spring - it's likely 16-18 feet high, and you just prune in early summer to remove rubbing branches, odd routes, too-close-together trunk growth, the ends of side branches that are ahead of the overall shape, etc. Tree spikes in spring. If the rough bark has not formed by fall (and not forming by this time and size is rare because smooth bark means it's still growing like a very young tree which needs soft bark to stretch around a rapidly expanding girth) then again more tree tape just before winter.
fwiw........

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Wow, thanks for the lengthy response. I'm going to have to read it a few times to make sure I got it all.
One concern I have is hardpan. Are there any special additional site preparation steps that need to be taken when dealing with hardpan?
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You'll have to define "hardpan"..
1) The roots of a tree go to the nutrients, and the root mat itself holds water and nutrients - if the soil is porous, the roots go down as much as out. -if the soil is heavy, the roots lay near the top and only a few heavy roots go down (to hold the tree) -best is somewhere in between, obviously
2) the richest soil is only about a foot and a half thick topsoil sitting on a fairly dense subsoil. In that type of soil, the rainwater with nutrients percolates through the topsoil, and then sits on the subsoil as it then very slowly moves down to the water table. Plant roots in that soil sit in a slightly damp "soup" of nutrients, held there by a subsoil "hardpan", keeping the root hairs intact most of the growing season.
In places in the world where topsoil is five to a hundred feet thick, the growing conditons for most plants are poor - water passes by the roots into the water table far below. Root hairs dry and then restart and nutrients move down away from the roots fairly rapidly, resulting in poor growth.
3) Most trees need a foot to two of topsoil of some kind - so, for example, if you have six inches of clay topsoil and ten feet of clay subsoil, I myself would personally try to cut down a foot to 18 inches into the base in a ten-fifteen foot circle and amend the soil with sand and compost to the 18 inch depth- (but then, I am ornery enough to rent an electric jackhammer with a bull tip and work out my aggressions on hardpan for a couple hours - just to run the jackhammer and to beat back mother nature. It is also an excuse to rent a "Baby backhoe" on treads and play at scraping for half a day - that works too. Either heavy tool is neat. A pick is a romantic idea, but you have to have a hot neighbor and be able to go shirtless, and have the pan soft enough for a few hours of steady pick work for me to consider working a pick that long :-). I'm planting a tree, not racing a steam drill.)
Anyway, however the maple has been doing in the other spot, then a maple will likely do in your new spot.
If it is hardpan and tough soil, you might look into a Predmore Ash or one of its cousins- I have planted a dozen of those (10 footers) in a huge asphalt parking lot, in ten foot timber boxes over six foot diameter holes, and they grew two-three feet a year using the technique I described earlier.- They apparently were bred for boulevard and parking lot use. However, they are bigger than maples - memory says that in good soil, they get 60 plus feet tall.
fwiw....

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So you are a $5 tree $10 dollar hole kind of person. I thought the thinking on that switched to $10 tree $5 hole recently. I'm confused and try for $7.50 tree and $7.50 hole way. This is sort of like painting wounds vs not painting wounds. I don't now but did. In this case the theory was $5 hole forces the roots to look for nutrients. My oak forest has $0.00 per hole ;)).
Bill
PS I used a post hole digger to bust hard pan. This only once for my Franklinia now about 40 years old but not doing well even with attention :((
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<<You'll have to define "hardpan"..>>
The area where I want to plant trees has strange soil. The top layer of about maybe 6" consists mostly of the root zone of the grass. Immediately below that is about 8" of almost impenetrable hardpan. I can't dig through it - I have to use a sharp-pointed hand tool to pick my way through it. Below the hardpan is moist (not wet) clay which rapidly transitions to mostly coarse sand and rocks. I'm not sure I understand the proper way to "amend" such soil or how to create a transition zone.
I can't imagine how anything could grow there but it does. Five years ago there was nothing there but thin grass and weeds. Then I stopped mowing it, and now there are sassafras, black cherry, black locust, and maple trees growing there, all wild. One of the black cherries is over 6' tall. A couple of the sassafras are over 7' tall. One of the black locusts is over 12' tall. The maples appeared later and most are less than a foot, but there is one that is about 5' tall, and thriving.
Two years ago I bought a 5' "autumn blaze" maple at the local mega-mart and planted it in this area. Not having the least idea what I was doing, I dug a deep (not wide) hole and backfilled it with dead leaves and other organic matter gathered from the woods, and stomped it down. I set the tree on top of that and threw in a bag of "garden soil". When I was done, the tree's root flare was about 8" below the surrounding surface, so I filled the rest of the hole with crushed limestone to make it level. This little maple has been growing like a weed ever since. This spring it's going nuts, putting out new growth everywhere at an amazing pace. Every couple of days it seems there's another set of leaves opening up at the tips of the branches. Now that I'm learning a bit more about what trees need and how they should be planted, I'm wondering if this little guy is in for a rude awakening when he discovers he is in a tiny little oasis in the middle of the sahara dessert. Where will his roots grow? Under the hardpan? Is this viable? Should I dig him up this fall and re-plant using a more proper method? And, how do the other trees (the wild ones mentioned previously) deal with this?
I'm at the point in my life where I find all this gardening stuff fascinating. There's so much to learn. I've never really paid much attention to it before.
I had to laugh when you mentioned renting a jackhammer. That very same thought had just occurred to me last week. About three years ago I had a guy over here with a Kubota with a backhoe to dig a 10-foot trench to bury some drainage pipe. He had a tough time breaking through the hardpan. He had to strap the back end of the machine to a hickory tree to get enough traction to get the bucket to break through.
In your earlier post you mentioned "sun splits" and that reminded me of something. I think that happened about 2 years ago to the maple I am considering moving. There was a vertical split, about 7 inches long, along the main trunk, about 2 feet from the ground. I can't remember what time of year I first noticed it. Being concerned about insect infestation, and being largely ignorant about such matters, I sprayed the split with an insecticide containing permethrin. The following year, the two lower branches on that side of the tree died. Coincidence? Or direct result of my spraying? At any rate, the split has now healed over, and the tree appears quite vigorous this year, with a lush set of leaves. Inspired by your earlier post, I went out this afternoon and did a little pruning. Just removed some small limbs that were growing at the wrong angle and threatening to choke or get choked by other more desirable limbs. Still too timid to be doing any major surgery. I'll have to work up to that.
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1) Are you in a "landscaped" development (one of many of the past 5-40 years), where the lay of the land was moved around by bulldozers and turnapulls, houses built, and then maybe six inches of black dirt dropped on top? Just a wild guess, but that is what it sounds like - and the layer of black dirt and the landscaped clay has formed a barrier (hardpan) on its top.
2) A transition zone in tree planting is used to prevent hardpan from forming between the potted soil and the existing soil. It is made by mixing the two soils together, for six inches to a foot in width or depth, so a barrier doesn't form at the boundary of the two soils. ( Soil with compost and the like added usually doesn't set up barriers with the sandy soils used in pots.)
3) Six inches of soil is about as thin as most trees can use to grow. The huge conifer forests of the sub arctic are growing on 6-18 inches of soil sitting on permafrost. It doesn't take much soil for many kinds of trees to grow well.
4) Since you want to transplant/replant, that hole will need to be at least pot depth or tree-spade (the big transplant shovel thing) depth for a transplant. Given your description of the hole being dug, they might have a hell of a time punching through your hardpan with a tree spade.
All that said - You always have this trade-off between optimum and enough. Here, with six inches of topsoil, the roots will fan out in that topsoil and lay near the top IF the topsoil is ok- but my sense is it will limit it at some point, especially if it gets dry and a big tree wants that 200 gallons a day the big ones supposedly use. So how to mitigate that?
Since amending soil is just changing the soil texture and mix so the roots can get sufficient air, water, and nutrients at the right PH, (e.g., no organic matter - add compost. Heavy clay - add sand/peat. Sandy -add clay/peat. Acid - add lime. Alkaline - add acid. etc.) and given your soil description, and especially if the hardpan was caused by the developer, I would lean toward just punching fencepost-sized holes in the artificial hardpan (think power fencepost auger) about every 3 feet or so in a 20- 30 foot diameter circle around the new tree spot (that diameter is roughly the edge of a bigger tree's root line), fill them back up, and let nature take its course in the tree breaking up the hardpan. If there is nutrient slowly going through the hardpan at those holes, so will the roots, and the tree will make its own depth.
The thin weeds and the adding of limestone and leaves and then growth is interesting. A soil test for PH is in order.

Most "perennial" plantings do shoot up the second year - and it is too soon to know if it will be potbound by the hole. The tree is using what it took in last year and stored in the roots to make the new shoots- probably before the limestone got to change the soil below it. That limestone is normally bad for trees - a ph test really is in order.
Wild maple have the same growing needs and habits as the ones you buy at the store, unless the bought one is pushing the zone or a fussy variety.
Now

Trade-off between damage done to roots transplanting, and poor growth from leaving it. You can't tell yet if it will do ok in the next few years...
And, how do the other trees (the wild ones mentioned

They take off from seed, needing little to get going -- and if they can't make it when they are young seedlings/saplings, they are smothered and die and another species gets the spot. Usually, only if you pay for the tree with money or time do you notice the process.

Given what we spray on trees to kill scale and feed in the roots as systemics, it was probably insects and the split more than permethrin.
Or direct result of my spraying? At any rate, the split

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<<That limestone is normally bad for trees - a ph test really is in order.>>
I had this nagging feeling I had maybe done something unwise again, and now you've confirmed it. A week ago, I removed all the limestone (because it was getting full of dirt and twigs and dead grass clippings etc, and because I had read somewhere that the "mulch" shouldn't be right up against the tree trunk) and put a new batch in, with a barrier (cut-up 2-liter bottle) to keep it from pressing against the trunk. Then I dumped in 5 gallons of water. As I watched the water rinse all the limestone dust down the hole I had this sinking feeling that maybe that limestone dust wasn't good for the tree. I tried to console myself by rationalizing that lime is good for lawns so it must be good for trees too; but I didn't find my own argument convincing.
Is there a simple way to do a pH test at home, say by using a pool test kit? And, if I've ruined the pH, can I slowly correct it by watering with slightly acidic water, and what acid should I use? (maybe vinegar??).
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<< Are you in a "landscaped" development (one of many of the past 5-40 years), where the lay of the land was moved around by bulldozers and turnapulls, houses built, and then maybe six inches of black dirt dropped on top? >>
Actually no, I'm out in the country, on 10 acres in former farmland.
The area with the soil I described earlier is out front by the road, and may have been bulldozed as you describe, although from the looks of it, it seems to match the contour of the undisturbed areas all around it.
Folks who have lived in this area longer than I have tell me that there used to be a stand of large mature trees lining the road in this area, but they destroyed them all when they put in the power poles. Sickening. So maybe the area was bulldozed and just happens to match the surrounding areas because they pushed the dirt back into place after they were done.
The strange thing is, there's hardpan in various degrees all over the place, even in areas well away from the road and house. I read the other day where excessive tilling can destroy the "soil structure" and then when the land is no longer tilled, hardpan can form. I wonder if maybe this is what happened here. The land hasn't been farmed for maybe 20 years or so.
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On 12 May 2006 17:14:58 -0700

Hi Esther,
You describe a situation that will give most maples, including Acer X freemanii 'Autumn Blaze', a very hard time. Your maple is fast growing, but I think it will consider itself in a pot and the roots are unlikely to penetrate.
I didn't respond before, but my opinion is it will be much more practical, not to mention cheaper, to simply plant a new tree rather than try to move the existing one.
About your tree: A. X freemanii is a garden cross between A. rubrum (red maple) and A. saccharinum (silver maple). It sometimes occurs naturally, of personal interest it was found growing wild in Hancock ME, where I've got a lot of family. :)
There are several cultivars but 'Autumn Blaze' is the most popular, being widely available in the US and Europe. It is notable for being vigorous -- as you see -- trouble free, upright, and having great fall colour. It is hardy to US zone 5, although it may be pushed to zone 4 with varying degrees of success. 'Autumn Blaze' was bred in 1980 in Ohio.
One piece of bad advice is to plant grass under an unestablished tree. Rather, the area to the drip line should be kept grass free for at least 2 years. This prevents moisture competition as well as the allelopathic qualities of grass may discourage root formation.
Best of luck,
-E []
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