Looking to move 11 of these large trees (with 2-3 foot ball) onto our property (partly clay Midwest US soil) and cannot afford to have them die after transplanting.

After having many transplanting questions answered through online research, I still cannot find info on the best way to avoid tree/root shock for trees this size.

Local tree nurseries/farms I visit say either say leave roots alone (because they are already stressed) or add some Peat Moss (Sphagnum) and chemical fertilizer to help it grow.

Problem: 2 of the 4 sources said fertilizing the roots upon planting can harm the process. So I cannot afford to just add fertilizer "for good measure" if I can end up accidentally killing them.

Regardless of method, I will be adding black top soil topped with organic mulch (standard). So, is there any sure fire method for making these trees "catch" in their new environment or can attest to either root care method for Balsam and Black Hills Spruce trees?

EDIT trees coming 10 miles from also clay environment. Moving will be performed by the small tree farm in burlap sack after they use a spade shovel to remove it from site. Destination property is mostly flat grade.

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    Current thinking from aborists is not to fertilize, not to add any soil amendments but to pick a tree suited for the local soil conditions. Depending on the heaviness of the clay you may want to plant high so part of the root ball is exposed
    – kevinskio
    Aug 22, 2017 at 1:06
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    First, are these nursery trees B&B? They will have already been grown in clay. Clay root ball in clay soil is best. Nothing wrong with clay just need to understand its properties. Or are you digging up trees to transplant onto your property? Big difference. Are you planting on a slope? Adding 'rich looking soil' is NOT a good idea. Transportation and that root ball is important...no fertilizer right now! No amending the soil. No digging deeper than the depth of the root ball. Let us know as much as you are able; type of tree, potted or other..
    – stormy
    Aug 22, 2017 at 1:09
  • Great comments kevinsky and stormy, I edited post to add clarity. The clay is heavy so I guess I should keep them exposed. Good to hear 2 votes for no fertilizer! They seem to be coming from similar environment of clay. The tree farm will handle the move pretty professionally with proper equipment and will rest on flat ground. Aug 22, 2017 at 3:02
  • 1
    You may find this answer useful: gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/30334/…
    – Alina
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:30
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    Digging up a tree that has not grown in a pot or ball will cut off most of its roots. Will. For sure. You cannot avoid it, short of a spade wider than the tree is tall. So if you cannot afford the risk one or more will die, don't do it. If you can take the risk, then these are good comments about how to give the trees a good chance. One other suggestion is to keep a very close eye on the water for the first year or two. The soil being clay, there is a risk of too much water, but for most transplants, the more likely problem scenario is watering too infrequently.
    – InColorado
    Aug 29, 2017 at 2:01


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