Mature Tree Transplants – A Growing Trend
After walking through a forest, have you ever wished that you could capture and feature the majestic beauty of these large trees in you home environment? Amazingly, through the use of carefully executed transplanting techniques, fully grown trees of almost any specie or size can be successfully integrated into the residential or commercial landscape.
While choosing a suitable location for your new transplant is very key to its survival, the future health, beauty and utility of the tree is also greatly influenced by how it is dug, transported, planted and maintained.
Ron Byleckie, a veteran of mature tree transplanting with over 20 years experience explained, “A tree typically loses up to 90% of its root system in the transplantation process. As a result, trees are diminished in their capacity to uptake the water and nutrients they need to survive. In order to minimize transplant shock, the tree must be placed in intensive care, before, during and after transplanting.” When moving a mature tree, Mr. Byleckie recommends the following guidelines for success:
1. Assess the tree’s transplantability. Some trees can be moved more successfully than others depending on their species, size, health as well as its former and future habitat. A professional arborist should be consulted to verify that these conditions are favorable for transplanting.
2.Make sure the rootball is the right size. Trees should be “10” of root ball per inch of caliper (i.e. a 7″ caliper tree requires a 70″ rootball) to survive and thrive.
3. Find a reliable, experienced tree mover. Moving a large mature tree is a skill which requires the proper equipment, expertise and care. If you do not know a tree mover, contact your local cooperative extension agent, nursery or professional tree care company for a referral.
4. Carefully prepare trees for transplanting. Trees which have never been moved from their natural growing environment tend to have asymmetric root systems because they grow with the irregularities of the surrounding topography. If the tree is not nursery grown, root pruning should be performed up to one year prior to transplanting to encourage the development of a more dense and fibrous root system.
After the tree has been carefully dug from its original location, it is critical that extreme care is taken to prevent root death. Make sure that roots are kept moist as they are easily damaged under conditions of high temperature and low humidity. Put simply, “a dry root is a dead root”.
When transporting large trees long distances, it is important that the mover be aware of size and weight limits which roads and bridges will withstand. Also, precautions must be taken to avoid drying of foliage by misting the tree and securely covering it with tarps to minimize air movement during transport.
Also, consider the logistics of moving the tree to the new planting site: will power lines, septic tanks or your property be a risk?
5. Thoroughly prepare the new site for planting. There are three key factors to consider in preparing the site: soil quality, depth and drainage. It is very important that the soil is of adequate quality or the tree will not receive the nutrients, soil microbia and other elements it require to live. The depth of planting must be close to the original so that the soil level at the base of the trunk is level or slightly above (3-6 inches) with the surrounding soil surface. If the tree is set too deeply it will not thrive because feeder roots must be able to receive oxygen. It is also important to improve aeration in unamended backfill by breaking up clods and gradually adding this soil into the hole.
6. Provide intensive post-planting care. Newly planted trees need to be maintained to ensure the success of their relocation. Depending on the strength and health of the tree, it may need to be artificially supported and pruned. However, all new transplants should be watered and mulched immediately; then fertilized at the end of the first growing season (depending on soil conditions). It is also important to implement a plant health care program to monitor the tree and treat insects and diseases.
Since mature tree transplanting can be an expensive venture, it is wise to consult with a professional arborist and obtain a recommendation before proceeding.
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