Moving Hemlock - Knowledgebase Question

Port Orchard, WA
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Question by spanman
November 27, 2000
I have a 8' Hemlock that is in excellent condition. What is the best way to dig it up and move it? What time of the year would be best for this transplanting? I don't plan on moving it very far. How should I protect the top from being damaged during this process? Thanks

Answer from NGA
November 27, 2000
Planning and preparation are the keys to successfully transplanting established trees and shrubs, and planning should begin four to six months prior to actually moving the plant. Measure the stem caliper of the tree. The root ball to be moved should be 10 to 12 inches for each inch of stem caliper. For example, if the stem caliper is 2 inches, then the root ball should be 20 to 24 inches in diameter.

If you plan to move the hemlock next spring, use a sharp spade to prune the roots around the root ball now. New roots will form from the severed roots.

When it's time to move, dig completely around the root ball. Keep the soil and roots together as much as possible to minimize damage to the root system during the move. Do this by gently rolling the ball to one side and placing a large piece of burlap around the root ball, then rolling to other side so that burlap will cover entire root ball. Firmly wrap the burlap and tie it around the root ball.

For easier handling and to reduce lifting, carefully roll the root ball onto a tarp and drag the plant to the new planting site.

Transplant the tree and refill the hole with native soil. Firm the soil and water thoroughly. Adequate soil moisture is critical for several months after transplanting. Water only when necessary, but do not over-water. To determine if the soil is dry, monitor the soil moisture approximately 2 inches below the soil surface. Water slowly to allow water to infiltrate and soak the ground thoroughly.

You can protect the branches during the move by wrapping the tree in birdnetting. You'll need a helper and a ladder, but together you can wrap from the trunk to the top, carefully pulling the netting taut to keep the branches together.

Good luck with your hemlock!

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