Q: We have a sparse, six-foot tall Japanese maple tree that is only a foot or so from the side of our house in a shaded area. Can we move it? When would be the best time?
A: Your instincts are correct: the tree won’t have a happy life in its present location. It is reasonably easy to move it now. Use a spading fork to discover and loosen the network of roots spreading out from the trunk. Get a helper to lean the tree to one side while you slip the fork under the trunk and lever it upwards. With a bit of effort you should be able to pull the whole thing out of the ground with a big pancake of roots but not a lot of soil.
Wet the roots, cover them with damp newspaper and prepare your planting area to a size and shape that will fit. Remove enough soil from the planting area so the tree roots can be spread out but kept at the same level at which they were growing originally. Replace the soil onto the roots and put a layer of pine mini-nuggets over the planting area. Dampen the area with five gallons of water and let nature take care of it thereafter.