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We need to have 15 black pines in the 12 - 14' range dug for a client. The nursery says they'd like to wait 3 weeks or more until the candles harden off more. Due to construction and staging constraints we can't wait more than a week.

Can these trees be dug successfully, and what steps should be taken before, during, and after the move to mitigate the harm from moving them at an ill advised time.

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I wouldn't advise it. They might live, if you get a good rootball on them, and they are watered well, but with a greatly reduced root system, the reason these trees often die when planted during candle growth is that even with ample water supplies, the roots cannot pull up water as fast as the transpiration and new growth (both of which are accelerated in warmer weather) need it. The plants dry out rather fast, especially on sunny warm days. It's best to wait until the new growth has hardened off some, if you can't get them in before bud break (as in your case).

You could warn the client of the possibly low success rate, and let them decide, knowing that planting now could mean gaps and/or replanting. But that's quite some capital to put at risk like that. I'd recommend that you wait until the construction etc is over if possible, even if that means the trees go in a year late.

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  • Sound advice as always. Unfortunately once the construction is done we will need a 200+ ton crane to drop them in place as access will be completely cut off. I guess we should search further abroad for plants that have already been dug.
    – That Idiot
    May 29, 2015 at 22:58
  • Is planting smaller trees an option at all, @ThatIdiot?
    – J. Musser
    May 29, 2015 at 23:53
  • not in this case. These guys want instant gratification and screening.
    – That Idiot
    May 29, 2015 at 23:55
  • @ThatIdiot you'd have greater success if you could somehow keep direct sun off them after transplanting, at least until the new growth ripens...
    – J. Musser
    May 30, 2015 at 0:26
  • Now that's an idea. We burlap a lot of stuff for winter. How about burlapping these for a few weeks to harden them off.
    – That Idiot
    May 30, 2015 at 0:27

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