Is there any real difference in survivability or growth of trees transplanted using one vs. the other?

For example, would moving a cedar using a 90" tree-spade yield similar/better/worse results than hand digging and burlapping a 90" ball?

How about smaller sizes?

What things (other than cost) should be considered when weighing one vs. the other?

  • 1
    I lack comparative experiences to make a definitive answer, but I'd have to think the speed and precise matching of hole to ball with the spade would have a beneficial effect. Likewise more minimal disturbance of the rootball. – Ecnerwal Oct 5 '17 at 2:42
  • Gotta consider the likelihood of the root ball collapse if you try to do a large ball by hand. Especially if the ground is rocky. – J. Musser Oct 5 '17 at 16:20

The spade if available and affordable is best. But! Trenching a year before moving to contain the root ball is critical. Hand digging is fine for smaller sized plant material, never established mature plants. Always, trenching to form a contained root ball is so very important for success. A big gnarly spade can pluck up and move a big root ball into a new location or on a truck best. But if that plant was not prepared a good 6 months preferably 12 months prior to moving it will have the same chances as being dug by hand and dragged on a tarp.

Digging a foot deep trench to delineate the root ball to be moved and then filled with straw should be done first. This allows fine feeder roots to grow within the new root ball before it has to be moved. This move should only be done in the fall or very early spring. Jerking up a tree or large shrub with a big spade without preparation gives a very narrow margin of success.

If you guys saw the gorgeous mature trees and shrubs I saw that were done correctly to be RESOLD later...if you saw those price tags?? You would treat a tree to be moved far more respectfully...10X10 Japanese Maple or Rhododendron sells for 5 o 10 thousand bucks. Easily.

Mycorrhizal fungi should also be incorporated when transplanting. No fertilizer, no compost...move tree or shrub into stable soils. Not fluffed up. Sit bottom of root ball on undisturbed soil. If on a slope or soils don't match install drilled pvc pipe to get water to the roots. Always remove burlap before back filling.

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