Moving Blue Spruce

matotek(z5OH)September 11, 2006

I am thinking about moving an 8-9ft blue spruce about 50 feet from where it is in the spring. Is this something that can be done using a shovel, and a lot of work? Or is this so much weight that it would need to be done with special equipment?



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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

anything is possible... probable is another issue ....

first.. they are mean plants.. you will be stuck, slashed and bleeding by the time you are done ...

a 2 to 3 foot ball would be about right... depending on your soil.. will you be able to drag it out of a hole.. move it.. and reposition it??? we are talking a couple hundred pounds at a min ...

in the alternative.. do you have the space to get a truck in there to do the work .. and the budget to pay for it???

or could you take it down in late November... use it for a xmas tree .. and buy a 40 dollar replacement in the new space??? .. 6 foot.. couple hundred i suppose ... i personally would buy a nice hoopsi or thomsen as a replacement.. the electric blue version ... picea pungens grow about a foot a year when established.. i would go smaller on a quality replacement than fool around with a so-so plant ....

its the old cost/benefit ratio ... the cost of labor or money .. versus the benefit of chainsaw pruning and planting a reasonably sized replacement ...

good luck


    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 3:03PM
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Thanks for the reply. I took it from someone who lived in the city when it was about 3 feet tall. I planted it next to a white pine, and the pine has gone wild. I didn't know the pine would grow that big. The spruce is very nice, but it's starting to get squeezed out. I have a lawn tractor and the neighbor has a cart big enough to put it on. I was just wondering about how big I would have to have the root ball with a tree that size.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 4:38PM
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Moving 8 or 9 foot blue spruce is a terrible, if not impossible job without special tree digging/moving equipment. With all due respect to Ken, I think a 3 foot root ball would be on the small side if you want a really good chance of survival. And he is right about them being "mean" trees and you being stuck and bleeding, etc. Cut it down or hire someone with the proper equipment.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 4:49PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

not only will you be severing all the picea roots.. but if it is that close to the pine.. you will be severing a good bunch of those ....

lets now say, based on spruces recommendation.. you are going for a 4 to 5 foot ball ... to dig that.. you will be digging a 6 to 8 foot hole around it .... and 5 feet deep .. and a receiving hole ...


a liberal application of a chainsaw, at or about ground level .. one hour work .. and be done with it...

and in the spring .. or now if you can find one .... replace it for a hundred or two bucks ...

one hole to dig .. no back surgery ... and one new tree instead of two trees near death ...

is that a better answer sprucey?? ... lol


    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 5:04PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

or even better.. if its a plain old strobus ... kill it and replace it at wallyworld for 3 bucks in spring.. and leave the pungens alone .. ken

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 5:06PM
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Yeah Ken! Maybe a 4' ball would do it, 30" deep! And the weight of that thing! Whew! We have to save this guy from some real misery and almost certain failure--to add to the misery!

Yes, why not cut the pine? And your little cart--the root ball, if it is big enough will squash it. And who is going to lift it in without shaking the root ball to death. Even if you have a regular farm tractor with a loader in front--lifting that thing after you string some kind of chain around it will tip up the back of the tractor.

But as Ken so wisely started out this discussion--"anything is possible..probable is another issue." I leave you with that.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 8:14PM
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I have a confession to make: I have transplanted some trees in the past that were entirely unreasonable for me to have attempted to transplant, and all were successful, at least to my satisfaction. 2 or 3 were 7 foot, but skinny, Norway spruce trees. But your tree is taller and I assume much bigger. I am sure I couldn't handle it, but I did my spruce trees without help, so...

Why did I do this--I thought these trees were really special and I was attached to them. So, on the chance that this may also be the case with you, I will tell you how I did my transplants and offer some suggestions.

First, of course, if you really want to save and transplant this tree, and can spend the money, hire a professional. But if you really want to attempt it yourself--with some other strong men to help, this is what you can do.

1. Cut off the lower branches of this tree to give yourself some working room--maybe 2 feet up or so.

2. Dig a trench around the tree, leaving about 2 feet all around the tree for the root ball (4 feet in diameter). This trench should be about 2 feet wide so you can work around the tree to carve out a root ball while the tree is in place. When you start digging out underneath the tree you will have to widen the trench at some points to make room for the shovel to work.

3. Before you have the root ball completely carved out, start securing it with burlap against the ball, and then some kind of woven fence wire to secure the ball firmly so it won't break apart when you lift and move the tree. Secure it all with heavy cord, which you will need to wrap around the base of the trunk, or maybe better loop around the trunk as you secure the opposide side of the root ball. Use additional burlap around the trunk where the cord is tied/looped to avoid having the rope cut into it.

At some point you may realize that the 4 foot root ball may be too big--and you may not be able to make it 30 inches deep. If so, just carve the ball down to what you can manage as you wrap it and secure it. And a warning--don't think you can move this tree without the wire basket--it is a must! And the wire must be heavy--I used woven wire cattle fencing, the heavier grade of the two commonly sold.

3. Once you have the ball safely secured and tightly tied together, finish cutting the ball under the tree to sever the last roots. You can modify this process a bit as your imagination/circumstances dictate.

4. Get a plywood board or some very heavy tarp or something to place the tree on once you get it up out of the hole.

5. Get some kind of heavy boards or very long locust posts or something to lever the tree up out of the hole and slide/roll it onto the board or tarp.

6. Drag the tree to the new planting place and have a hole at least 2 feet bigger than the root ball ready. You should also dig it deeper (6 or 8 inches) than the root ball and place some good topsoil in the bottom. This not only gives the tree better nutrients to work with, but also makes a softer bed to receive the root ball so it will sit evenly.

7. Get the tree straight in the hole. Then tilt the tree this way and that so you can cut away in pieces and remove the wire "basket" that you placed around the root ball. It is best to remove as much of the burlap as possible, but this is not really important. You can be filling the hole a little to stabilize the root ball during this process.

8. Fill the hole carefully, packing the soil firmly around the root ball as you go. Do this slowly, carefuly, and patiently. The process of filling the hole should take an hour or so if you do it right. Make sure you have removed any string you tied around the trunk. And, as you go, make sure the tree stays straight. If it is not straight when you finish, you have really messed up. I have done this and learned the hard way.

9. Stake the tree very firmly in at least three directions. Normally some play is good, but for this job I would stake it so the trunk can't move at all in a very strong wind. You need to keep any disturbance to a minimum.

  1. If the tree has very dense branching and very full foliage, thin it out carefully. Where there are side branches close together, remove one. Branches that have many, many branchlets should have them thinned out. I am assuming that you have made a big compromise on the size of the root ball. It will reduce stress if the roots don't have too much foliage to support. If you do this carefully you can maintain the appearance of the tree, and it will fill out again nicely in 2 or 3 years. I would not worry about removing too much foliage--30 or even 40% would not bee too much.

I have become involved in your little project--I would appreciate an update on what you decide to do and how things work out.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 10:48AM
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From what everyone has told me it would be very difficult to do. To just cut the spruce down I wouldn't do. They are crowding each other out and the pine is probably 30 feet and a very nice tree. Right now the branches are just starting to touch. My neighbor has about 20 blue spruces in the back in a half rectangle shape, crowding each other out, and I don't want these to look like that. I am probably going to try it in the spring. I hope it doesn't die, but if I just cut it down, I know it will die.
Thanks for all the replys.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 10:58AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

strobus takes to pruning real well ... start taking it up ... or just remove the few that are heading straight for the ppungens ....


    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 4:44PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I move trees that big all the time. No special equipment, unless you call a shovel special equipment. You say you moved it when it was three feet tall, so it has a semblance of a rootball. Just make it larger, but not too large. Too large can cause a lot of damage when moving it because of all the strain on the roots. 50 ft.? You can slide it on a tarp that far and not even have to lift it. I would guess the rootball should be around 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 ft. across. More than that it becomes unwieldy. Water and stake when done. If it's growing in sand, the risk increases. Most trees, including Spruces, have more resiliency than the posts above indicate in my opinion. Try it. Cutting it down gives it no chance at all.

I dig rootballs with the shovel pointing outward as I back around the tree. That way I get a clean rootball and the branches are held back by my body and not in the way. After one or two passes I dig out the rest of the ditch facing the tree. Then I make cuts under the tree to free the rootball. No prying. That causes the rootball to collapse.

That's the way I would do it. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 9:56PM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

I agree with the latter post. At work a guy thought we needed a spruce on the corner of a parking lot. He went out with the tractor, and using the bucket, picked up an 8" thick slab of ground that had a 10' spruce in it.

Laid that in the hole he had scraped for it. bit of prying and leveling to get it vertical.

I told him that for it to have a chance he must Never let it dry out. (a problem there because the parking lot is on glacial till. It's a tough puddle that can last 10 minutes after a rain.)

He brought out a 45 gallon barrel and put a single nail hole in the side. whenever the top two inches were dry, he filled the barrel.

I'm trying a similar strategy. I grow trees, but I wanted some larger white spruce, as my own are still under two feet. This spring I went out and pickup 40 4-5' trees. Basically working 1 shovel blade out form the trunk, following the drip line. Get them home, and water like crazy as soon as I get them off the trailer. The net effect is a 14-18" diameter, 6-10" thick disk transplant.

We'll see what happens.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 5:26PM
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