Digging Holes for planing trees

I live in New England. I'm trying to plant a line of screen trees (Emerald Green Arborvitae) along my property line. My yard has many 40+ foot trees, which form a network of roots that are a huge obstacle when trying to plant stuff. I've hit roots up to 3" near the surface.
Does anybody have any tips for dealing with this? Is there a specific type of tool I could rent to make holes, or is this something that I could hire someone to do?
Mark
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Have you tried a Pulaski? Axe blade on one side, hoe on the other. - - forest service firefighting tool

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If you value the older trees, you may want to rethink planting here. Cutting a 3" thick root is likely to damage the older trees in the long run. Picture how a root grows - the tip elongates and pushes through the soil. The tip branches and each rootlet pushes onward. When a root is successful, it grows in diameter further branching and pushing. A three inch root supports many hundreds if not thousands of feet of rootlets which supply water and nutrients to the tree. Cutting one or several 3" roots can severely compromise the tree's ability to gather water and nutrients and fight off insects and disease. The impact however is rarely immediately apparent, but what you will have done is taken a tree that could live for centuries and shorten its life to maybe a decade or two.
That said any number of large machines, often yellow in color, could be employed to loosen the soil and damage the existing root systems. Any back-hoe, excavator, or possibly a large rototiller could meet your needs. A post hole digger can excavate a significant amount of soil. A Vermeer Tree Spade for example is specifically designed to dig and plant trees.
http://www.vermeer.com/equipment/tree_spades /
You want a hole roughly as deep as the root ball that you are planting and about 3 times the width of the root ball, well amended with organic material - compost.
The following Google search will pull up a number of article on how to plant trees correctly.
http://www.google.com/search?numP&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&safe=off&q=planting+trees+site%3A.edu&btnG=Search
Another good site is the following:
http://forestry.about.com/cs/treeplanting/a/plant_guide.htm
Good luck in whatever method you choose.
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On 16 Apr 2004 20:25:38 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (ClearCut) wrote:

Thanks for the heads up. Actually, this particular tree is going to go within the next few years anyway, so I'm not too worried.

So a large rented rototiller would be able to deal with these roots?
Mark

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snipped-for-privacy@excite.com (ClearCut) wrote:
-snip-

I have to disagree. What you say *could* be true depending on the variety & condition of the tree- and to some extent the local conditions. But I have swamp maples on my property & I have severed 6" roots, within 10feet of the trunk of these beasts & 20 years later the tree hasn't so much as hiccupped. Root pruning is sometimes good for the tree.
To the OP- I'd try the Pulaski axe or a mattox. I've also had some luck using a demolition hammer with a sharpened clay spade.
Pulaski Axe- http://www.gardenscapetools.com/pages/SNPulAxe.htm
An assortment of Mattocks - I like the one top left-- but the bottom right one might have a chance in to make it to my tool shed if I saw a cheap one.
BTW- Best way to buy these is at a garage sale or auction-- then buy a fiberglass handle for it & never have to mess with it again.
Jim
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-snip-

Oops- forgot the link- http://www.strikingtools.net/pick-axes-mattocks2.html
Jim
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Call up Roger Cook from "This Old House" ! :)

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Mark S wrote:

After reading the replies to your post, I'd recommend that you get with a landscaper or extension service to get other options. You can't (well, not easily) fight mother nature, and no rototiller I've ever seen will go through 3" tree roots. You need a plan, either to remove some trees or change your choice for the "screen". There may be an alternative to the arbor vitae, such as willows or some such, that can be planted amongst the tree roots, won't require much digging (if planted as saplings) and won't battle the trees for water and nutrients. If planting a screen with the existing trees, then plan for removing some. Allowing the boundary to revert to natural plants - or planting some - may be a better choice for your property. "Many" 40' trees are a lot of work and expense to remove, and the roots would take years to decompose. Just hacking out roots seems likely to give you unpredictable results, with dead/dying trees that may become a hazard.
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The EZ way is to use a soil auger and drill a 1 1/2" hole in the dirt about 2' deep. Then insert about 1/2 stick of 60% in the bottom and touch it off and you have instant planting hole.
--
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